Food in Czech Republic
The overwhelming majority of excellent restaurants in big cities take credit cards (EC/MC, VISA), but don’t be shocked if a handful do not. When entering the restaurant, look for the appropriate card logos on the door or ask the waiter before ordering. In certain restaurants, Czechs pay using special meal tickets (stravenky), which are tax-favored and subsidized by employers. You won’t be able to acquire these tickets unless you work in the Czech Republic, so don’t be shocked if you see them.
Traditional local food
Traditional Czech cuisine is substantial and satisfying after a long day in the fields. It’s hearty and fatty, and it’s fantastic in the winter. There has recently been a trend toward more light cuisine with more vegetables; traditional heavy and fatty Czech food is no longer consumed on a daily basis, and some individuals shun it altogether. Nothing, however, complements the great Czech beer as well as some of the finest examples of traditional Czech food, such as pork, duck, or geese with knedlky (dumplings) and sauerkraut.
A typical day’s major meal (typically lunch) consists of two or three items. The first course is a bowl of hot soup (polévka). The second dish is the most significant portion, and it is usually centered on some meat and a side dish (both served on the same plate). The third, optional course is something sweet (with coffee) or a tiny vegetable salad or something similar.
There are many types of soup (polévka) in Czech cuisine. The most popular are bramboraka – potato soup (sometimes with forest mushrooms), hovz vvar – clear beef soup (sometimes s játrovmi knedlky – with liver dumplings), guláovka – thick goulash soup, zelaka – thick and sour cabbage soup, esneka (strong garlic soup, very healthy and tasty, but do not eat this before kissing), kula Drková polévka is a unique instance that is not for everyone (tripe soup). The traditional Christmas soup is ryb polévka, a thick fish soup prepared from carps (including the head, some innards, roe, and sperm).
Some soups are served with bread, and tiny croutons are occasionally placed into the soup shortly before eating. Soup may also be consumed as the sole course, particularly for a modest supper.
The second dish (main course, hlavn jdlo) of a meal is typically the renowned heavy and fatty portion, very commonly based on pork, but sometimes beef, chicken, duck, or other meat. The side-dish (the entire meal including the side-dish is presented on one plate) is an important component of most main courses – typically boiled or baked potatoes, fries, rice, pasta, or the most characteristic side-dish of Czech cuisine – knedlky.
Knedlky (dumplings) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most types are served as a side dish, while others with stuffing are served as a main course. The most popular variety, which is always served as a side dish, is houskové knedlky (bread dumplings). These are baked in a cylinder form and then sliced into circular slices approximately 8 cm in diameter that resemble white bread. Houskové knedlky are served with Czech classics such as gulá, which is similar to Hungarian goulash but with a thinner sauce and less spicy; Svková na smetan, which is beef sirloin with a creamy root vegetable (carrot, celeriac, parsnip) sauce, served with a tablespoon of cranberry sauce, a slice of orange, and whipped cream; The latter goes well with the world-famous Czech beers, including Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Budvar, Staropramen, Velkopopovick Kozel, and Kruovice. If you happen to come across a bar that serves Svijany, you should certainly order it since it is widely regarded as one of the most delicious brands in the world.
Bramborové knedlky (potato dumplings) are another popular kind; the slices are smaller and more yellow in color, and are always served as a side dish. Roasted meat (for example, pig or lamb) with spinach and bramborové knedlky, or duck with sauerkraut and bramborové knedlky (or a mix of bramborové and houskové knedlky). Less frequent are chlupaté knedlky (hairy dumplings, although there are no hairs, don’t worry), which are prepared in the form of balls rather than slices. They are often served with roasted pork and either sauerkraut or spinach.
Other Czech dishes include peená kachna, which is roast duck served with bread or potato dumplings and red and white sauerkraut; moravsk vrabec, also known as ‘Moravian Sparrow,’ but which is actually pork cooked in garlic and onions; smaen kapr, which is fried carp breaded and served with a very rich potato salad and eaten on Christmas Eve; and peené vepové koleno, If you must, hranolky – french fries – are available. And, of course, there’s the omnipresent zel (raw cabbage), which goes with everything. Game is also quite excellent, and meals such as kan, wild boar, baant, pheasant, and jelen or da, both kinds of deer, are available. Almost usually served with dumplings and red and white cabbage, or as gulá.
