Header Ads

Pairing Traditional Czech Food and Beer in the Historic City of Prague

Prague is a beautiful city known for its magnificent architecture, history, flavorful cuisine, famous beer and as the night sets in, the soulful jazz notes inspired by its bohemian music, played in the underground bars around the Old Town Square.

Old Town Square in Prague
Old Town Square in Prague
The magic of the beautiful city of Prague can be best experienced by taking in the architecture at your own leisurely pace amid breaks to try its flavorful cuisine with a sip of its historic beer.

Czech cuisine has both influenced and been influenced by the cuisines of surrounding countries due to the influence of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the historic Bohemian lands. The cuisine has a great diversity ranging from meat-based dishes,  soups, dumplings,  bread and pastries prepared in a variety of different ways.

However, in this article, I have selected some of the most traditional and popular food pairings with the famous Czech beers, including a list of the most historic beer taverns in Prague.
 

Traditional Czech Bread and Pickled Cheese (Nakládaný Hermelín)

Pickled Cheese or Nakládaný Hermelín is a popular traditional Czech bar snack that comes with beer. It's prepared from Hermelín cheese, a Czech version of Camembert cheese and originates from the town of Sedlčany in Central Bohemia.

Czech rye bread with pickled cheese
Czech rye bread with pickled cheese
Nakládaný Hermelín is usually served with peppers, onions and a good dose of oil alongside traditional Czech rye bread or topinky.

Nakládaný Hermelín

Czech pickled cheese Nakládaný Hermelín
Czech pickled cheese Nakládaný Hermelín
Nakládaný Hermelín is made of Hermelín cheese sliced in half, stuffed with spices like paprika and herbs such as thyme and rosemary along with thinly sliced garlic and onions.  The layers of stuffed cheese are placed in a jar submerged in oil and refrigerated for 3-5 days, which imparts a intense and very flavorful taste to the cheese.

Traditional Czech Bread

The traditional Czech bread is really the cornerstone of Czech culinary tradition and very unique to this place.

Czech rye bread
Czech rye bread
The basic ingredients used for the Czech bread are rye and wheat flours and the proportion of these flours varies depending on the local customs and the preferences of each baker. Rye contains much less gluten which affects the stickiness, firmness and taste hence providing different characteristics than wheat. The main ingredient that gives the Czech bread its classic sour taste and fluffy shape is the 'Leaven', which consists of pre-yeasted flour and water. The leaven is in fact yeast cells which are naturally contained in flour, that imparts a slightly acidic flavor to the dough while giving it a smooth fluffy structure. Caraway seeds are traditionally sprinkled on the top just before baking.

Topinky

Topinky which means 'toasts' in Czech is a traditional Czech appetizer consisting of toasted or fried dark bread rubbed with garlic cloves, which impart a pungent flavor to the bread. It is considered an ideal snack with beer and often served along with the pickled cheese.
 

Czech Goulash (Guláš)

Goulash is one of the most common items on menus at beer taverns in Prague and just like the schnitzel, the goulash is a popular dish across the former Austro-Hungarian empire. Goulash is a rich slow cooked meat and vegetable stew seasoned primarily with paprika and typically served with bread dumplings called Knedlíky.

Czech goulash
Czech goulash
The Czech goulash when compared to the Hungarian goulash, tends to be milder, thicker and with fewer vegetables. The preparation of the goulash can vary slightly across the pubs and restaurants in Prague as each has their own recipe.

Utopenci

Utopenci is a classic Czech delicacy to go with beer. It consists of sausages that are pickled in vinegar, onion, black peppercorns and different spices.

Utopenci
Utopenci
The name Utopenci literally translated means 'drowned men’ has roots in Czech dark sense of humor. The dish was named to honor its inventor, a Czech pub and mill owner who drowned one day while fixing his mill’s wheel. It is said that the dish was very popular in his pub and famous throughout the country.

Visiting some Historic Beer Taverns in Prague

Prague is well known for its many good restaurants and beer taverns. However to experience the magic of Prague, a visit to one of its historic beer taverns must be a part of your travel itinerary, where you can find some of these traditional dishes to accompany its famous beer.

Exploring Beer Taverns in Prague
Exploring Beer Taverns in Prague
The beer taverns in Prague are known for its diverse clientele where you will find students, workers, writers, musicians, doctors, professors and tourists all sitting together at the long wooden tables and drinking together. 

Here are some of the historic beer taverns around Prague that are worth a visit. The prices at these taverns tend to be slightly higher as compared to the modern taverns around the city.

U Fleků

The brewery and restaurant U Fleků is one of the most famous, oldest, largest and most visited Czech beer taverns in Prague. They claim that the brewery U Fleků is the only brewery in Central Europe which has been brewing continuously for over 500 years.

At U Fleků they recommend trying their traditional Czech dishes with the Flekovský ležák 13° dark house lager. The beer is very smooth with a light refreshing body and flavors of roasted barley and notes of caramel that combine with slight bitterness of the hops.

U Svatého Tomáše

U Svatého Tomáše (St. Thomas' Place) was originally an Augustinian monastery brewery, where beer was first brewed in 1352. At the end of the 19th century, the brewery beer hall became a popular meeting place for bohemian artists.

The building was renovated in 1970, and its tavern became well known for its decor, food and an exceptional dark lager, whose recipe was created by monks in the 14th century.

U Zlatého tygra

The history of Zlatého tygra (The Golden Tiger) is dated from the 14th and 15th centuries. It was associated with the complex, which is one of the most valuable monuments in Prague , the palace of the Lords of Kunštát and Poděbrad.

In the 1800s it was the famous Šochov and Šmiler's cafe frequented by artists and writers. The cafe changed into a pub, where beer was stored in the deep cellars and drawn into earthenware, glazed black jugs. Later it became one of the first taverns in Prague to serve Pilsner beer.

It is also one of the few historic taverns in the old part of the city that is not entirely taken over by the crowds of tourists and still visited by the local Prague residents. Many claim that they serve the best Pilsner (Prazdroj) 12° beer in Prague, which is an intense flavorful beer with balanced bitterness.


U Kalicha

U Kalicha became famous after Jaroslav Hašek in his famous book 'The Good Soldier Švejk' wrote the touching scene in which good soldier Švejk agreed to meet his friend Voditchka at The Flagon tavern, 'After the war at six ..' and continued, 'Better if you come at half past six, in case I should be held up somewhere'.

U Kalicha (The Chalice) the model for Hašek's fictional tavern in the days of the 'Good Soldier Švejk' was a completely ordinary, uninteresting, smoke-filled beer tavern in Prague but today having been completely renovated, it has become a tourist mecca and the only thing that remains from the past is the Pilsner (Plzeňský Prazdroj) beer and some of the old bohemian recipes.

U Schnellů

U Schnellů is a well-known restaurant known for its traditional tavern food and classic Pilsner (Prazdroj) 12° beer.

The restaurant is part of the U Schnellů hotel which is a Gothic building with Renaissance add-ons, formerly known as U Zlatého čápa. In the 1600s, they produced their own beer and also sold it to other taverns. In 1787 Tomáš Schnell, a merchant, purchased the building, which was named after him.

References

Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 1991: Public Eating : Proceedings by Harlan Walker

No comments