Good food and drink are essential components of a good quality and pleasantly spent holiday. Traditional Czech cuisine is usually high in calories and mainly comprised of dumplings, sauces, pork, beef and hearty soups. In the past this was not so - basic old Czech recipes consisted of potatoes, cereals, pulses, wild mushrooms, fruit, fish and meat.
Classic lunch menus are mostly comprised of a soup, a main course and a dessert, and sometimes a green salad. Soups are generally very popular and are most often served up as a broth with vermicelli or with liver dumplings, garlic soup, and hearty soups such as potato soup, tripe soup, goulash soup or leguminous soups. Among the most celebrated dishes belong svíčková na smetaně - a sirloin of beef, deliciously combined with a cream sauce and an indispensable portion of Czech dumplings - and also vepřo-knedlo-zelo - pork-dumplings-cabbage - and duck or goose served with dumplings and sweet red cabbage.
Beer is considered the national drink and domestic brands are favoured in homes and restaurants. When it comes to wine, Moravian varieties are enjoyed above all.
Czech cuisine has been to some extent historically influenced by food prepared in neighbouring countries and has subsequently borrowed from their ingredients. Hence the fried pork schnitzel, deep-fried cheese or beef goulash have been adopted into Czech cuisine. Compared to other cuisines sweet dishes are considered to be fit for main course. Fruit dumplings, filled for example with blueberries, strawberries or plums, are among the most favourite of such dishes and are most pleasing when served strewn with sugar and curd cheese and draped in drawn butter. Pies and pastries made of cheesecake, poppy seeds or jam fall among traditional desserts. Fish is not found so often in Czech cuisine, despite the fact that fried carp with potato salad is traditionally served for Christmas dinner. The versatility of wild mushrooms stands out in the Czech Republic more than in any other European country. Mushroom-picking is considered a national passion. Likewise, Czech cuisine is varied by the different local customs used in preparing food. ‘Krkonoše sour soup’ from the Giant Mountains comes to mind here, as well as the much favoured potato pancake (bramborák).
Czech cuisine really knows how to surprise and in the years spent shut behind the iron curtain Czechs considered it the best in the world. A lot has changed since the opening of the country’s borders and differences between pre-1989 and contemporary Czech cuisine are evident, namely that international culinary influences started to infiltrate the country. The provision of gourmet services, products on offer in shops and the eating habits of the current population provide evidence of this. While traditional Czech food remains in demand and continues to be served up, domestic and foreign tourists have the possibility to dine in restaurants with Mediterranean, Italian, Asian, Mexican and other exotic cuisines. For a little variation it is even possible to visit a medieval tavern with a medieval atmosphere, jugglers, dancers and a service staff with manners to suit.
Also popular, in particular among teenagers, are fast food chains offering hamburgers and chips, fried chicken and coca-cola.
All the above and other interesting things can be encountered in the Liberec Region. It is possible to buy a hamper of regional beer, Lomnice crackers, goat’s cheese, medicinal liqueurs and juice from a local juicery as a souvenir or present.
If you want to be sure to find national or regional specialities on the menu look out for restaurants marked with the logo Czech Specials. This certificate guarantees that in pubs and restaurants with this sign, some of the food on offer will be typical of the region and include the national dish, svíčková na smetaně (see above).