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Czech Food: All About Pork and Creamy Sauces

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I’m going to be honest with you, guys. Czech food is heavy. Most meals are based on pork, creamy sauces, and dumplings (no, they’re not similar to Asian dumplings). Growing up, I would always marvel at the gorgeous, colorful platters of food that I saw on American TV. Compared to that, our diet was a lot grayer, ordinary-looking, and “bready.” 

Of course, times have changed. But the traditional Czech cuisine hasn’t. 

I personally don’t know anyone who would say no to Mom’s Sunday roast with fluffy dumplings and sweet and sour cabbage, followed by home-baked pastries with sweet, lemony curd cheese filling.

One thing I need to mention: the portion sizes. I vividly remember my first morning in NYC. I ordered two scrambled eggs with bacon and a side of fruit. I was served a gigantic plate that held a mountain of eggs, countless slices of THICK-cut bacon (that tasted slightly sweet), plus a bowl of fruit that would last through me and my mom’s entire movie night. I actually overheard people complaining about our tiny portions!

That won’t happen in the Czech Republic.

The smaller portions are a good thing, guys! You get to taste a little bit of everything and still have room for dessert! 

Are you a foodie who loves trying different cuisines? Are you planning a trip to the Czech Republic and wondering what foods you should try? Or do you just want to know more about the Czech culture in general? Read on!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Czech Table of Contents
  1. Must-Try Dishes in Czech Restaurants
  2. Unique Czech Food
  3. Food-Related Vocab
  4. Let’s Cook Something!
  5. How CzechClass101.com Can Help You Learn Czech in a Fun Way

1. Must-Try Dishes in Czech Restaurants

I’m going to disappoint all the vegans and vegetarians out there: Traditional Czech food is delicious, but also meat-heavy. Your only meatless option when eating out in a typical restaurant will be some kind of cheese (probably deep-fried or marinated).

Back in the day, the only “vegetarian option” on the menu would often be either deep-fried cheese (more on that later) or something you would probably choose for dessert: sweet dumpling with fruit, pastries with warm vanilla sauce, or even vdolky, which is the Czech take on Berliners (donuts without a hole).

However, if you do enjoy meat, you won’t be disappointed.

First things first, make sure you know how to order food in a Czech restaurant

A- Řízek s Bramborovým Salátem (Schnitzel with Potato Salad)

Try a juicy, breaded schnitzel (pork is the most common type, but most places offer veal too) served with potato salad. By the way, this is also a favorite classic Czech food for Christmas dinners.

When my American boyfriend first saw a regular-sized Czech schnitzel, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was so big it intimidated his brave, American heart.

The potato salad contains a lot of vegetables, often pickled or marinated. My favorite part? The mayo. 

Are you on a diet, working on your summer body, or getting ready for an important event? No problem. Here’s a tip from my grandma:

Get a chicken schnitzel. Chicken is diet food. The potato SALAD is a salad. You’re good.

A Plate of Schnitzel with Greens and Mashed Potatoes

Schnitzel is a favorite weekend lunch and Christmas dinner!

B- Vepřo-Knedlo-Zelo (Pork Roast with Cabbage and Dumplings)

This is THE ultimate Czech Sunday lunch. The cabbage might be red or white, sweet, slightly on the sour side, or even pickled.

Have you been invited to a family lunch? You’ll be asked how many dumplings you want. If you say three, you’ll get five. You’ve been warned.

A Plate of Vepřo-knedlo-zelo

Vepřo-knedlo-zelo is the ultimate Sunday lunch.

C- Svíčková Omáčka s Knedlíkem (Roast Beef with Creamy Vegetable Sauce and Dumplings)

This Czech dish is incredibly elaborate and it smells super-delicious thanks to the vegetables…too bad it’s nearly impossible to make it look presentable on the plate.

It’s often served for special occasions and it’s actually the traditional wedding lunch meal (along with beef broth with vegetables and liver dumplings; yup, Czech cuisine boasts many kinds of dumplings).

