Last week, on maybe our third day in Prague, a bunch of us went out to a restaurant in City Center called "Lokal" to try some Czech Cuisine. One of our RAs (a Czech) chose the restaurant and took us there. Luckily, the restaurant provided copies of the menu in English, other wise we would have basically just had to point randomly at the menu and been surprised (risky for vegetarians). Czech cuisine features heavily big pieces of meat with heavy gravy and potatoes. They have some vegetarian entrees, but since there were so few, another vegetarian friend and I decided to order a bunch of small things and split them between the two of us. Our Czech RA thought this was extremely strange. We got fried cheese, bread dumplings, cucumber salad, and mashed potatoes. The fried cheese (Smazeny sry) is basically just a thick patty of Edam cheese breaded and deep fried. The fried cheese arrived completely alone on a plate with a container of tartar sauce on the side. Fried cheese sounds like it might be awesome in the kind of horrible way that, say, spaghetti carbonara or everything Paula Deen has ever made is awesome, but in fact it was just below wellington boots on the rubbery scale and about as ooey gooey melty as human hair. The bread dumplings were basically like a log of stuffing that had been sliced up, minus all the good things about stuffing (i.e. the flavor part). The cucumber salad was in essence shaved cucumber floating in a bowl of vinegar, so you can probably guess how I felt about that. The mashed potatoes were the star of the meal. They were just normal mashed potatoes. Another strange thing revolving around this meal was the fact that one of my friends ordered fried cheese with cabbage, and our Czech RA seemed personally and mortally offended by this. She said that this combination was equally disgusting to eating, say, ice cream and anchovies. She suggested that mashed potatoes would be a more appropriate companion to fried cheese, but since we're talking abotu what's appropriate to put with fried cheese and what isn't, I have to point out that tartar sauce wouldn't have been my first choice sauce. So yeah, I wouldn't go rushing out for more Czech food any time soon.
Luckily the majority of meals that I've eaten here have been cooked by me in my (super dope) kitchen, so there have been very few unpleasant surprises. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my local super market sells dried melon, which is by far my favorite dried fruit but which I've only ever been able to find at Wilson's in Lexington. A couple strange things about a Czech supermarket:
-You have to weigh and price your own produce, they don't have scales/produce pricing at the checkout. The checkout people are usually pretty annoyed if you forget to do this, which is understandable because it makes you seem to them like you've never interacted with the modern world before.
-You can't just assume that milk is going to be fresh like you can in the United States. There are at least three different types of milk as far as I can tell, and at least two of them you would be very upset to have in your cereal. One is fresh milk, which usually tastes normal. Then there's a type of milk that is "long lasting" that you can keep in your house for about a month, but it's not going to be good tasting for any of that time. The other kind I'm not entirely clear on, but it's either just straight up sour milk or milk that has some kind of probiotic/sour treatment that makes it somehow better for you or easier to digest. Given that it tastes horrible but is kind of bad for you and sounds really official and science-y, I'm actually surprised this hasn't caught on in New York City. But I'll be sticking to fresh milk. Sidenote: the soy milk here is universally icky.
No offense, Prague, and thanks for having gelato stands on every corner.
If you'd like to recreate the poorly reviewed array of Czech cuisine described in this post, follow the links below (this one's for you, Mom and Dad.)
For Knedliky (Bread Dumplings):
For Smazeny Syr (Fried Cheese):
**I don't know how you're going to find Edam cheese, because I'd never heard of it or seen it before coming to Prague. For an easier to find and probably yummier version of this dish, just use Gouda. If you'd like the full experience, serve with tartar sauce.
For Mashed Potatoes:
You probably know how to do this already.
For Cucumber Salad:
Just don't make this, and make some yummy salad instead. This dish is neither palatable nor particularly Czech as far as I can tell.