Czech cuisine (Czech: česká kuchyně) has both influenced and been influenced by the cuisines of surrounding countries. Many of the cakes and pastries that are popular in Central Europe originated within the Czech lands. Contemporary Czech cuisine is more meat-based than in previous periods; the current abundance of farmable meat has enriched its presence in regional cuisine. Traditionally, meat has been reserved for once-weekly consumption, typically on weekends. The body of Czech meals typically consists of two or more courses; the first course is traditionally soup, the second course is the main dish, and the third course can include supplementary courses, such as dessert or compote (kompot). In the Czech cuisine, thick soups and many kinds of sauces, both based on stewed or cooked vegetables and meats, often with cream, as well as baked meats with natural sauces (gravies), are popular dishes.
Dumplings (knedlíky) (steamed and sliced bread-like) are one of the mainstays of Czech cuisine and are typically served with meals. They can be either wheat or potato-based, and are sometimes made from a combination of wheat flour and dices made of stale bread or rolls. Puffed rice can be found in store-prepared mixtures. Smaller Czech dumplings are usually potato-based. When served as leftovers, sliced dumplings are sometimes pan-fried with eggs. Czech potato dumplings are often filled with smoked meat and served with spinach or sour cabbage. Fried onion and braised cabbage can be included as a side dish.
There are many other side dishes, including noodles (nudle) and boiled or risotto rice (rýže or rizoto), which is sometimes served in the form of rice pudding (rýžový nákyp). Potatoes (brambory) are served boiled with salt, often with caraway seed and butter, pork fat or oil. Peeled and boiled potatoes are mixed into mashed potatoes (bramborová kaše). New potatoes are sometimes boiled in their skins, not peeled, from harvest time to new year. Because of the influence of foreign countries, potatoes are also fried, so French fries and croquettes are common in restaurants.
Breads and pastries
Bread (chléb or chleba) is traditionally sourdough baked from rye and wheat, and is flavoured with salt, caraway seed (kmín), onion, garlic, seeds, or pork crackling. It is eaten as an accompaniment to soups and dishes. It is also the material for Czech croutons and for topinky—slices of bread fried in a pan on both sides and rubbed with garlic. Rolls (rohlík), buns (žemle), and braided buns (houska) are the most common forms of bread eaten for breakfast.
Soup (polévka, colloquially polívka) plays an important role in Czech cuisine. Soups commonly found in Czech restaurants are beef, chicken or vegetable broth with noodles—optionally served with liver or nutmeg dumplings; garlic soup (česnečka) with croutons—optionally served with minced sausage, raw egg, or cheese; and cabbage soup (zelňačka) made from sauerkraut—sometimes served with minced sausage.
Traditional Czech dishes are made from animals, birds or fish bred in the surrounding areas. Pork is the most common meat, making up over half of all meat consumption. Beef, veal and chicken are also popular. Pigs are often a source of meals in the countryside, since pork has a relatively short production time, compared to beef.
In restaurants one can find:
- Guláš—a stew usually made from beef, pork or game with onions and spices. There are several vegetarian varieties with cabbage or potatoes. It is usually accompanied with knedlík or sometimes bread.
- Roast pork with dumplings and cabbage (pečené vepřové s knedlíky a se zelím, colloquially vepřo-knedlo-zelo) is often considered the most typical Czech dish. It consists of cabbage and is either cooked or served pickled.
- Marinated sirloin (svíčková na smetaně or simply svíčková; svíčková is the name for both the sauce and the meat (pork side or beef side) used for this dish; na smetaně means in cream, and it means that the svíčková sauce is with cream. This dish is often served with knedlíky.
- Schnitzel (Řízek, plural řízky) is a traditional Czech meat meal. The word means “sliced/cut (out) piece”. These are usually small slices of veal, pork or chicken covered with Czech traditional trojobal (Triplecoat).Řízek is served with potato side-dishes.
- Mushrooms are often used in Czech cuisine as different types grow in the forests. Czechs make an average of 20 visits to the forest annually, picking up to 20,000 tonnes of mushrooms. Smaženice are shallow-fried mushrooms with onion and spices.
- Pancakes (palačinky) of plate size or palm size are common.
- Štrúdl or závin (Strudel) can be sweet with apples, raisins, walnuts, grated coconut or cherry—or savoury with cabbage, spinach, cheese or meat.
- Bramboráky (regionally called cmunda or vošouch in Pilsen and strik or striky in Czech Silesia) are fried pancakes similar to rösti made of grated raw potato, flour, carrots or sour cabbage, and rarely sausage.
- Smažený sýr (colloquially Smažák), is a fried cheese battered in Czech triplecoat — usually Edam (also Hermelín), about 1 cm thick coated in flour, egg and bread crumbs like Wiener schnitzel, fried and served with tartar sauce (tatarská omáčka) and potatoes or french fries.
- Fruit dumplings (ovocné knedlíky) are mostly made using plums (švestkové knedlíky), apricots (meruňkové knedlíky) or strawberries (jahodové knedlíky). These are whole fruits or pieces of fruit coated with potato or curd dough and steamed, then served with butter or cream, sugar and sometimes milled poppy seeds or tvaroh (Quark). They are usually eaten as a main dish.
- Kolache (koláče) is a type of mainly round yeast pastry consisting of fillings of fruit, curd, poppy seeds or doughnut. It can be small, middle or pancake sized (mostly in Moravia). Fillings can be seen.
- Buchty is a yeast pastry similar to koláče; the same filling is wrapped in pieces of dough and baked, but is not visible in the final product.