Not quite as spicy as its Hungarian cousin, Czech goulash is essentially a rich beef stew minus the vegetables. Don’t even think of ordering it without knedlíky (dumplings) on the side. Beef forms part of the standard recipe for this staple dish, but you can sometimes find goulash using venison, pork and even vegetarian variants.
“Beer cheese” is marinated in ale until semi-soft. It is often served with mustard, sardines, paprika and best enjoyed spread on dark sourdough bread and sprinkled with chopped onions.
Also known as Olomoucké tvarůžky, these small, golden-yellow, soft cheese rounds, made of skim milk immediately announce themselves by their pungent aroma. Eat them as a snack or light lunch, accompanied by beer, bread and onions.
This is goulash’s sweet cousin: slices of pot-roasted beef tenderloin are served in a carrot-sweetened cream sauce, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and cranberries. Apparently, this was one of President Václav Havel’s favourite dishes. Like goulash, it’s unthinkable to eat it without the knedlíky to mop up the sauce.
These doughy dumplings are the side dish of choice for many gravy-laden Czech dishes. In addition to the savoury varieties, made with bread, potato or bacon (špekové), knedlíky also come stuffed with fruit (ovocné knedlíky), the most popular variety being plums (švestkové).
These pickled sausages, slightly sour, fatty and always piled high with pickled onions, are an ideal accompaniment to the local beer, as a lunchtime or early evening snack.
Comparable to fried mozzarella sticks, this battered block of deep-fried mild cheese is usually served with French fries (hranolky) and a tangy tartare sauce. As with much of Czech cuisine, try not to think about the cholesterol.
This name is the shortened version for vepřové, knedlíky a zelí – pork, dumplings and sauerkraut. Heavy on fat but big on flavour, this is true Czech soul food. Order it instead of goulash and you’ll impress your waiter with how acclimatized you are, assuming you pronounce it right, of course.
The Germans call these plump little noodles Spaetzle. They are included in the Czech culinary canon as a nod to nearby Slovakia, from where they originate and with whom Bohemia has shared so much recent history. You can order them s zelím (with sauerkraut) or s bryndzou (with a creamy, sharp cheese). The dish is a filling and cheap Eastern European alternative to pasta.
The workhorse of the Prague diet, these ubiquitous banana-shaped bread rolls are served up to accompany the main meal at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dip them in soft cheese or your dish’s sauce, spread them with pâté or order them with a hot-dog on nearly every street corner.
The hometown favourite has a light, fruity flavour. Brewed in the Smíchov district, its popularity owes as much to marketing as it does to local pride.
The best-known Czech beer on the international market comes from the town of Plzeň, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Prague. It has a strong, hoppy flavour.
Rudolf II established the Krušovice brewery, which produces this sweet and somewhat flat beer. Try the syrupy dark (tmavé) variety.
Brewed in the town of České Budějovice, the beer is no relation to the American Budweiser (see Franciscan Garden).
This strong, smooth beer is well worth seeking out – some consider it the world’s finest.
Countryside lager brewed in Rakovník, 50 km (30 miles) west of Prague.
Brewed by Pilsner Urquell, this is the best-selling beer in the country. Try the 11° variety.
This unpasteurized beer has a distinct, bittersweet flavour and a hoppy aroma.
This popular microbrew from a small family-run brewery can be hard to find but worth the effort.
The brewery produces highly rated dark and light beers, including the popular Svijanský Máz pale lager.