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What to Eat in Prague
Traditional Czech food is hearty, with big portions of meat and something starchy on the side, such as dumplings or potatoes. Herbs and spices are not used heavily, though dill, marjoram, and caraway make frequent appearances, and garlic is a mainstay. Aside from these, the flavor comes from the meat. The Czechs know what they're doing when it comes to smoking meat—the natural way—and smoked uzený (pork) makes its way into many meals.
Bramborák (bram-bohr-ahk). Available from fast-food stands throughout the city as well as in restaurants, this large (6- to 8-inch) potato pancake is flavored with marjoram and deep-fried.
Bezmasá jídla. This section of the menu lists dishes without meat. Listings often include čočka (stewed lentils), smažený sýr (fried cheese), and rizoto se zeleninou (risotto with vegetables).
Česnečka (ches-netch-kah). A Czech standby, this garlic soup is a thin—usually meatless—garlic-laced broth containing small pieces of potato, served with fried bread cubes.
Cibulačka (tsi-boo-latch-kah). A close relative of česnečka—though a little less potent—this onion soup is typically served with bread, and cheese is sprinkled on top. Unlike the French version, it's not made from meat broth, so it's usually quite light.
Čočky (choch-kee). In this traditional dish green lentils are stewed with or without smoked meat. An egg and pickle are usually served with the meatless version.
Ďábelské toasty (dya-bel-skeh). Devil's toasts are a mixture of cooked ground beef, tomatoes, onions, and peppers served on fried or toasted white bread.
Guláš (goo-laush). Less oily than its Hungarian counterpart, Czech goulash is cubes of beef or pork stewed and served in thin gravy. It's often served with houskové knedlíky (bread dumplings) and chopped onions on top.
Hotová jídla (ho-to-vah yee'dla). This section of the menu contains dishes that are premade and ready to be served. Listed here you can find the most traditional favorites svíčková (stewed beef) and goulash.
Jídla na objednávku (yee'dla na ob-yeh'd-nahv-koo). This section of the menu lists dishes that are cooked to order, including a selection of chicken and pork cutlets, as well as beefsteak, prepared in various ways. Often, they differ in their use of ingredients, such as onions, garlic, mushrooms, or cheese.
Klobása (kloh-bah-sa). A mainstay of the občerstveni (fast-food stand), this smoked sausage is also served in restaurants as an addition to certain types of guláš and soups or by itself.
Kulajda (koo-lie-dah). This traditional creamy soup with fresh or dried forest mushrooms is flavored with wine vinegar, caraway, and dill.
Moučníky (moe-ooch-nikkee). The dessert section on any traditional Czech menu is not terribly long, but you might see palačinky (sweet pancakes), zmrzlina (ice cream), compot (fruit compote), or dort (cake).
Nakládaný Hermelín (nah-kla-den-ee). A favorite snack of cafés and pubs that consists of a small round of hermelín (a soft cheese closely resembling Camembert) pickled in oil, onions, and herbs and served with dark rye bread.
Palačinky (pala-ching-kee). Typically served with jam or ice cream inside and whipped cream on top, these pancakes resemble crepes, but are made with a thicker batter.
Přílohy (pr'zhee-lo-hee). In traditional Czech restaurants side orders aren't included with main courses, so look for them in this menu section. Regular dishes include hranolky (french fries), Americké brambory (literally, American potatoes; actually, fried potato wedges), and ryže (rice).
Smažený sýr (sma-zhe-nee see'r). A postwar addition to the traditional Czech diet, this staple is literally translated as "fried cheese." A thick slab of an Edamlike cheese is breaded and deep fried, ideally giving it a crusty shell and a warm gooey interior. It's commonly served with tartar sauce—for liberally spreading on top—and fries.
Studené předkrmy (stoo-den-eh pr'zhed-krmy). The section of cold appetizers on a Czech menu is typically a short one, and usually includes utopenec (pickled pork sandwich), tlačenka (head cheese), and šunkova rolka (ham roll with horseradish cream).
Svíčková (svitch-koh-vah). Though technically this means a tenderloin cut of beef, on menus it's actually a dish consisting of two to four slabs of stewed beef, usually rump roast; in better restaurants you can get real tenderloin covered with a creamy sauce of pureed root vegetables, garnished with a dollop of whipping cream, cranberry sauce, and a slice of lemon. It's served with houskové knedlíky (bread dumplings).
Teplé předkrmy (teh-pleh pr'zhed-kr-mee). Warm appetizers on a Czech menu ordinarily include topinka (toasted or fried dark bread, rubbed with garlic cloves) and ďabělské toasty (devil's toasts).
Utopenec (oo-toe-pen-etts). Literally translated as "drowned man," utopenec is uncooked pork sausage that has been pickled in vinegar. It's not only a common appetizer in Czech restaurants, but a ubiquitous beer-snack staple in Czech pubs.
Vepřo-knedlo-zelo (veh-pr'zho-kne'dlo-zhe-lo). An affectionately shortened name for the three foods that appear on one plate, this popular family dish consists of roast pork, dumplings, and cabbage stewed with a bit of caraway.
Zelňačka (zell-n'yatch-kah). Cabbage is the main ingredient in this hearty soup whose flavor is accentuated by caraway and smoked pork or sausage. It can be a filling meal by itself when served in a small round loaf of bread.
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