Hunger Is the Best Sauce

Our Lady Before Tyn Church
Our Lady Before Tyn Church

The three most popular things people ask me when I tell them I am studying abroad in Prague is 1) “What do they speak/how will you ever learn Czech”, 2) “Where is that” (unfortunately, this wonderful place is lesser known in the states) and 3) “What do they eat there?”

The first two I always had a good answer for, 1) “Czech and I don’t know, but I’ll try my hardest”, and 2) “In the middle of Europe, near Germany, It used to be Czechoslovakia.” The third however, I never had a good answer for. It was always something along the lines of “I don’t really know. Pork? Probably like vegetables and bread”?

Now that I am here however, I have no idea how I didn’t know about Czech food- it is delicious. The Czechs are not really known for their food, so I will do my best with this post to pump it up.

I’ll start with Goulash. This is the most frequent meal I order when out, because I love it so much. I am actually grateful I arrived in the coldest days Prague has seen since the 1920’s, because it allowed for me to truly appreciate goulash. There is nothing more satisfying then walking in the freezing cold to your local neighborhood pub-staurant, and having a steaming plate of goulash to be placed before you. Goulash is basically a thicker version of beef stew. It is served with bread dumplings, which soak up the oh-so-delicious sauce, and accented with fresh cut onions. It might not sound that exciting, but the simplicity and heartiness of it are perfect for a cold winter day. Or a rainy spring day. Or even just a normal day that you want some goulash.

Next up are dumplings. Dumplings are the side dish of most meals and I have tried the three main kinds- Potato, Bread and Bacon. All of them are relatively basic, so they are perfect starters for any kind of dish you wish to create. My favorite out of these three are potato, but I never turn down a good bacon dumpling either.

Other popular Czech dishes include Potato or Garlic Soup, Fried Potato Pancakes, Beef sirloin and Pork Knee. I also tried rabbit the other day at a supposedly traditional Czech Restaurant- which was actually pretty good. It was served with creamy mashed potatoes and steamed spinach, which was all drizzled in a smooth gravy.

Czech pastries

That’s another thing! Sweets. Everyone says that the french have the best pastries, but really I don’t know. The best desserts I have gotten in my life have been ordered off of Czech menus, and never have I tasted anything like the Easter themed pastries bought from my local Cukrana (bakery/sweet shop). The roasted, sweet smell of cinnamon sugar bread, or Tredlnik, fills the air along  popular tourist routes, and rich hot chocolate with cream is a must order on any cafe menu.

Czech pastries

And of course, there’s the famous Czech beer. It perfectly compliments every Czech meal, but also stands alone when ordered as a single item. I will admit that I have been spoiled by Prague and it’s delicious brews, and upon returning to the US, I will be very disappointed each time I order a pivo, hoping for something, anything, similar to my days abroad.

So, when people try to tell you Czech food is nothing special- you tell them I say otherwise. Czech food is delish! And if anyone has a good recipe for goulash, please send it my way.

Happy spring, and much love,

Valerie Zawada
Prague, Czech Republic
Spring 2012

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