To make the sauce perfect, you first need to marinate a perfect sirloin with root veggies and some spices for a couple of days. Then you roast it in the oven, mix the vegetables in a blender, and add an ungodly amount of heavy cream and some flour to make the sauce thicker.

The dumplings have to be homemade, of course, so if you’re making this meal for Sunday lunch, you should get up at around 4:30 a.m. Yum.

A note from my grandma: The sauce has to be the perfect color. Not too brown, not too light. If you get served a brown svíčková in a restaurant, leave. 

Thanks, grandma.

A Plate of Svíčková omáčka

Believe it or not, svíčková omáčka is the traditional wedding food!

D- Guláš (Goulash)

This stew, usually made from beef, pork, or venison with onions and spices, is trickier than it looks. You have to cook it for hours and hope the meat doesn’t turn into a piece of rubber. Unlike the Hungarian version, the Czech guláš contains no vegetables and makes up for the lack of fiber with loads of protein.

It’s served with dumplings or bread and a handful of thinly sliced onion.

E- Smažák (Deep Fried Breaded Cheese)

Okay, guys, I had no idea how weird this dish was, until I started dating a foreigner. 

I’m a millennial and this thing was the ultimate “fancy” meal I would always order in a restaurant (which means I had it like five times during my childhood). Now it’s more of a street food.

If you love gooey melted cheese, you’re going to love this dish too. The most typical combo is smažák with french fries and mayo. Enjoy!

F- Tatarák (Steak Tartare)

This is even weirder than breaded deep-fried cheese. It’s raw beef. First-class, perfectly fresh raw beef, finely ground or cut, and mixed with salt, egg yolks, and spices of your choice.

If you order it in a restaurant (it’s a widely popular and well-loved bar food), it will come un-mixed so that you can make it the way you like it. It’s served with fried bread and fresh garlic cloves. Rub the garlic on the hot, greasy bread to make a perfect topinka (“toast” fried in a pan), top it with tatarák, and bite in!

Have you tried any of these popular Czech dishes? If so, what’s your favorite Czech food so far?

2. Unique Czech Food

There are some traditional Czech dishes and foods that you can only find in our beautiful Central European country. They’re all carb-laden, stick to your ribs, and will help you gain ten pounds in a week.

A- Knedlíky (Dumplings)

The French have baguettes, and we have knedlíky

This popular side dish is made of flour, yeast, and tiny cubes of bread. Some versions contain mashed potatoes, bigger pieces of bread, and parsley—there are even sweet dumplings stuffed with fruit, and drizzled with butter and ground gingerbread! They’re either steamed or cooked. The most popular knedlíky are the standard bread dumplings, sliced on plates of guláš or omáčka.

B- Creamy Sauces

Czechs LOVE creamy sauces.

Last weekend, I was eating lunch with my mom. We were having a big salad with all sorts of “exotic” ingredients in it: avocado, tofu, chickpea pasta… I asked her what our lunch would have been in the 80s. Her response: Probably a sauce with some meat and potatoes, maybe dumplings. So, yes, people actually used to eat this way all the time.

C- Koprová Omáčka (Creamy Dill Sauce), Rajská (Creamy Tomato Sauce)…

Pretty much any ingredient can be turned into a creamy sauce. 

Slightly tangy koprovka (“dill sauce”) is often served with hard-boiled eggs and rajská (“tomato sauce”) is poured over a mountain of elbow macaroni (which is called kolínka, or “little knees,” in Czech) and served with a modest slice of boiled beef. There’s even a horseradish sauce served with uzené (“smoked pork”).

Yup, the obesity rate is pretty high in this country.

D- Hovězí Vývar s Játrovými Knedlíčky (Beef Broth with Liver Dumplings)

This hearty soup is usually served as a starter for special occasions, Sunday family lunches, and weddings. The broth is slow-cooked and must be perfectly clear. The noodles and little dumplings should be homemade.

