What is Czech food like?
Most travelers who come to Prague do not really know what to expect from Czech cuisine. On the other hand, just about everybody knows what to order to drink. Prague, actually the whole Czech republic, is very famous for its beer.
The best beer brands are Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus and Staropramen. The first two are made in Pilsen - city in the Czech Republic, roughly 150 km west of Prague - and the last one, Staropramen, is made in Prague. At the first sight, everybody says wow, 10% of alcohol. Sorry, that's just 10 degree beer, if you turn the bottle around you will find out that this beer is even a bit weaker than the European average - the volume of alcohol is only 4.1%.
But lets get back to food. Czech cuisine tends to be rather meat-oriented, with special emphasis on pork. The traditional Czech meal is roasted pork, dumplings (knedliky) and cabbage. You can get this food in every pub (hospoda) and in most restaurants. This meal is definitely not light, so if you want to have a little snack only, I wouldn't suggest it. The best time to have this meal is either dinner (any day) or Sunday's lunch, so you can take a little nap after it. Especially when you have 2 or 3 beers with it, you are done for the day.
The dumplings are typical for the Czech republic and are not similar to dumplings made in different countries (German dumpling is something totally different). Czech people like to say that the Czech dumplings are the best, but it is certainly a matter of individual taste. There are two kinds of dumplings - potato dumplings and roll dumplings. I personally prefer the roll dumplings as they are a bit lighter but once again, it is a matter of individual taste. The dumplings are side dish not only for roasted pork but also for many other Czech specialties. There are also two types of cabbage that is served with this meal - red and white. The taste is rather sweet than sour and sometimes you get both kinds right away.
But you don't need to fear that roasted pork, cabbage and beer will be your sole means of sustenance while visiting the Czech Republic. Other favorite Czech dishes also include meats like rabbit, venison, boar, or wild fowl. Another strong point are desserts and baked goods in general. As far as restaurants are concerned, the above-mentioned pork, dumplings and cabbage are ubiquitous, and so is goulash; you will also find schnitzel (rizek), chicken prepared in various ways, the subtly flavored svickova, fried cheese, and freshwater fish (trout, carp, etc.). Vegetarians will find a variety of salads and meat-less dishes, such as the traditional potato pancakes (bramboraky), thinner and spicier cousins of the popular latkes. Restaurants outside of Prague tend to be very inexpensive; a good, full meal can be had for as little as four Euros.
© Ondrej Opletal, Prague, April 2003
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