Czeching Out Some Traditional Czech Cuisine

Ankita Bhanot
Trdelnik is a popular pastry in Prague that originated in Slovakia a few years ago. The confection — rolled dough topped with cinnamon, sugar and walnuts — has become quite popular among tourists and comes with a variety of fillings.

The Czech Republic is known for its gorgeous architecture and revolutionary history, but not so much for its food. The popular assumption is that Czech people eat mostly meat and potatoes. From the past two weeks that I’ve been living in Prague, I can confirm that the stereotype is true. The Czech are a very carb-heavy people — number one in the world for beer consumption per capita — and by the end of my first few days, I was aching for a salad bar and some fresh fruit.

But if you’re in Prague for a short trip, trying out these classic regional dishes is definitely worthwhile. Here’s your cheat sheet for some of the Czech Republic’s most famous — and in my opinion, best — foods and the best places to get them.

Goulash

Goulash is a Czech staple dating back to before the ninth century. It is essentially large chunks of beefsteak served with potatoes and topped with a thick black sauce. There aren’t many other ways to describe the sauce besides a flavorful fat paste.

Goulash, although traditionally a stew, is also popular as a soup. The soup version tastes like ground beef in a hot, thick sauce. It wasn’t my favorite food in the world, but if you’re super hungry and in the mood for something on the greasier side, the dish is satisfying. The best goulash and goulash soup I’ve tried so far are at the U Bulinu restaurant. For students at NYU Prague, it’s right around the corner from the Machova dorm.

Trednlik

My mouth waters just thinking of this delicious pastry! Trednlik is essentially a huge churro — dough rolled around a stick, grilled and topped with cinnamon, sugar and walnuts. Although the traditional version is the pastry by itself, Prague puts a twist on it by filling it with melted chocolate, strawberries, caramel or whipped cream. Could it get any more delicious?

Trednlik is originally from Slovakia — the region that split from the Czech Republic a few decades ago — and is now one of the most popular tourist foods in Prague. In any touristy area in the city, you’re bound to find at least 10 stands selling this sweet treat. Most of these places sell a pretty good trednlik, but for one the best, I recommend Creperie U Kajetana near the Prague Castle.

Dumplings

I know what you’re picturing, and no, I’m not talking about the Chinese dumplings you can get for a dollar at Vanessa’s. Czech dumplings are round and doughy, and taste like a salty sponge cake. They’re served on the side of many meat dishes and almost always come with goulash. The traditional version is just bread dumplings, but there are also potato dumplings and dessert dumplings that are filled with fruit!

As a huge fan of Chinese dumplings, these definitely weren’t what I was expecting when I ordered dinner my first night here. But they taste pretty good, especially with meat. It’s hard to go wrong with dumplings, so you’re bound to find good one anywhere that serves good goulash.

Bramboraky

This is a Czech term for latkes, or potato pancakes. Like dumplings, they’re often served on the side of meat dishes. They are usually topped with sour cream and sauerkraut. If you’re a potato fan and enjoy tater-tots, bramboraky is something you won’t want to miss. If you’ve ever been to the B&H Jewish Dairy Restaurant in New York, these taste almost exactly the same. The best bramboraky I’ve found is at the Prague Market near Old Town Square.

Email Ankita Bhanot at [email protected]

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