Mushrooms picked from the forests of Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of Veou via Shutterstock
The Czech Republic is famous for its world-class beer and being the birthplace of the Pilsner, but little is known about the country’s cuisine.
Czechs survive the harsh winter months on thick soups and meat-based dishes, washed down with some warming mulled wine. While pork, beef and duck make up most of the country’s staple dishes, you’ll find that Czechs love to whip up some quick meals using seasonal vegetables and cheese.
Typical Czech restaurants and pubs mainly serve meat dishes, with the alternatives being rather limited; however this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a hearty, meatless meal with your pint.
Here are some traditional dishes you can try without compromising your vegetarian preferences when visiting Czech Republic.
Dill soup. Photo courtesy of Viktor1/Shutterstock
1. Dill Soup
One thing I’ve noticed whilst eating out in Czech Republic is that no meal is complete without having soup as a starter. Traditional Czech soups contain large chunks of vegetables and can be quite filling on their own.
A popular Czech starter is kulajda. This thick, creamy soup is prepared with mushrooms, potatoes and poached eggs, and garnished with dill. In summer fresh mushrooms are used for the soup- Czechs love foraging for fungi in the forest – and dried ones in winter.
Potato Pancakes. Photo courtesy of Stepanek Photography/Shutterstock
2. Potato Pancakes
Served both as a meal and street grub, Czech potato pancakes (bramboráky) make a delightful, crispy snack. Potatoes are grated and mixed with flour and eggs, then fried until golden-brown.
In some restaurants the pancakes are stuffed with pork and cabbage, but you’ll often find bramboráky offered as a vegetarian side dish. There are quite a few food stalls selling potato pancakes in Prague, especially around Wenceslas Square, where you can watch the vendors cooking on the spot.
Gnocchi with cheese. Photo courtesy of Stepanek Photography via Shutterstock.
3. Gnocchi with sheep cheese
Bryndzové Halušky, potato dumplings with sheep’s milk cheese and bacon, is the national dish of Slovakia, but it is also a staple food in Czech Republic.
Some restaurants serve homemade gnocchi with a variety of fillings, including cabbage and smoked meat. Vegetarian gnocchi are normally stuffed with bryndza cheese and fried onion.
Fried cheese. Photo courtesy of Mateusz Gzik via Shutterstock.
4. Fried cheese
Fried cheese, known locally as smazak, is a popular pub food with Czechs. This traditional snack is served as a breaded block of cheese, usually Hermelín or Edam, and can be ordered as a starter or main course.
If you’re having a busy day exploring Prague on foot, you might want to stop by a street food vendor to grab a slice of fried cheese for lunch. Like most comfort foods, smazak is sinfully unhealthy, but it is worth trying at least once when visiting Czech Republic.
Barley with mushrooms. Photo courtesy of Richard Semik via Shutterstock.
5. Barley With Mushrooms
Another traditional Czech dish prepared with wild mushrooms, Kuba was originally a common, cheap meal among the poor. It also used to be a popular Christmas dish at a time when it was customary to abstain from eating meat during the festive season.
Nowadays you’ll find this grain-based dish offered at many restaurants, served with dried mushrooms and flavored with a variety of herbs and spices.
By Daniela Frendo