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Svíčková na smetaně served with dumplings, whipped cream and cranberries
Vepřo-knedlo-zelo (Roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut)
Vepřo-knedlo-zelo (Roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut)
Obložené chlebíčky, a type of snack or appetizer
Obložené chlebíčky, a type of snack or appetizer

Czech cuisine (Czech: česká kuchyně) has both influenced and been influenced by the cuisines of surrounding countries and nations. Many of the cakes and pastries that are popular in Central Europe originated within the Czech lands. Contemporary Czech cuisine is more meat-based than in previous periods; the current abundance of farmable meat has enriched its presence in regional cuisine. Traditionally, meat has been reserved for once-weekly consumption, typically on weekends. The body of Czech meals typically consists of two or more courses; the first course is traditionally soup, the second course is the main dish, and the third course can include supplementary courses, such as dessert or compote (kompot). In the Czech cuisine, thick soups and many kinds of sauces, both based on stewed or cooked vegetables and meats, often with cream, as well as baked meats with natural sauces (gravies), are popular dishes usually accompanied with beer, especially Pilsner, that Czechs consume the most in the world. Czech cuisine is also very strong in sweet main courses and desserts, a unique feature in European cuisines.

History

The 19th-century Czech language cookbook Pražská kuchařka by Karolína Vávrová shows influences of French cuisine in the order of multi-course meals common throughout the Habsburg Monarchy, beginning with soup, followed by fish entrees, meat and sweets. Vávrová deviates from this standard order for the sweets of Mehlspeisen type. These flour-based sweets, including baked puddings, strudels, doughnuts and souffles could be served either before or after the roast meats, but stewed fruits, creamy desserts, cakes, ice cream, and cookies were to always be served after the roast and for multiple dessert courses would follow this stated order.[1]

Side dishes

Dumplings (knedlíky) (steamed and sliced like bread) are one of the mainstays of Czech cuisine and are typically served with meals. They can be either wheat or potato-based and are sometimes made from a combination of wheat flour and dices made of stale bread or rolls. Puffed rice can be found in store-prepared mixtures. Smaller Czech dumplings are usually potato-based. When served as leftovers, sliced dumplings are sometimes pan-fried with eggs. Czech potato dumplings are often filled with smoked meat and served with spinach or sour cabbage. Fried onion and braised cabbage can be included as a side dish.

There are many other side dishes, including noodles and boiled rice. Potatoes are served boiled with salt, often with caraway seed and butter. Peeled and boiled potatoes are mixed into mashed potatoes. New potatoes are sometimes boiled in their skins, not peeled, from harvest time to new year. Because of the influence of foreign countries, potatoes are also fried, so French fries and croquettes are common in restaurants.

Buckwheat, pearl barley and millet grains are rarely served in restaurants. These are more commonly a home-cooked, healthier alternative. Pasta is common, either baked, boiled, cooked with other ingredients, or served as a salad. Pasta is available in different shapes and flavors. This is an influence of Italian and Asian cuisine. Rice and buckwheat noodles are not common but are becoming more popular. Gluten-free pasta is also available, made from corn flour, corn starch, or potatoes.

Breads and pastries

Bread (chléb or chleba) is traditionally sourdough baked from rye and wheat, and is flavoured with salt, cumin, onion, garlic, seeds, or pork crackling. It is eaten as an accompaniment to soups and dishes. It is also the material for Czech croutons and for topinky—slices of bread fried in a pan on both sides and rubbed with garlic. Rolls (rohlík), buns (žemle), and braided buns (houska) are the most common forms of bread eaten for breakfast; these are often topped with poppy seeds and salt or other seeds. A bun or a roll baked from bread dough is called a dalamánek. A sweet roll or loupák is a crescent-shaped roll made from sweetened dough containing milk. It is smeared with egg and sprinkled with poppy seeds before baking, giving it a golden-brown colour.

Soups

Soup (polévka, colloquially polívka) plays an important role in Czech cuisine. Soups commonly found in Czech restaurants are beef, chicken or vegetable broth with noodles—optionally served with liver or nutmeg dumplings; garlic soup (česnečka) with croutons—optionally served with minced sausage, raw egg, or cheese; and cabbage soup (zelňačka) made from sauerkraut—sometimes served with minced sausage. Kyselica is a Wallachian variety and contains sour cream, bacon, potatoes, eggs and sausage.

Pea (hrachovka), bean and lentil soups are commonly cooked at home. Goulash soup (gulášovka) and dršťková are made from beef or pork tripe cut into small pieces and cooked with other ingredients; the meat can be substituted with oyster mushrooms. Potato soup (bramboračka) is made from potato, onion, carrot, root parsley and celeriac, spiced with caraway seed, garlic and marjoram. Fish soup (rybí polévka) made with carp is a traditional Christmas dish.

Other common Czech soups are champignon or other mushroom soup, tomato soup, vegetable soup, onion soup (cibulačka) and bread soup (served in a hollowed-out loaf of bread). Kulajda is a traditional South Bohemian soup containing water, cream, spices, mushrooms, egg (often a quail's egg), dill and potatoes.[2] It is typical in its thickness, white color and characteristic taste. The main ingredient is mushrooms, which gives it the dish's scent. Kyselo is a regional specialty soup made from rye sourdough, mushrooms, caraway and fried onion.

Meat dishes

Svíčková na smetaně (Marinated sirloin), served here with dumplings and cream
Svíčková na smetaně (Marinated sirloin), served here with dumplings and cream
A "traditional Bohemian platter" at a restaurant in central Prague, consisting of roast duck, roast pork, beer sausage, smoked meat, red and white cabbage, bread, bacon and potato dumplings.
A "traditional Bohemian platter" at a restaurant in central Prague, consisting of roast duck, roast pork, beer sausage, smoked meat, red and white cabbage, bread, bacon and potato dumplings.
Prague-style beef goulash
Prague-style beef goulash

Traditional Czech dishes are made from animals, birds or fish bred in the surrounding areas.

