I recently did a post on the top places to visit in Prague – my favourite city in the entire world. There is much to see because it is steeped in history that is hundreds of years old, all preserved and waiting to be explored. Along with the various sites are also all of the amazing traditional Czech foods that are on offer and that your trip would not be complete without tasting. Some of them are a little odd but for the most part they are delicious and if you are planning a trip to Prague any time soon, then I would recommend you take note of some of the best food and drinks to try while you are there.
These originally come from Karlovy Vary which is basically the spa district of the Czech Republic. But luckily you don’t have to go all the way out there to try these yummy treats. Sold at most supermarkets, these wafers look similar to LP records and are sold in boxes of about 10. The round disks are comprised of two wafer pieces that are smooshed together and continuing with the record imagery, in the lines where music would reside, these treats are filled with a sweet paste that is simply heavenly. It’s hard to properly explain them but I think you will be doing yourself a disservice by not trying at least one.
This is the ultimate Czech drink. It is a liqueur that has similar properties and uses to Jägermeister. It is an aperitif that is made from herbal ingredients. Used to aid digestion, soothe unwell stomachs and of course to simply get sloshed off (because we Czechs love to drink). You can have it neat in a shot glass which you simply sip a little bit at a time or the way I like – with some tonic and fresh lime/lemon. For some reason when you serve it like this, it is not longer Becherovka, but now called a Beton which is a mash-up of the word Becherovka and tonic. A burst of flavour that is perfect for Christmas, Easter or any other time of the year. Be sure to get the green bottle one if you are going to make Beton. There is a yellow bottled version which already has the lemon flavour so you simply pour and sip.
In South Africa we would call this 'Witblitz' which translates to white lightning and is the equivalent of moonshine. Slivovice is a fruit brandy made from plums. It tastes like fire going down your throat and is a very quick and easy way to get black out drunk so be sparing with this one! You have it in a shot glass or a panák so sip it slowly so that you still remember how to walk afterwards.
Vinohrady is a area is renowned for the vineyards, epic views and good wine. There is an annual festival that usually takes place in September called the Vinohrady festival where they celebrate the grape harvests. Stalls all come together and sell various young and sweet wines from the different farms and regions. This wine is called burčák and it is a real treat to taste. But do be cautious because this wine is very deceiving and can get you drunk quicker than what you anticipate. These young wines also have a way of getting your stomach working so do be wary, you don’t want to have a bathroom emergency away from home and whilst intoxicated.
Look out for a market
It is also worthwhile to note that there are often various markets that pop up during different seasons and festivals. Czech love to celebrate and usually go all out even by getting dressed up. Easter is a big one for the costumes and Christmas time is magical with the snow all around. Do try out the honeyed mead which will warm you up and get you a little tipsy too. They also often sell fresh fruit and flowers and these little stalls are the best places to get bargains from.
Try a Trdelník
Pretty difficult to pronounce (roll the r hard and force your mouth to spit out five consonants in a row) but VERY easy to digest, Trdelník is basically a puff pastry of sorts that gets rolled onto a thick steel pole that then rotates over heat to bake it. The Trdelník is then pull off and dipped in a cinnamon sugar mixture and served warm. I saw an alternative version on Reddit last year that involved filling the hollow part with Nutella and ice cream. I have yet to try one of those but it is a top priority for when I return.
Drink Czech beer
This is a given. Pilsen is a city in the Czech Republic and is the birthplace of Pilsner of course! Normally I am not a big beer drinker, but when I get to Prague, I start drinking them before 11am because they are just so damn good. My favourite brand is Kozel (which means goat) but there are a myriad of beers to choose from and not just limited to pilsner. The thing about the Czech Republic is that beer is a very big part of their culture. So many cities and little villages too, have their very own distilleries. These little craft breweries basically, produce all different types of heaven. Some are named after the areas they are in, others have obscure names, but all are good in varying degrees. Some of the breweries also do tours, I recall most of one I did a couple of years ago. The ending was a little fuzzy because after we paid for entrance, all beers in the fridge were free.
This one is pronounced – ch as in loch ness monster, leb like leb and ic is more like itch, and key sounds like key. Otherwise known as an open sandwich, this is one of the more unique delicacies. Stores that sell this food can usually be found all over and what they specialise in is sandwiches that have no bread on top. You stop in at one of these stores and select from the various open sarmies that are on display. They will have a variety of toppings from crab meat to cold meat to chicken. They are meant to be eaten with your hands and usually there is no seating. Either high round tables with no chairs or else a long bar at the window where you can stand and eat your bread. Alternatively take it out with you and find a bench to sit and enjoy the food and inevitably some gorgeous view of sorts.
Have a kolache
Now personally I am not actually fond of this one. It is a Czech pastry that sort of looks like a small stuffed crust pizza if you will. In the middle will be some sort of preserve and sometimes at the same time, a cheese of sorts is baked in. I don’t have a taste for this as I usually find them a little old and dry because they sit for days at the supermarket. I would suggest a fresher on which would hopefully taste a bit better.
Try traditional Czech goulash
Now if you haven’t had this before, it is something that you absolutely have to try. It is similar to Hungarian goulash which is high in calories and hearty like a stew. Czech goulash is comprised of beef that is stewed for hours in a tomato base and served with fresh dumplings – which are basically little pieces of heaven that you dip in the sauce and transport the delights into your mouth with.
It turns out that there are a number of dumpling types in the Czech republic. The first would accompany goulash as above- and they are the best by far. Traditional plain dumplings which are made with flour and yeast, risen, boiled to perfection and cut with string.
Next are bread dumplings which I think work pretty much the same way as traditional, only they have the inclusion of broken up bread pieces. These are a little heavier and smaller than the white heavenly fluffy ones that I adore but they are still good.
Then you get sweet dumplings. These are made from a dough as well, but formed in small balls that are stuffed with fresh fruit and preserve or syrup. Then pinched closed and boiled till ready. If you aren’t expecting that then they do come as a bit of a surprise but they are special little treats, especially when home made. In fact – all Czech food tastes better when it is made by a Czech babička (grandmother) but if you don't have one of those then look up some good restaurants for the dishes you are looking for.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, this one should tell you that Czech love warm hearty meals. The sauce is slightly orange and sweet because it is made of carrots. The sirloin steak is finely sliced and a dollop of cream and some cranberry sauce is placed in the middle. Again fabulous with dumplings.
Ok so this one is a little odd. Realising that there was another use for the surplus caffeine produced in coffee roasting, this drink was created. It became a substitute for fizzy drinks which were not readily available during communist times and has sort of stuck around since then.It is definitely an acquired taste with less sugar, but to me it tastes like watered down coffee-coke. But Czechs are proud of it and love drinking it so give it a bash if you can.
I love these tiny little bread rolls. The dough is wound very tightly and baked to perfection to make rohlik. Made quite similarly to a croissant in terms of the way the dough is rolled and baked, because they are so small and tight, you don’t actually cut the roll open to put condiments and things inside of it. Instead you take your ham or cheese slice and carefully drape it over the outside of the roll and eat it this way. Consider it as more of an inside out meal the is perfect for lunch or an on the go snack, well as long as you hold your toppings in place.
Of course there are still many other Czech foods and drinks to try but these are the top contenders that resound as the most Czech to me. I hope that you manage to squeeze them all in and come back from your Czech trip much fuller, rounder and well traveled after reading my piece on the top places to visit of course!