Unless you’re in the countryside, don’t anticipate a broad variety of zelenina, vegetables – peppers, tomatoes, and cabbage are the most frequently seen side dishes, typically presented as a tiny garnish.
Visitors may be startled to see “American potatoes” on the menu. These are really spicy potato wedges.
Meals you usually don’t get in restaurants
In general, the best way to really experience Czech food is to be invited to a dinner at someone’s house. However, it is not that simple since people nowadays want to cook simpler and more cosmopolitan meals. Traditional Czech food is often saved for Sundays or certain festivals, or is made by elderly grandmother when her grandchildren come. This isn’t a rule, but it is a frequent occurrence. Traditional Czech cuisine at ordinary restaurants, even the best ones, is seldom comparable to what the old grandmother provides. This is not to say that the cuisine is terrible or unappealing, but it lacks something that home cooking can offer. The food may be great in luxury restaurants specializing on Czech cuisine, but the opulent style and innovative changes by the chef often do not match the manner of the old grandmother. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule. You may sometimes praise a restaurant’s cuisine “as though my grandmother cooked it.”
Some meals are typically not offered at restaurants or bars, but are prepared at home and are worth tasting if you have the chance. Brambory na loupačku (“peeled potatoes”) is an inexpensive and easy dish that is often prepared in the countryside. Whole unpeeled potatoes are cooked in a large pot and served in the pot or in a bowl at the table. Simply remove a hot potato from the stove, peel it yourself, season it with salt, butter, and/or curd (tvaroh), and eat it. Drink it with a glass of cold milk. It may be very delicious for such a simple dinner, particularly when served in the countryside after a day spent outdoors and talking about it.
Foraging for mushrooms in woods is a common pastime in the Czech Republic. Unsurprisingly, the mushrooms that have been gathered are consumed. In restaurants, only grown mushrooms are often utilized. If wild mushrooms are offered at a restaurant, they are typically just as a side dish. Homemade mushroom dinners, on the other hand, are a totally other story. Smaženice (the term is based on the verb’smait’ – to fry), also known as mchanice (to mix), is a typical example – wild mushrooms, the more varieties the better, are cut to tiny pieces, combined, and stewed (with some fat, onion, and caraway). The mixture is then finished with the addition of eggs. Bread is served with smaenice. Smažené bedly are fried entire caps of parasol mushrooms covered in breadcrumbs. Černý kuba (meaning “black jimmy”) is a traditional Christmas fasting supper consisting of dried mushrooms and peeled barley. Houbová omáčka (mushroom sauce) is also popular, especially with meat and bread dumplings. Fresh or dried mushrooms complement bramboračka s houbami well (potato soup with mushrooms). Kulajda is a mushroom and cream soup. Because they include a limited quantity of mushrooms, soups and sauces are the most probable forest mushroom dishes to find at a restaurant.
Be cautious if you wish to harvest mushrooms on your own. There are hundreds of kinds, some of which are extremely delicious, some of which are just edible, and others of which are toxic or even lethal. A species is also used as a hallucinogenic drug. A delicious and edible species may resemble a dangerous one. If you are unfamiliar with mushrooms, you should be accompanied by an expert mushroom picker.
Try traditional beer nibbles, which are sometimes the only meal offered in certain bars (hospoda, pivnice) and are intended to be washed down with a good beer:
- Utopenec – (Czech for “drowned man”) is a pickled sausage made with onion, garlic, and other vegetables and spices.
- Zavináč – (rollmop) a rolled-up slice of pickled fish, usually herring or mackerel, stuffed with different pickled vegetables (sauerkraut, onion, sometimes carrot or pepper).
- Tlačenka s cibulí – (brawn with onion) a piece of haggis-like beef pudding topped with fresh onion slices. Because of the vinegar, it may be very acidic.
