What makes Czech dining?

Article published on Feb. 15, 2009
Article published on Feb. 15, 2009

Gastronomy is a fundamental element of the patrimony and a way into another country’s culture. Understanding others’ eating habits, getting to know the dishes that constitute their gastronomy, tasting its many flavours are some of the ways to understand another culture. Why not profit from the EC’s Presidency by the Czech Republic to get a hint on their cuisine? Tell me what you eat…

For meat lovers

Much influenced by neighbouring gastronomy (Hungary, Austria, Germany), Czech cuisine bears however many specialties fitted to local tastes and means. Quite generous - one dish usually does the job – it will content mostly meat lovers. The Czechs are great meat eaters, which they cook in a variety of ways and accompany with a variety of sauces, whether pork, beef or poultry. Fish is rarer on the plate and a Christmas Eve tradition: on this special occasion, carp is either served with dried prunes and walnuts - Kapr na černo or fried in breadcrumbs with a potato salad - Smazeny kapr s bramborovym salatem.

A la carte

A traditional menu starts with a soup, like the Bramboračka (potatoe soup); for the main course, Svíčková (Beef filet with cream) or Vepřo-knedlo-zelo (literally pork-quenelle-cabbage). The latter is the most typical and symbolizes in itself traditional Czech cuisine. There are also many fried dishes. Just about anything can be found in a ‘fried version’ (meat, fish, cheese, vegetables). The Czech are not really inclined to eat vegetables, and side dishes are one aspect of their cuisine’s originality: meat is often served with Knedliky, small balls of steamed cooked and sliced pasta similar to   the French quenelles; or with Bramborák, potato pancakes flavoured with marjoram. As a matter of fact, potato is one of the major ingredient of this gastronomy and are prepared in many different ways. On the sweet side, typical Czech desserts are the Knedily, stuffed with sugar and fruit sauce or the palačinky - pancakes filled with fruits and ice-cream.

Na zdravi! Cheers!

A pleasant meal (or any meal for that matter…), would not be one without the national beverage, beer. The Czech are the highest beer drinkers in the world, and, according to amateurs, this country produces some of the finest, more than 470 different ones! The best known are Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar, which can also be found in France. If by any chance you do sip, and enjoy, one the many beers suggested in the typical Czech brasseries, order also marinated Hermelín cheese (nakládaný Hermelín) and Utopenci as side dishes. You will be enjoying the typical Czech before dinner drink! And how about some marinated sausages, called Utopenci? Although wine is not as popular as in France, there are some renowned vineyards in Southern Moravia and in Bohemia. Some white wines such as the Veltlínské zelené, the Müller Thurgau or the Moravian Muscat have acquired international recognition.  

Ready to try?

There are unfortunately no Czech restaurants in Paris. One may try the recipe for the Vepřo-knedlo-zelo suggested on the official site of the EU Czech Presidency; or else, pack you bag and travel to the Czech Republic! 

Charlotte Rautureau

Translation: Frédérique Destribats