Czech Traditional Food - Eating Out In Prague Restaurants
The Irish have the potato, the Ukrainians the Porgy. The Czechs have dumplings (“knedliky”). They look like little flat oval shaped pieces of bread. Czech meals usually consist of some kind of sauce, meat and dumplings.
The advantage of dumplings is that they soak up a lot of sauce. With knife and fork, cut a piece of dumpling, then slide it around through the sauce until it is soaked, and continue eating, alternating between bits of meat and dumpling.
Your choice is what kind of meat and sauce you want with your dumplings. The most popular dumpling meals are Svičková (read “svitch-co-va”), Rajská (read “raiska”) or Gulas. They have completely different tastes which cannot be described. I remember them by colors. Svičková is a white/green creamy color, Rajská is red and Gulas is brown. I like them all but my favorite and the most distinct is Svičková.
These traditional foods are so common that they are called “finished food”, Hotovi. This means that the food is already cooked and ready in big pots in the kitchen. Usually you only need to wait a few minutes for your meal. The waiter disappears into the kitchen, grabs a plate, tosses five dumplings on the plate and then with a big spoon dips into the proper pot and dumps the meat and sauce over the dumplings. It is faster than ordering a hamburger at McDonald's.
The major disadvantage with this food is that it is very heavy. Every time I eat it I feel like taking a nap afterwards. It is even worse if you have a half litre of beer with the meal, which is customary. It feels like you just had a thanksgiving dinner. And I have never seen a menu stating how many calories are contained within the dumplings and sauce, but my gut feeling is a lot.
Besides these staple foods, another classic, and not for those watching their weight is fried cheese. Just like it sounds, it is a 3cm thick bread-sized slab of cheese, dipped in egg yolk and covered in crushed bread crumbs. Then it is fried in a deep pool of grease. It is delicious. When I first tried it I fell in love. But too much love can be harmful. One day, instead of the usual two pieces, I ordered four. Unsurprisingly, I felt terrible afterwards and now even the smell of it churns my stomach. I ruined my ability to eat the delicious fried cheese because of greed. A warning: if you like it, then please be careful.
Non-Meat Traditional Czech Foods
The main meats in the Czech meals are chicken, duck, turkey, fish, rabbit and lamb. And you can find most of these at any Czech restaurant. For those of you who want to avoid meat there are some classic meatless meals. The fried cheese has already been mentioned. But there is also fried cauliflower, same concept as the cheese. Take the cauliflower, cover with flour, dip it in egg yolk and roll in the crushed bread crumbs. It is usually served with potatoes and Tatarská Omáčka. Tatarská Omáčka is a cold sauce in which the potatoes and cauliflower are dipped in. There is something about the combination of warm cauliflower and cold sauce that makes an interesting sensation in the mouth, hot and cold at the same time. The unfortunate thing about non-meat Czech meals is that they are also very filling and sleep-inducing.
If You Want Non-Czech Food
When you have had your fill of dumplings, meat and sauce, there is a large selection of non-Czech foods. For good or bad, McDonald's and KFC are everywhere. And so are the signs. It is a lot easier to find a McDonald's in Prague then the Prague Castle. Signs on the street state “400 meters to McDonald's” and a big arrow points the way. After you pass the McDonald's you will see a sign stating, “Are you sure you did not miss something?” and a loop around arrow reminds you that there is a McDonald's behind you. In 2009, the first Burger King was opened. I expect that very shortly Burger King will be everywhere. And Then Pizza Hut will come around I am sure.
There are also a lot of Chinese and Thai restaurants. Most of the Chinese restaurants are the types that you would find in a North American mall. Plates full of rice with a hearty dumping of vegetables and ginger beef.
Prague is an international city so there is a good chance that regardless of your tastes and budget you will find what you are looking for.
For Really Fast Food
In Prague there are also lots of pizza and sausage stands. If you need a quick boost of energy, for around 20 CAK ($1 US), you can get a sausage with a piece of bread and mustard, or a slice of pizza.
Open-Faced Sandwiches - Traditional And Quick
An alternative is to go into a traditional Czech deli. This takes a little courage because usually it is filled with busy Czechs who know exactly what they want. They expect you to quickly make your choice and move on. The workers at the deli work quickly and have little patience for dilly dallying – asking what everything is. Plus it can be a bit daunting. There are lots of meats, salads, and pastries – if you do not know how to combine them to make a meal then you will have a hard time making a choice. The easiest is to buy the little open-faced sandwiches. They are small pieces of bread with pieces of meat, vegetable and egg on them. They are easy to spot and point to – no communication required. Grab a couple of these and you will be set for the next couple hours of sightseeing.
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