- Nakládaný Hermelín is a pickled Brie-like cheese that is often seasoned with garlic and chilli.
- Pivní sýr is a soft cheese with a strong, Cheddar-like flavor. You should mash the cheese with a splash of beer and serve it on traditional Czech bread – Šumava (the name of a region in South Bohemia) is the most popular bread, a very delicious thick loaf made from rye and carroway seeds.
- Tvarůžky or Syrečky – Traditional cheese with a powerful fragrance and a flavor that must be acquired. Often deep-fried, but may be eaten on its own with chopped onion, mustard, and toast. Beer is sometimes added to the marinade (‘syreky v pivu’). This cheese has virtually little fat by nature (less than 1 percent ).
- Romadur – Cheese with a pungent fragrance that is typical. Aroma and Tvarky are similar, but Romadur is a distinct kind of cheese.
- Matesy s cibulí – Cold fish (soused herring) served with onions.
If you want a warm, larger, and more complex dinner that goes well with beer, try some of the traditional Czech dishes made with fatty meat (pork, duck, or goose) with sauerkraut and knedlky (dumplings). A whole pork knee with horseradish and bread (ovarové koleno s kenem) is another great choice.
Czechs like sweets, but their purchasing habits vary from those of France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Some traditional delicacies have become mass-market productions for visitors, while others are very difficult to obtain.
On the street
- Lázeňské oplatky – Spa wafers from Mariánské Lázn and Karlovy Vary (important spa towns in Western Bohemia known by their German names of Marienbad and Karlsbad) are intended to be eaten while “taking the waters” at a spa, but they’re as delicious on their own. Other notable spas include Karlova Studánka (a favorite destination of former Czechoslovakian President Václav Havel), Frantikovy Lázn, Jánské Lázn, Karviná, Teplice, and Luhaovice. They are most readily found not just in spa destinations, but also in Prague. You may eat them straight from the package or cooked and iced with sugar, cinnamon, and other spices.
- Trdlo or trdelník – is offered at specific sell-points across Prague’s streets. It’s an egg and flour sweet roll in the manner of the Middle Ages.
- Jablkový závin or štrůdl, – Apple strudel, also known as jablkov závin or trdl, is often served warm with whipped cream.
- Medovník – a newbie who has rapidly spread across most eateries A gingerbread, honey, and walnut-filled brown high cake.
- Ovocné knedlíky – Fruit-stuffed dumplings that may be served as a main dish or as a substantial dessert. The smaller ones (‘tvarohové’) have plum, apple, or apricot filling, while the larger ones (‘kynuté’) have strawberries, blueberries, povidla (plum jam), or other fruits. Knedlky are served with melted butter, tvaroh (curd cheese) and sugar icing, and whipped cream on top.
- Palačinka – Unlike French crepes, these pancakes are typically thicker and offered with a variety of fillings such as chocolate, ice cream, fruit, and whipped cream.
Try the vast range of delicious cream cakes often available in a Kavárna (a café) or a Cukrárna (a bakery) (a shop which sells all things sweet together with ice cream and drinks, found throughout the Czech Republic and often the only place open in small towns and villages on Sundays). Due to their common history as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Czech cakes are comparable to their Viennese counterparts. Try Vdeská káva (Viennese coffee), which is served with a mountain of whipped cream.
- Rakvička (literally, a little coffin) is a light, crispy cookie with cream.
- Větrník is a circular cream cake in the manner of a French éclair,
- Punčák is a sugar-glazed rum-soaked yellow/pink biscuit cake.
- Laskonka is a sandwich cake made with coconut and cream, among other things.
- Bábovka – Bábovka is a classic cake that is similar to marble cake in that it is quite dry and is typically served sprinkled with icing sugar.
- Buchty are traditional buns filled with tvaroh (curd cheese), mák (poppy seeds), or povidla (plum jam)
- Koláče – popular flat tarts covered with a variety of sweet fillings such as tvaroh, povidla, mák, fruit jams, chopped apples, and almonds. Their size varies from bite-sized (‘svatebn koláky’) to pizza-sized (‘Chodsk kolá’ or ‘frgál’), with numerous ingredients mixed into an intricate design.
