Czech cuisine is delicious and, frankly, a heaven for meat lovers 🙂 I had had just a vague idea about it before I visited Prague, and while in the country, I learned additional facts about traditional Czech food. For example, a guy on a bus to Karlovy Vary explained me the difference between svickova and goulash. I found out about such an important element of Czech cuisine like Prague ham only when I was walking around the Old Town Square. I did not try all that yummy Czech food, and it is another reason to come back 🙂 So, what traditional food to eat in Prague?
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Traditional Czech food: meats
Pork knuckle! I bet everybody heard about it, and it is a true representative of the traditional Czech food.
I am far from being an expert, but as far as I know the pork knuckle is first boiled in salted water with bay leaf and then seasoned and roasted in the oven until it gets that appetizing crust. It is usually served with pickled vegetables, mustard and horseradish.
I had pork knuckle in two places: U Tri jelinku and Vinarna Pushkin, and I liked it more in the latter.
Useful info: the portion is big, and for one person it is too much. I convinced the girls from my hostel room to go and eat it together because of that 🙂 But it does not mean that if you are alone you can’t try it. Just order it and if you can’t finish it… well, just leave it.
Svickova is very popular food in Czech Republic. And it was the first one I tried in Prague.
So, what is svickova? It is beef eye fillet cooked in a mix of vegetables. But it is not the meat that is important here, but the sauce. Well, the sauce are the vegetables which the meat is cooked in. These vegetables are stewed, sour cream is added and then blended till smooth texture. Carrots and sour cream give the sauce its specific orangey color. Then meat is cut into pieces, topped with the sauce and served with knedliki (bread dumplings) and jam. Usually, the jam is sour because the sauce is a bit sweet because of carrots.
I guess it is time to say what knedliki are. They are a kind of bread (though the Czech are offended when visitors call it bread. But it is bread 🙂 ) baked over steam instead of oven. They are usually made of flour or potatoes and go perfectly with svickova and goulash.
Here we come to another popular dish: goulash. It is not exactly a Czech dish, but rather Hungarian. The difference is that the Hungarian goulash is more like a soup while the Czech one is meat in thick sauce. It would be fair to say that I saw soup-like goulash as well: usually, it is served in bread.
When I first tried svickova, I thought that there was a mistake. Just take a look at the pictures below: both are pieces of meat in sauce and are served with knedliki and sour jam. The visual difference is only in the sauce color. So, when I saw svickova on my table, I thought that it was goulash. Only after I met that guy on the bus I realized that it is two different dishes.
Just like in case of svickova, meat (but this time it is different meat cuts from svickova) is stewed with vegetables until tender. No carrots here, but tomato paste, caraway (very important!) and dark beer are added to the sauce. Hence the dark color. The result is just delicious!
The Czech cuisine is much about meat. I do not know the way they cook pork ribs, but they are fantastic!
I had them in the above mentioned Vinarna Pushkin where they were served with mustard and horseradish, and they were yummy!
Roasted duck is another Czech specialty. I had it in Stara Praha Restaurant not far from Legii bridge over Strelecky Island.
They served quite a big part of the duck with red cabbage and knedliki so it was a very hearty meal. Roasted duck is delicious so definitely try it!
Usually I am not the one to advice eating in the very city center, but I am guilty of this 🙂
When I was in the Old Town Square, I saw a stall where huge chunks of pork meat were cooked over open fire. The smell was amazing!
When I saw it first, I said to myself: ‘No, don’t even think about ordering it here. You will definitely find this famous ham in a restaurant’. But I did not find it in any restaurant, or, most likely, I looked in the wrong place. So I went back to the Old Town Square 🙂
That piece of Prague ham was one of the best foods I tried in Czech Republic. It is so tender and delicious that I regret I ordered it just once 🙂
Well, sausages definitely aren’t a Czech invention, but who cares? They are delicious anyway 🙂
There are different types of sausages, but, as in case with the Prague ham, I don’t remember seeing them in many menus. But I tried them, in the Old Town Square again. The ones I had were well fried and spicy and were served with bread. Big thanks to them for the bread, otherwise I would not be able to eat the sausages as they were too spicy to my taste. I suppose they go really well with beer 🙂
Chlebicky are open sandwiches. Obviously, it is not something specific to Czech cuisine, but they are quite a thing here. The toppings are different including meat, fish, vegetables, cheese, eggs, etc. Frankly, they are really good and just perfect for a quick grab. Personally, I liked very much the one with egg and cheese: it is simple but very delicious!
