Friday, January 7, 2011

Czech Food 101

I've got a hunch that this fledgling lil' blog has already lost most it's Czech readership. I mean, really, posting about the Vietnamese food in Czech Rep before posting any actual Czech food?! (In my defense - I rarely get to the Vietnamese market, so such events are soooo exciting for me I'm compelled to share asap! And the topic of Czech food seemed so heavy, excuse the pun, I just didn't know where to begin.)

What It Is

It seems the biggest impression of Czech food to the outside world is meat and dumplings, with sauce, like guláš (goulash). But everyone has their own impressions. Czech men are most proud of their country's beer (after its women). Czech women seem most likely to tout their baking skills of various sweet biscuits, cukrový. Beyond the boarders, I've heard that the Polish regard Czech fried cheese (smažený sýr) in high regard. And those from further away are simply in awe at the mass amounts of meat consumed. (See Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations: Prague episode).

Czech food fills me up. It is hearty - to the max. On cold winter days, previous expats who had a stay in the Czech Republic report serious Czech food-envy upon returning home. There is nothing better than a piping bowl of garlic soup and a perfect roast duck followed by apple strudel or, the restaurant favourite, ice cream with hot raspberries. Oh, and don't forget that glass of Czech wine, often overshadowed internationally by the height of the Czech Pilsner. The whites in this country rival the best Moselle valley vintages.

What It Is Not

Um, I know that in many respects Czech food doesn't seem healthy, but I don't get it...despite the dumplings and cream sauces, people don't look unhealthy. In fact, true to the stereotype, most women here are quite fit. Aha, you think gyms are the key. Nope. They are still a novelty rather than the norm. It's like the French paradox we Americans all wonder about, except even more severe, what with all the sausages and economical (read: fatty) cuts of meat being consumed. And they ain't got the focus on veg like the French, save for a few slices of cucumbers or pickles with every meal. And the heart-healthy red wine is absent too.

Another omission is a bit of heat. The primary spice is caraway seeds and sweet paprika. The Czech palette seems so incapable of handling any serious chillies, that in 'exotic' restaurants the 4 little chili peppers representing fire level of the dishes usually tastes pretty mild to me. And by exotic restaurants, I refer to the Chinese places, which are mostly owned by Vietnamese. In fact, during my search for Pho, I had wandered into one sushi joint, and saw the Vietnamese owners in the kitchen slurping bowls of the stuff (the aroma clearly gave it away), yet of course it wasn't on the menu, only dried salmon strips on stiff rice beds. The Czech Republic is a great place to eat, well, Czech food, but not much else (except in Prague of course).


What others see Czech food as is all good and fine. Myself, I've found certain dishes that I absolutely adore. And for these dishes, I'll be hammering out definitive recipes in the coming posts to share with you.

Dobrou Chut'/Enjoy :)

1 comment:

  1. I really have to smile while reading your posts! I LOVE fried cheese!! It used to be my favourite student food. There was a small food stand near my university that made the best fried cheese in a bun :)


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