It is no longer as difficult to get a vegetarian dinner in the Czech Republic as it previously was. Most restaurant menus, at least in tourist regions like as Prague and the Bohemian Paradise, have a vegetarian meals category (bezmasá jdla or vegetariánská jdla) with 2-3 choices. People’s interpretations of’vegetarian’ vary, and it’s not unusual to see dishes like “broccoli bacon” or prawns labeled as “vegetarian dinners.” Vegetarian options in traditional restaurants are generally restricted to fried cheese, dumplings (knedlky), omelette, potatoes (boiled, baked, fried, or as ‘potato pancakes,’ and sometimes a Greek salad or cooked vegetables. Be aware that vegetables must almost always be ordered separately, even if they seem to be part of the dish: for example, the vegetables mentioned in a menu item named “potato pancakes with vegetables” are most often a garniture consisting of a few lettuce leaves and a slice of tomato.
Foreign cuisine restaurants, mainly Italian and Chinese, may offer meatless meals such as vegetarian spaghetti in larger cities.
Drinks in Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is the birthplace of modern beer (pivo in Czech) (in Plze). Czechs are the world’s biggest beer consumers, consuming about 160 litres per capita each year. It’s a necessity to stop by a cozy Czech bar for supper and a few drinks!
Pilsner Urquell (Plzesk Prazdroj), Budweiser Budvar (Budjovick Budvar), and Staropramen are the most well-known export brands (freely translatable as “Oldspring”). Other well-known native brands include Gambrinus, Kozel, Bernard (a tiny traditional brewery with extremely high quality beer), Radegast, and Starobrno (made in Brno, the capital of Moravia). Svijany and Dobanská Hvzda are two more excellent beers to try. Although many Czechs are picky about beer brands, visitors seldom notice a major difference. Remember that genuine Czech beer is only available on tap – bottled beer is a whole other experience. High-quality beer is almost likely available at a hospoda or hostinec, which are simple taverns that offer just beer and light food. Take a seat and order your drinks when the waiter arrives – coming to the bar to order drinks is a British tradition! But beware: the beer’s handling is much more essential than its brand. Even the best beer may be ruined by a lousy bartender. The best option is to ask local beer connoisseurs for recommendations or just join them.
Beers are often categorized based on their initial sugar content, which is measured in Plato degrees (P/°). The change is most noticeable in the final alcohol concentration. Normal beer is about 10° (such as Gambrinus and Staropramen, which have a 4 percent ABV), while lager is at 12°. (such as Pilsner Urquell, which results in about 4.75 percent ABV). The latter is more powerful and more costly, so mention which one you want when you place your purchase.
Czech beer is not like the effervescent lagers seen in other nations. Instead, it has a robust, hoppy, almost bitter flavor that pairs nicely with heavier meals such as duck or pig with dumplings or strong cheeses. When it is served, it always has a thick head on top, but do not be afraid to drink “through” it; it is fun and it slowly disappears anyway; however, do not drink the beer too slowly as the fresh cold taste (especially in hot summers) quickly fades – the “true” Czech connoisseurs do not even finish this “tepid goat,” as they call it.
The correct beer is only available in half-litre brown glass bottles with a sheet-crown top when purchased in a store. Experienced earthy beer consumers consume it straight from the bottle. Some brewers also distribute large (two-liter or 1.5-liter) plastic bottles, although these are regarded barbaric and degraded by Czechs, and the better breweries mock such a practice. Sheet-can beer is also regarded as an alien.
