When you come to the Czech Republic, you surely plan to visit its architectural beauties, explore its old streets and important monuments and visit interesting museums and galleries. However, Czech culture can’t be reduced to the history that these monuments reflect, but should also be looked for in the behaviour of people that you can meet in bars. Surely, they’ll be drinking a pint of Czech beer, that is for the Czech, the synonym to their identity. Next to this “liquid bread”, which is what the beer is called, there is also a specific Czech cuisine that is appreciated all over the world. Czech-style heavy sauces as well as special side dishes are also an important aspect of the culture and if you visit the country, you can’t leave without trying at least one of the traditional Czech foods. Here is a list for the five best dishes that you should definitely not miss.
1) Svickova na smetane, the meal for special occasions
Let’s begin with a dish called “svickova na smetane”, which is reserved for special occasions and important family events – as it takes a long time to prepare it. Luckily, many Czech restaurants always have it on their menus so you can eat it every time you want. So, what is so special about Svickova? In fact, “svickova” means “tenderloin”, which is the leanest and most appreciated part of beef. The tenderloin in svickova is cooked together with a special sauce based on vegetables (mainly on carrots and celery) that is then finely mixed. Cream (“smetana” in Czech) is finally added. Thanks to its long cooking, the meat is really delicate, good smelling and it melts in your mouth. You can’t eat svickova without the Czech traditional side dish called “knedliky”, a sort of dumplings made from leavened dough. There are many kinds of knedliky; however, svickova is always eaten with the ones called “houskove” or “karlovarske”. If you want to try a really good svickova, go to the restaurant called Café Louvre at Narodni Trida. You can get a really delicious homemade sauce and a big portion of knedliky. Your lunch can’t be better!
2) Vepro-knedlo-zelo, the most popular dish
Another important Czech dish is called “veprova pecene se zelim”, which means “roasted pork with cabbage”. In familiar language the name is shortened to “vepro-knedlo-zelo” that indicates “pork-knedliky-cabbage”. Actually, this surname is so deeply rooted in the Czech consciousness that many people don’t know the correct name. This fact shows the popularity that this dish has among the Czech people. The slowly roasted pork goes perfectly with the cabbage that is usually slowly stewed with a bit of sugar. Unlike German sauerkraut, the stewing gives the cabbage a fine sweet taste. And, like svickova, epro-knedlo-zelo needs to be eaten with knedliky. Even if the most common ones are again the “houskovy”, sometimes you can also find some restaurants that serve it with potato dumplings. They are both delicious. If you want to try a real vepro-knedlo-zelo, go to the restaurant Havelska Koruna in Havelska Street. You won’t be disappointed.
3) Bramborak, a tasty potato pancake
If you are a potato lover, you have to try the Czech dish called “bramborak”. Bramborak is a type of potato pancake and its preparation is really simple. You have to grate potatoes and then mix them with flour, eggs and a bit of milk, in order to get a smooth and liquid dough. The main charm of bramborak then lies in the seasoning. What gives them their unique taste is pressed garlic and marjoram that are both often used in Czech cuisine. After your dough is ready, you heat the oil in the pan, pour a ladle of the dough into the pan and you fry it until it is golden. You can eat bramborak as a vegetarian main dish as well as a side dish. There are also restaurants that make very large pancakes and fill them with mashed-meat and cheese. You should definitely try one of those. Go for one at the Apetit Buffet on Vodickova Street and you’ll surely fall in love with bramboraky!
4) Smazeny Rizek, the Austrian heritage
There is one Czech speciality that is originally Austrian, which remains from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. It is called “smazeny rizek” and in Austria they know it as “Wienerschnitzel”. These two names describe a thin piece of meat that is coated with three layers. First, you cover the meat with flour, then you dip the meat in a mixture of egg mixed with milk, and finally you dust breadcrumbs on the top. Afterwards, you fry the meat in the oil. Usually, smazeny rizek is made from pork sirloin – similarly to the one from Vienna – but you can also find it made with chicken, which is very popular among children. Normally, Rizek is eaten simply with potatoes, but if you want it to be more festive, you can accompany it with traditional Czech potato salad. It is made from boiled potatoes, carrots, peas, egg and celery that are mixed with mayonnaise and ham. The Chudoba Restaurant at Vinohradska Street has a very good one!
5) Gulas, the best dish to eat with a pint of beer
The last dish that you should not miss has its origins in Hungary. It is called gulas (goulash). It consists of a good beef that is slowly cooked in a pressure cooker on a base of lightly fried onions. The magic of goulash lies in the specific mixture of spices that the meat is cooked in. Mild paprika, garlic, marjoram and pepper give it a special mild-spicy taste that you can’t find elsewhere. As well as other sauce dishes, gulas is also eaten with knedliky. Dip the fluffy knedlik into the delicious sauce and you won’t eat anything else. There are also some restaurants that serve this delicacy in another, equally traditional way - the meat and sauce are poured into a scooped-out crust of typical Czech, round wheat-rye bread. The spicy sauce goes perfectly with the slightly sour taste of the dough. Go for a gulas served in bread at the Pub, which is a bar/restaurant at Veleslavinova Street near the Staromestska Metro Station. You can also tap your own beer there. There is really nothing better to drink with gulas than a cold Czech beer!
Best Czech specialities that are a must-try
Even though the Czech Republic is a small country, it has a very rich culture, the food and drink specialities included. Thanks to different historical influences, Czech food offers a large scale of tastes. Here are a few tips for the most famous dishes that are a must try if you want to fully experience Czech culture.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.