Food in Prague
The most iconic street food in Central European countries are Chimney-Cakes (Spit-cakes). The Czech version of this is called Trddelnik (Turtle Neck). Prague is filled with Czech Babichkas (grandmas) serving dough fired over a spit and flavored with sugar, cinnamon and walnuts. Modern versions include chocolate, fruits and ice-cream inside, but they get too heavy and I favored the traditional flavors of walnuts, poppy and cinnamon.
Caution for visitors – Every Central European country believes common dishes of the region originated from their country. Hence, using the wrong term or showing a preference for one country’s recipe can start bar-fights and escalate into a global crisis. (Chimney cakes are called Kurto Skalacs in Hungary and I made a lot of enemies in a Budapest pub, calling it by the czech name Trdelnik).
Other foods include various meats and sausages, brine-cured and beech-wood smoked to give the unique flavor.
Czech cuisine is a unique mix of Germanic and Slavic influences. My favorite meal was Czech Goulash, which is thicker and spicier than the original Hungarian counterpart. A lot of Czech dishes are served with a side of dumplings – these are steamed dumplings of wheat or potato starch – called Knedliky – sliced like bread.
A well-recommended pub I went to is Lokal Dlouhaaa (and similar less crowded pubs are present in case this one is busy). This place has the ambience of a medieval tavern with low vaulted ceilings in a long cavernous space, with well-worn wooden boards bending under their own weight. I ordered sausages, sauerkraut and bread. The bread came with sides of country-butter and a brown beady condiment – which I learned was lard. There were a variety of stews, dumplings and mustard-gravy too, poured from gravy containers.
I’ve found you cannot wrong with Czech chocolates. There are multi-generational chocolatiers around every street corner in Prague. My favorites were chocolate balls filled with rum, absinthe and the local liqueur Becherovka.
There are also a lot of Golem-shaped chocolates, celebrating the legend of Golem of Prague. The Golem of Prague was a creature awakened by Rabbi Leow in medieval times to destroy anti-semites in the middle of the night, and defend Jewish population against bigoted powerful people.
Another product which caught my eye was Chocolate Kebabs – which is a giant spit of turning chocolate from which shavings are gathered onto pancakes and ice-creams.
Drinks in Prague
Czech Republic is the largest consumer of beer per capita in the world, and – with Germany – has produced many beer styles we know today. The country is filled with everything Beer from “Husband Day Cares” (which I personally think is discriminatory to single men who don’t have wives to escort them and pay for their beer) – to Beer-based cosmetics and health products (It’s real – https://www.manufaktura.cz/en/beer-cosmetics/c-1274/) There are also medicinal Beer Bath Spas (Yes, you heard that right – https://www.justapack.com/beer-spas-in-prague-czech-republic/), where you are bathed in a tub full of beer with added milk, mineral spring-water, and essential oils.
Budweisser – The Budweisser style of beer (for which the American beer is named) originated in Budweisser Budvar Brewery in 1265 and was the Imperial brewery of the Holy Roman Empire. One of their unique offerings is Pardálovo Bezové, an elderberry beer.
Pilsner – The style of beer from the Czech town of Pilsen (Plzen). It was the oldest pale lager in Europe (beers previousy were darker). Pilsner Urquell is the most popular brand and sent a special beer train to Vienna every morning for the Austrian Empire’s consumption.
Absinthe – Absinthe is a liqueur made from wormwood, anise and fennel and has a refreshing flavor like peppermint. It’s history goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. Due to exaggeration, people in early-modern times assumed it was a hallucinogen earning it the name “green fairy”, but we now know it’s just strong liquor. Absinthe remained popular in Czech Republic when it fell out of favor or banned in France, England and United States.
This is why today, Prague is filled with absintheries – pubs which primarily serve absinthe and its cocktails. I visited one which was Kafka-themed and another with was death-themed with green skeleton murals on the walls. Bohemian absinth is lighter and often involves the ritual of soaking a sugar-cube in the liqueur, setting on fire and plunging it inside the glass which creates a beautiful flame.
Becherovka – It’s the unique local liqueur of Czech Republic. Green and herby, it was made in 1800s by a doctor. Although it tastes excellent by itself, I also encountered an interesting cocktail of it – mixed with beer and lemon juice. It’s called Czech Mate (https://www.diffordsguide.com/cocktails/recipe/4232/czechmate).
Kofola (Soviet Cola)
Kofola was the local Soviet equivalent when American sodas like Coca Cola and Pepsi were banned. It is made from coffee byproducts and local herbs and spices. I found it more spicy and liquor-like than the good old coke, and definitely recommend.
The next installment will be about entertainment, performative arts and nightlife. Stay tuned !
I don’t remember seeing the spit cake in Prague. Darn it! How did I miss that?
So true what you said about people and food. Our Belgian friends often remind us that French fries are misnamed – that they actually originated in Belgium.
Good point about Fries. Also, a lot of food we think of as Russian, are actually Ukrainian.
I love any fried bread like product from this part of the world and have eaten Hungarian Langos many times at local festivals here. The Husband Daycare thing exists all over the world. In New Zealand it is called Husband Creche and the idea is the same…shopping wives can dump their husbands here to do something they like…drinking beer. You are right though, it should be name Man Daycare or Man creche. Thanks for sharing. Allan
Langos are great !! I love Hungarian food because unlike Western Europe, Hungarian food is spicy often with paprika, garlic and saffron.