Pork is the most common meat, making up over half of all meat consumption.[3] Beef, veal and chicken are also popular. Pigs are often a source of meat in the countryside, since pork has a relatively short production time, compared to beef.

Jitrnice is the meat and offal of pork cut into tiny pieces, filled in a casing and closed with sticks. Meat from the neck, sides, lungs, spleen, and liver are cooked with white pastry, broth, salt, spices, garlic and sometimes onions. Klobása, known as Kielbasa in the United States, is a smoked meat sausage-like product made from minced meat. It is spicy and durable. Jelito is a pork meat sausage-like product containing pork blood and pearl barley or pastry pieces. Tlačenka is a meat or poultry product consisting of little pieces of meat in jelly/aspic from connective tissue boiled into mush, served with onion, vinegar and bread. Ovar is a simple dish made from rather fatty pork meat (head or knuckle). These pieces of lower quality meat are boiled in salted water. Pork cracklings (škvarky) and bacon (slanina) are also eaten.

In restaurants one can find:

Commonly-found poultry dishes are:

Other dishes

Apple Štrúdl
Apple Štrúdl

Snacks

See also: List of hors d'oeuvre

Fried bramboráky (potato pancakes)
Fried bramboráky (potato pancakes)
Nakládaný hermelín (marinated cheese)
Nakládaný hermelín (marinated cheese)
Fried cheese (Smažák), served with tartar sauce and side salad.
Fried cheese (Smažák), served with tartar sauce and side salad.

Sweets

Apple strudel with golden raisins, Czech Republic
Apple strudel with golden raisins, Czech Republic

Czech coffeehouses are known for their strong coffee, sweet pastries and famous patrons who have included Franz Kafka, Antonín Dvořák, Václav Havel and Albert Einstein. Served warm or cold, strudel (optionally topped with ice cream, whipped cream or powdered sugar), is served at almost every coffee shop, apple being the most common variety.[7]

Sweets filled with fruit, poppy seed and quark are prevalent and come in diverse forms including cakes, koláče (pies), tarts, fritters, and dumplings (ovocné knedlíky). The tradition of making pies has been preserved in American Czech communities who have settled in the Midwestern United States and Texas. They are laborious to make and usually prepared for special celebrations, births, funerals and they also have a role in Czech wedding traditions where they are distributed to friends and family in place of wedding invitations. The most common fillings are poppy seed, apricots (meruňkové knedlíky) and prunes.[7]

Dough prepared for dumplings may include potatoes, and while the combination of fruits, jams and cheeses varies among households, plums (švestkové knedlíky), apricots or strawberries (jahodové knedlíky) are common. The finished dumplings are boiled and often garnished with butter, poppy seeds or grated cheese, and a sweetener (traditionally dried and powdered pears, but sugar is used in modern adaptations). Also filled with fruit or jam (and sometimes garnished with poppy seeds) are the Czech crepes called palačinky.[7] Traditional Czech sponge cake (bublanina), served most often for breakfast, is made with cream, eggs and sugar and seasonal fruits, especially whole cherries.

Christmas cookies (vánoční cukroví)
Christmas cookies (vánoční cukroví)

Beverages

Pilsner Urquell served in Prague
Pilsner Urquell served in Prague

Czech republic has the highest per-capita consumption of beer in the world. The most common style, which originated here, is Pilsner. Aside from beer, Czechs also produce wine mostly in the region of Moravia and a unique liquors— Becherovka. Czech Slivovitz and other pálenka (fruit brandies) is traditionally distilled in the country and are considered national drink. More recently new drinks became popular, among them Tuzemák, traditionally marketed as "Czech rum", is made from potatoes or sugar beets. A mixed drink consisting of Becherovka and tonic water is known under the portmanteau of Beton ("concrete"). Another popular mixed drink is Fernet Stock mixed with tonic, called "Bavorák" or "Bavorské pivo" (literally "Bavarian beer"). Kofola is a non-alcoholic Czech soft drink somewhat similar in look and taste to Coca-Cola, but not as sweet. Kofola was invented in communist Czechoslovakia as a substitute to the Coca-Cola that they would not import, but it became so popular that production has continued well past the end of communism in the country.[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ Krondl, Michael. Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert. Chicago Review Press. p. 265.
  2. ^ Czech Foodie Map - Everything You Need to Know About Czech Cuisine, Eating Europe. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  3. ^ "ČSÚ: Czechs eat less meat, drink more alcohol". Czech News Agency. The Prague Post. 5 December 2013. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  4. ^ Vokurková, Iva (15 March 2009). "Czech eating habits take a turn for the better". Radio Prague. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  5. ^ Velinger, Jan (24 July 2009). "Czechs pick billions worth of forest mushrooms, berries annually". Radio Prague. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Horáková, Pavla (10 September 2005). "Snacks and party food". Radio Prague. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Roufs, Timothy G.; Roufs, Kathleen Smyth. Sweet Treats Around the World. p. 44.
  8. ^ Horálková, Elena (27 July 2005). ""Bábovka" - un dulce con larga tradición". Radio Prague (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  9. ^ O'Connor, Coilin (12 December 2007). "Pardubice – the "best place to live in the Czech Republic"". Radio Prague. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  10. ^ "Czech Foodie Map - Everything You Need to Know About Czech Cuisine". Eating Europe. Retrieved 12 April 2016.