Czech beer is famous around the world, but what about Czech food? We’re starting a series on it, and in this first article we look at traditional cuisine that you can expect to find in pubs and traditional restaurants.
It’s fair to say that classic dishes are “hearty” and meat-oriented: vegetables and other healthy ingredients are not a strong point of Czech dishes. But even if it doesn’t have the reputation of French or Italian cuisine, Czech cooking can be tasty and filling, and on cold days, it may be just what you need.
The cuisines of Central Europe display many similar features; main courses across the region frequently feature beef or pork, often served in a sauce or stew, accompanied by dumplings or sometimes potatoes. Traditionally, the vegetables that do make it on to the plate are pickled, such as sauerkraut or gherkins. The Czech national dish is a typical example of such cuisine. Called vepřo-knedlo-zelo, it comprises roast pork accompanied by dumplings and sauerkraut. Pork is also the basis of vepřový řízek or pork schnitzel, i.e. a cutlet fried in breadcrumbs, and a varied range of sausages and salami in natural or artificial casings, which are very popular in the Czech Republic.
You’ll also come across pork in goulash (guláš), which is similar to the Hungarian version and appears in many disguises: the Goulash Festival in the Czech town of Valašské Meziříčí serves up 35 kinds! All are basically variations on the theme of pork or beef in a thick spicy stew accompanied by dumplings.
Dumplings (knedlíky) are very common in Czech cuisine, and most often you’ll be served bread dumplings or, less frequently, the smaller potato dumplings. Both resemble thick round slices of bread and are very useful for mopping up the sauce in goulash or in other dishes such as svíčkova na smetaně, beef sirloin in a rich, smooth vegetable sauce.
In the next article we’ll look at traditional Czech meals in restaurants.