The Czech Republic is not known for its delightful cuisine, and like the United Kingdom, the food stands accused of blandness. In recent history, it perhaps has the excuse of poverty and long winters, the sort of environment where pickled and simple foods are essential. Consequently, like the British, the base ingredient of any meal is the meat and two veg, alongside that real Czech delicacy of beer.
On most Czech menus there is a section dedicated to beer snacks. The most popular, and one that is highly recommended, is Nakladny Hermelin- pickled Brie marinated in olive oil. The taste is strong and even more so with the chilies it is served with, but the strength is slightly tempered by a generous portion of bread. Despite such snacks, most Czech food is designed to drink with beer and few Czechs eat the national dish of pork, dumplings and sauerkraut without a Budvar or Pilsner close to hand.
Pork is the Czech main meat, but usually on menus, they have chicken and beef at around the same cheap price. Other meat is less popular and quite expensive. Of course, they have duck and lamb, but pork, beef and chicken are the three staple meats. A beef dish is recommended as it’s traditionally served in a rich sauce containing ingredients like horseradish and lots of sugar.
Czechs love their sauces and though there is not much fish about, tartar sauce is extremely popular. If you order mayonnaise in a Czech restaurant, you often receive tartar sauce. It really is that loved and especially when eating fried cheese, another Czech delicacy.
In terms of cheeses, the Czech Republic is famous for Abertim and Olomauc. Abertim is made from sheep’s cheese in the famous spa town of Karlovy Vary. Olomauc cheese has a proud, 130-year history and it even has a museum in dedication to its unique taste, which is distinctive and strong. Perhaps an acquired flavor, but if you are a fan of cheese it should strike your fancy.
What Czechs really want you to try is their dumplings or knedlik as they are called in Czech. The most famous of these are bread dumpling but you can also get potato dumplings, which are little bit more different from what us westerners are used to. The real difference between their dumplings and the dumpling say in England is instead of large balls of dough they are sliced and served to you on the edge of your place like pieces of bread, great for mopping up the sweet sauces.
A typical Czech meal is not the same without dumplings, but neither is it the same without soup. A Czech meal usually starts with some kind of soup from fish, garlic, onion sauerkraut, potato or dill and always served with bread. Some restaurants give you so much bread that the soup almost stands on its own as a main course, but not quite.
A main meal consists of a meat and a side dish, both of which you have to order separately. If you prefer fish to the usual meat choices remember carp, a traditional Christmas dish, is the Czech national fish. Also, remember that the Czech Republic is inland, so though there are fish farms, particularly carp farms, the fish isn’t always the freshest. A side order is usually some sort of potato such as a potato pancake or dumplings.
Finally for the deserts. Czech’s are very fond of their pancakes and these are always available. Perhaps a more exotic dish for visitors is honey cake, usually found in cafés to go with coffee, but sometimes served in restaurants as well.