While the Italians, the French, the Chinese, Japanese and Indians have toiled hard to put our respective cuisines on the map, the Czechs have somehow humbly kept their fare to themselves. An amalgamation of traditional meals served across Eastern Europe, Czech food is wholesome, rich and meat is ubiquitous barring a few delicious options that have been reserved for the vegetarians. The locals eat like kings, drink like sailors and feed guests with all the generosity in the world. Czech food is like a treasure chest that is waiting to be discovered and here are a few gems that stood out during my trip to Bohemia. Incidentally, everything on this list is sans any kind of meat. Dobrou chuť! :
What basically is a sweet pastry that is deeply rooted in Eastern Europe, Trdelnik looks more like a work of art. Rolled dough is beautifully wrapped around a stick, grilled to perfection and topped with generous amounts of sugar and cinnamon. Whipped cream, strawberries, Nutella and ice-cream are offered as fillings and you have the option to create your own variant. This dessert is pretty, so much so that every picture is Instagram-worthy and tastes like a slice of heaven.
I distinctly remember the struggle associated with getting the spelling and pronunciation of this magical treat right, but after my first bite I really didn’t care about the name anymore. Prague seems to be obsessed with this pastry and rightly so. The moment I’d come across a bakery selling warm Trdelnik (and there were many), I would run to get one for myself. You should too.
Best place to have Trdelnik : Good Food Bakery, Prague.
For a multitude of people (like me), it is extremely difficult to refuse a glass of wine. While science has always upheld the vices of alcohol, wine is that one alcoholic beverage that seems to have cleared every test. Heck, even the Gods approve of it. And these Gods perhaps hail from the Czech Republic because the country treats wine the way the rest of the world treats tea and coffee. When in Bohemia, it is absolutely normal to forget about the elegant goblets and chilled flutes and indulge in hot cups of wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes, you read that right!
Brewed with mulling spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and served with a slice of blood orange, a cup of steaming red wine is all that you need during a cold winter’s night. I can vouch for the fact that it gives the good old hot chocolate a run for its money. Cafes, restaurants and makeshift stalls around Prague usually offer a choice between white and red wine but if you take my word for it, red is always right. Do not miss this elixir even if you happen to be a teetotaller.
Best place to have Mulled Wine : Kafka Snob Food, Prague
As a child, I always wanted my pizza to be smothered in all the cheese in the world. I did not care one bit for the vegetables; all I desired was to swim in that gleaming expanse of luscious, creamy and rich goodness. I often wondered why there was an abundance of fried potatoes and chicken but no cheese. Time flew and so did my love for everything greasy. However, it took one trip to the glorious country of Czech Republic for me to forget all about my obsession with healthy eating. The Czechs had made my childhood dream come true. Deep fried cheese was indeed a reality in this part of the world.
Smažený Sýr or Fried Cheese is basically a thick slice of Edam or Emmental cheese coated in bread crumbs, flour and eggs and fried until perfectly golden brown. This gooey beauty is served with copious amounts of tartar sauce and a generous helping of salad and potatoes. While one serving is more than wholesome, you might just be compelled to go for another. It really is that good. Throw caution to the wind, stop counting the calories and treat yourself.
Best place to eat Fried Cheese : Lokál, Prague.
While several other cultures are more than familiar with the humble Potato Soup, the Czechs seem to have taken the recipe to an altogether different level. Also known as Bramboracka, the Bohemian version of potato soup is like a loving grandmother’s hug as it is quintessentially warm and comforting. The locals also proudly refer to it as the queen of all soups and considering the many freshly produced vegetables and spices that go into the preparation, it most definitely is. Beautifully golden potatoes, carrots that remind you of sunshine, juicy stalks of celery, soft, earthy mushrooms and oodles of onions and garlic are peppered with flavourful spices and served in the form of a thick, delectable soup that can warm anybody’s heart.
Every chef seems to add a twist of his or her own to the traditional Bramboracka and somehow all of the variants are delightful. Expect a big basket of terrific Czech sour bread to arrive with your dish as it works as an ideal accompaniment. You will polish everything off in no time and perhaps even ask for more. This soup is very evidently healthy and is like a boon for your taste buds.
Best place to relish Potato Soup : Lokál, Prague
The Czechs love their beer the way the French love their wine. Pardon the blasphemous reference but Czech Republic really is a Mecca for beer lovers across the globe. While I am not the biggest connoisseur of the beverage and the intricate process of brewing the same, one variant in particular caught my attention and made me go for seconds and thirds. This lager is served chilled in gigantic mugs and the colour is reminiscent of black coffee. The froth on top is wonderfully creamy and the flavour is almost overwhelming with extremely strong hints of liquorice and chocolate. The undertones are spicy and smooth all at the same time. I personally don’t associate the term ‘delicious’ with beer but when it comes to dark lager, I am ready to change my mind.
Prague is replete with beer halls, so much so that almost every corner is dotted with a pivovar (brewery) that is home to a gazillion varieties of pivo (beer). The most common names are Krusovice Dark , Kozel Dark and Budvar Dark and nothing really burns a hole in your pocket. It wouldn’t be wrong to assert that every hour in the city is a happy hour.
Best place to have Dark Beer : Klášterní Pivovar Strahov , Prague