Kulajda is a creamy soup made traditionally with mushrooms and potatoes with addition of sour cream. Flour is used to thicken the soup. It is very hearty and cheap. For example, in U Tri Jelinku restaurant a portion of kulajda costs 50 Czech Crowns.
Personally, I did not try it so I just have to trust the locals who simply adore it 🙂
Smazeny syr is fried cheese. The Czech fry different kinds of cheese so you can choose the one you like the most. Anyway, the most widely spread version is with Edam cheese.
Schnitzel is not really a Czech invention, but, still, it is very popular. If you are a fan of this thin breaded meat you can have more than enough of it in Czech Republic. It is usually served with potato salad. While I really liked this combination, I still think it is too heavy: fried meat with potatoes and mayo sounds far from being healthy. But, gosh, it is delicious 🙂
Traditional Czech food: desserts
Trdelnik with ice cream
This combination is divine and my absolutely favorite! I could not keep myself from buying one every day 🙂
Trdelnik is stripes of dough wrapped spirally around sticks and baked over open fire. After that, while they are hot, they are sprinkled with sugar and nut mix.
You can buy a plain trdelnik, or with nutella, with whipped cream, with fruit and berries, but my favorite one is with ice cream.
When it comes to ice cream, trdelnik is usually served with vanilla one, you will rarely see other options, but this ice cream is yummy! The portions are quite big, so keep this in mind.
Useful tip: make sure that trdelnik is fresh. Even despite the endless flow of tourists through the streets vendors do not sell everything immediately and some unlucky people get rather stale trdelnik. It happened to me twice.
This is another not really Czech food. I guess everybody knows what an apple strudel is, so there is no need to introduce it 🙂 It is very popular in Czech Republic, but I did not try it. The main reason is that I don’t like baked apples. Strange, ha? 🙂
Yes, this one I liked very much. As I come from Eastern Europe, the concept of honey cake is very familiar to me: this cake is usually made at home. Of course, the recipes are not similar entirely in the Eastern European countries.
As you guessed, one of its main ingredients is honey which is added to the dough. The cream is very delicious, it consists of butter, nuts and condensed milk boiled in can till it becomes of dark color. The result is just amazing!
I have read that kolache is quite a thing in Czech Republic, but I did not see them on offer in restaurants I have been to, only in bakeries. Kolaches are round puff pastry with topping right in the middle. The toppings are different, but the most widely used are jam, poppy seeds and cottage cheese. I thought that they are very similar to vatrushkas popular in the Eastern Europe.
Kolaches are rather small in size, so buy a couple of them, a cup of tea or coffee, and your breakfast is ready 🙂
I am sure my list is far from being full. Do you know any other traditional Czech food?
Where to eat in Prague
I spent 5 days in Prague, but, somehow, I did not go to many places. I went a couple of times to Vinarna Pushkin I have already mentioned above. The restaurant is in a basement, so it is quite dark inside. The food is really delicious there, there is a girl at the entrance handing flyers with discount, but the waiters could be politer. Anyway, I just tried not to pay attention to their faces 🙂
I liked U tre jelinku Restaurant: the menu is varied and includes dishes of traditional Czech and international cuisines. They have a wide breakfast selection, and usually it is not crowded in the mornings. The prices are acceptable, about the same as everywhere.
Stara Praha Restaurant has many traditional dishes and the prices are the same as everywhere.
But there are two restaurants I really wanted to go to but they were always full of people. A local recommended to me U tri ruzi Restaurant which is a brewery at the same time. It is next to the above mentioned Vinarna Pushkin and has three floors, and they get full really fast, so I advise you to do what I did not do: book a table 🙂 The reviews of the place are quite raving.
Another restaurant is Mlejnice: they have a very long menu that includes a wide selection of meat and potato dishes. Again, book a table 🙂
What to pay attention to: I mentioned it in my previous post on travel tips for Prague that some restaurants include service fee to the bill. My understanding is that it is tips, so I did not tip if that fee was on the bill. Unfortunately, you can’t really refuse to pay it, at least, as far as I know.
Where to stay in Prague
While in Prague, I stayed in two places and loved them both!
I spent a week in Charles Bridge Economic Hostel in a 7-bed room 5 meters away from Charles Bridge. It is a lovely old building that houses a tourist information center as well, which is very convenient. As the hostel’s guest I got a free ghost tour! The room I stayed in had twin beds instead of bunk, and this is the reason I booked it 🙂
Another place is Prague Siesta Apartments about 50 meters away from the church of Our Mother before Tyn. I loved absolutely everything about this place! I booked the entire apartment for myself, the bed was exquisite, the Internet was fast, the shower was good, the guy at the reception was very nice and funny.
I wrote a much detailed review of both places here.
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