E- Pečená Husa s Bramborovým Knedlíkem (Roast Goose with Potato Dumplings and Cabbage)

This is a typical Czech holiday food, normally prepared at the beginning of November for St. Martin’s Day and served with St. Martin’s “young” wine. But some families prepare it for Christmas or other fancy occasions.

F- Deep-Fried Breaded Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not everyone’s favorite, but we still eat them. A lot. In soups, in our creamy houbová omáčka (“mushroom sauce”)…and we deep-fry them, just like cheese.

It’s a great (although not super-healthy or low-cal) vegetarian option, too!

G- Chlebíčky

These cute open-faced sandwiches are a staple in Czech cuisine. They’re a typical party/Christmas/New Year’s Eve snack and feature a variety of toppings: eggs, ham, deli meats, pickles, and pickled vegetables. They can be really basic or very fancy.

H- Vánočka and Mazanec (Sweet Christmas Bread and Sweet Easter Bread)

These two babies somewhat resemble challah bread, but the dough is much richer, containing a lot of butter, lard (makes the pastry very moist and almost melty), and fresh yolks.

After letting the dough rise for a few hours, you braid it elaborately only to watch it collapse or develop cracks in the oven (if you’re not careful).

It’s delicious, fragrant, and tastes amazing plain or with butter (or honey, preserves, Nutella…).

A Loaf of Vánočka being Sliced

Vánočka and mazanec are eaten all year-round because we love them so much!

As you can tell, Czech cuisine isn’t for everyone. Make sure you can eat it before you order.

3. Food-Related Vocab

Now that you’re good and hungry, let’s look at some Czech food vocabulary and a few phrases to use in the restaurant.

CzechEnglish
Maso“Meat”
Vepřové maso“Pork”
Hovězí maso“Beef”
Kuře“Chicken”
Zvěřina“Venison”
Vegetariánské“Vegetarian”
Veganské“Vegan”
Polévka“Soup”
Předkrm“Starter”
Hlavní jídlo“Entrée”
Dezert“Dessert”
Těstoviny“Pasta”
Houby“Mushrooms”
Zelenina“Vegetables”
Ovoce“Fruits”
Palačinky“Crepes”
Lívance“Pancakes”
Omáčka“Sauce”
Brambory“Potatoes”
Hranolky“French fries”
Příloha“Side dish”
Košík pečiva“Basket of bread”
Sýr“Cheese”
Máte vegetariánské/veganské jídlo?“Do you serve any vegetarian/vegan dishes?”
Dám si…“I’ll have…”
Bez přílohy.“No side dish.”
Co doporučujete?“What do you recommend?”
Zaplatíme.“We’ll have the check.”
Můžeme dostat víc ubrousků prosím?“Can we have more napkins, please?”

4. Let’s Cook Something!

I don’t want to overwhelm you with Czech food recipes that would take hours to make. How about…some savory chleba ve vajíčku (“fried bread soaked in eggs”) that my friend Lindsey described as “quite disgusting, but surprisingly tasty.”

You’re gonna need:

  • A few slices of bread, preferably sourdough
  • Half a cup of milk
  • One egg per each slice of bread
  • Oil or lard
  • A pinch of salt
  • Toppings of your choice (mustard, ketchup, deli meats, cheese, finely sliced onion, pickles…)

Now:

  • Beat the eggs with milk and salt.
  • Soak the bread in it for a few minutes.
  • Cook.
  • Top with a ton of fun stuff.
  • Get your napkins ready.
  • Eat!

This was one of my favorite dinners when I was a kid. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

5. How CzechClass101.com Can Help You Learn Czech in a Fun Way

If you’re taking your Czech learning seriously, you could grab a Czech grammar book or learn online (the latter of which is way more convenient).

CzechClass101.com will make learning Czech easy, exciting, and fun. With us, it’s not about endless memorizing or thick textbooks. Learn Czech with us and make progress faster than you could imagine!

What can you find here?

Sign up now—it’s free!

One last thing: Let us know in the comments if this article made your mouth water. Oh, and what’s your favorite Czech food?

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