Wine (vno in Czech) is another popular beverage, especially wine from Moravia in the country’s south-eastern region, where the climate is more suited to vineyards. White wines are often the best since growing circumstances are more favorable for them. Try Veltlínské zelené (Green Veltliner), Muškát moravský (Moravian Muscatel), Ryzlink rýnský (Rhine Riesling), or Tramín (Traminer) for white wines, or Frankovka (Blaufrankisch), Modrý Portugal (Blue Portugal, called for the grape, not the nation), or Svatovavřinecké for red wines (Saint Lawrence). Try ice wine (ledové vno), which is produced after the grapes have frozen on the vines, or straw wine (slámové vno), which is made by allowing the grapes to mature on straw) – these wines are more costly and taste similar to dessert wines. Bohemia Sekt, a sweet, fizzy wine akin to Lambrusco that is popular among Czechs, is also popular during festivities. A wine bar (vinárna) or a wine store (vinotéka), which occasionally includes a small bar area, are the finest locations to get wine.
Becherovka (herb liqueur, comparable to Jägermeister, tastes of cloves and cinnamon, and is drank as a digestive), slivovice (plum brandy, extremely popular as a pick-me-up), hruškovice(pear brandy, less fiery than Slivovice), and other spirits are available. Almost every kind of fruit may be used to make spirits (Plums, Peaches, Cherries, Sloes, etc.). Czech tuzemský rum (produced from sugar beet, not sugar cane as in Cuban rum, and marketed under names such as Tuzemák to comply with EU market regulations). Be cautious since they are all around 40% alcohol.
Fruit sparkling waters (as well as coke waters) are often referred to as limonáda in Bohemia or sodovka in Moravia. Draught “limonades” of different varieties used to be a relatively inexpensive and widely accessible beverage in common taverns in rural and trekking regions. Now, more costly “Cola-Fanta-Sprite” options like draught or bottle Kofola are typically available. Kofola, a coke-like drink, is very popular, and some Czechs consider it to be the greatest thing the communists ever given them.
Mineral waters are popular, although they have a distinct mineral flavor. Try Mattoni or Magnesia, both of which taste like regular water but promise to be beneficial to your health. Ask for perlivá if you want bubbles. Ask for neperlivá if you don’t want it carbonated. Jemn perlivá – “lightly bubbled” water – may be seen from time to time. Many restaurants do not distinguish between “sparkling water” and “sparkling mineral water.” Sparkling water (without flavor) is known in Bohemia as sodovka (sodová voda, soda water) and in Moravia as sifon.
Typically, certain fruit juices are also available.
Tea and coffee are also available at most restaurants and bars. The bacis type of coffee is turecká káva (Turkish coffee) with grounds, although drip coffee, instant coffee, or milky coffee, particularly with whipping cream (vdeská káva, Viennese coffee) are also available. A broader selection is available at cafés (kavárna) or tea rooms (ajovna). Cofes are frequented by elders, women, and intellectuals; tea rooms have an easterly ambiance and have been popular with non-alcoholic young people in recent decades.
Cold and hot non-alcoholic drinks are provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week at vending machines at numerous railway and metro stations and other locations.
Restaurants and bars do not provide complimentary water. Not surprisingly, since beer is the national drink, it is generally the cheapest drink you can purchase, with costs ranging from 15–60 K (€0.50-2) per half litre, depending on the pub’s tourist appeal. Drinks are delivered to your table, and each one is typically recorded on a tiny piece of paper that is placed on the table in front of you so you can keep track of what you’ve consumed. When you’re ready to go, ask the waiter for the bill; he or she will figure it out based on the amount of marks on the page. In crowded bars, it is customary for people to share tables, and before they sit, Czechs will inquire Je tu volno? (Is this seat free?).
Try svařák, hot mulled wine offered in all pubs and at Christmas markets, grog, hot rum and water served with a slice of lemon – add sugar to taste, and medovina, mead, which is often served hot and is especially excellent for warming up during a chilly winter market. Finally, if you’re planning a trip to Moravia, try burčák, a summer or early fall specialty. It is a very young wine, typically white, that is hazy and still fermenting during the time when the wine is very sweet and smooth to sip. It ferments in the stomach, so the alcohol level at the moment of consumption is unclear, but it is typically high, sneaks up on you, and is extremely moreish. Czechs believe that it should only be consumed fresh from the vineyard, and many tiny private winemakers are devoted to it, staying up late waiting for the wine to reach the “burák” stage. It may be found at wine festivals throughout the nation, as well as markets and wine bars.