Friday, December 23, 2005

Czech food and dining

Czech Food

Menus have two sets of entrées, ready-to-serve (hotova jidla) and cooked to order (minutky). The first are generally traditional Czech dishes - meats (pork or beef) in heavy cream sauces served with dumplings (knedliky).

Side dishes of rice, potatoes or French fries are the most common and they have to be ordered separately. Every main dish is usually garnished with obloha (cucumber, tomato, lettuce, cabbage or pickles).

Ready-to-serve meals, are only available until about 4pm. The usually more expensive dinner entrées including the cooked-to-order start some time after 4pm.

Meats and yeast-dumplings dominate the national lunch table. The traditional Czech dish is knedlo, zelo, vepro (roast pork served with sauerkraut and dumplings). Other classic dishes are svickova na smetane (sliced beef sirloin served in a cream sauce with a garnish of cranberries and, of course, dumplings) or gulas (goulash served with dumplings and often garnished with onion slices).

Fish, that is considered to be a special Christmas meal, is available in any Czech restaurant all year around and pond-bred carp or trout are really worth of trying.

Czech menus offer some very tasty appetizers, such as Prague ham filled with horseradish cream, cheese plates and hot soups.

For dessert, most places serve palacinky (rolled crepes filled with either fruit or jam and topped with whipped cream and chocolate), ovocne knedliky (dumplings filled with plums or other fruit and topped with sugar, cream cheese and melted butter) or jablecny strudl (apple strudel, sometimes served with vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream).

Being a vegetarian in Prague

Although vegetarian dining was practically nonexistent until recently, it was surprisingly easy to be a vegetarian in Prague.

There are many Czech dishes for those who wish to avoid meat on every menu. Typical pub as well as good restaurant menus include smazeny syr (breaded and fried cheese served with tartar sauce and french fries). Smazeny kvetak and smazene zampiony (cauliflower and mushrooms breaded and fried served with tartar sauce) are other common deep-fried items of typical menus.

Omelettes are another great option. They are usually mixed with cheese (syrova omeleta), mushrooms (omeleta se zampiony) or peas (omeleta s hraskem). Just watch out that none of these turns up with pieces of ham in them, though.

Often the cheapest and tastiest option is knedliky s vejci (diced dumplings fried with beaten eggs and served with pickles on the side).

Salads are still the weak side of Czech dining. In many restaurants you find rajcatovy salat (tomato salad), okurkovy salat (cucumber salad) or sopsky salat (mixed fresh vegetables served with shredded sheep's cheese). But don't expect nothing fancy.

The bill

In cheaper restaurants, the waiter will leave a little slip on your table to keep a running tab. When ready to pay, just try to catch up the eye of a person with the big black wallet.

Always check over your bill. Tourists sometimes get ripped off only because they don't look at the bill.

Normal charges also include a few crowns for each slice of bread, butter, ketchup or milk. If a waiter tries to slap a 23 per cent surcharge on to your bill (it is 23 per cent VAT instituted by government), you are justified in complaining to management of the restaurant.


Tipping is not mandatory, but it's general practice to round up the bill to a reasonable amount or tip ten per cent (unless the service was awful).


The prices don't necessarily relate to atmosphere or the quality of the food. It is possible to have an excellent dinner in a mid-range restaurant; on the other hand it is easy to pay a relatively high price for an average meal close to a tourist site.

If you order from a menu without prices, ask beforehand how much the dishes will cost.

When weights (100 or 150 g) are given for fish or meat, the price quoted is for that weight. If the item served weights two or three times more than the cost will be much higher.

The number of dining places accepting credit cards is increasing every day but it's better to make sure before you order a meal.


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