Re-defining travel through food: Czech Cuisine
As I head off home after a busy day at work, I'm thinking of what I plan on cooking today for dinner: as it's been a particularly hard day my thoughts turn to 'Beef-potato' which is literally what it sounds like. Soft tiny chunks of beef stewed in a thick spicy-sweet gravy with potatoes accompanied with rice. Simple comfort food. Family recipe. While I relish my 'Beef-potato' later, I can't help but realize that it doesn't quite taste the same as it did at home and it possibly can't! As I now live far away from my native place, the ingredients vary which makes it taste different. A lot of us are quite picky with food (I know I am) and we are quite good with how we identify variations in taste for the same food item. Chinese food isn't the same here as it was back in India, which brings me back to the importance of local ingredients, local fare and recipes passed on over the generations and what better way to experience the same than feast on local meals in some of the best-hidden restaurants in the region? [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="53529,53530"]
Snippets of the past on our way to get food....
Which is what we exactly did when in Prague. The skies are finally clearing as we meet Michaela aka Misa from Prague Urban Adventures outside Křižíkova station and she welcomes us with a wide grin and explains that we're in her favorite zone of Prague. It isn't difficult to understand why. The streets are a sharp contrast to the ones near Charles bridge. Locals continue with their daily chores as do professionals. It's quiet and peaceful. As we make way to our first stop, Bistro Proti Proudu - translated to 'Against the current', Misa draws our attention to the buildings in the vicinity. They're colourful, vibrant but only the bottom half, the top half looks like it has seen generations pass by. Previously the area was full of factories and people used to while away time after a hard day's manual work, causing the area to get a bad reputation. Then the floods hit in 2002 - apparently the worst ever in a century. Developers took this as an opportunity to buy and renovate the space making it what it is now - a professional hub.The buildings that bore the brunt, were never repaired completely and only the affected portions of the facade were painted.
Returning back to roots
We enter Proti Proudu, a vibrant and well-lit space. Digital nomads are busy in the corner and there's a family celebrating a birthday as well. Within a short while, we're brought Marinovaný bůček - sliced pork belly marinated with honey, thyme and Vajíčková pomazánka - egg spread with gherkins, cucumber, mayo and mustard, placed over bread. The spread is creamy and the pork is juicy. We hastily tuck into the dishes, home-made and organic and I get why it's comfort food here for many in Czechia. The wall behind us has a complicated arrangement of switches on it - it's dedicated to František Křižík, a pioneer of electrical engineering who had his factory located nearby and it's quite apt!After the owner thanks us personally for visiting we continue to our next joint. On the way, I tend to notice the lack of McDonald's and Subway's. The country saw a massive transformation especially when it came to food after the gradual decline of communism leading to a wave of fast food chains opening stores here. It has taken constant effort from millennials to make locals meals 'hip' again and the name of the next eatery fits well in the scenario 'Lokal'. Here, we're served Talián sausages - sausages that are cooked (not smoked), a specialty in all Lokal restaurants, with horseradish and mustard and Svíčková - a very popular dish served at weddings. Svíčková is spiced sirloin steak prepared with root veggies and boiled with double cream. The accompanying Houskové knedlíky - bread dumplings and the soft whipped cream with cranberries complemented the dish well. Misa had specially ordered the dish for me to make up for the terrible Goulash we had the previous day!
Concoctions of the old and new
However, the highlight at Lokal was layered beer...yes layered! A Black and Tan. We had the 'Snyt' with lots of foam. After washing our food down and thinking we possibly couldn't have any more we were on the way to Eska - pioneers in using early methods of cooking and fermentation techniques. The crowds proved that it was quite popular. Here we were introduced to Potatoes roasted in ash with smoked fish, dried egg yolk and kefir with wine. It was unlike anything we'd had before! The texture was smoky, silky and the bits of fish were good tidbits. As I sipped my wine, I peeked into the kitchen downstairs where the chefs were busy making meals at top speed. With my tummy now full and ready to head home, Misa tells us we have another spot to go before we round it up with some beer, so we're then on our way to Café Alchymista which served award-winning cheesecake! There's always space for dessert so after sharing some melt-in-the-mouth lemon and elderberry white cheesecake and black and red current chocolate cake, we knew we'd have to skip dinner for sure that day. The last stop on the itinerary was the Letná beer garden. Beer gardens are synonymous with Prague just like the ruin bars are with Budapest. The one in Letná had lots of trees and one of the best views of Prague. As we sat chugging our beers down while Misa provided suggestions for other great restaurants we wonder how the how the past 5 hours evaporated so quickly! As individuals who juggle a full-time job with travelling, trying to ensure we get a huge chunk of the culture within a short duration is of prime importance and heading off on foot to explore the foodie scene in Prague helped us do just that while keeping us well-fed all the while!
PIN FOR LATER!
- The Czech's have the highest beer consumption per capita, however don't just visit only for the beer! The food is equally delicious!
- While the area around Charles Bridge has some decent restaurants you definitely have to move away if you're looking for more local experiences
- The further you move away, the better the prices get and so does the experience. If you're unsure where to go or what to do, definitely opt for a foodie tour as we did with a friendly local always happy to answer your questions and even provide suggestions later!
Looking to head off to the islands to catch some sun and sea? Why not head to Mykonos? All details here!
We were hosted by Urban Adventures on our tour, however as always all opinions are our own.
Have you ever been on any alternate tour that was fascinating? I'd love to hear of it!
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