Czech cuisine (Czech: Česká kuchyně) has both influenced and been influenced by the cuisine of surrounding countries. Many of the cakes and pastries that are popular in Central Europe originated within 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 had been reserved for once-weekly consumption, typically on the weekend. 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 supplementary courses such as dessert or compote (kompot) may follow.
Dumplings (knedlíky) (steamed and sliced bread-like dumplings) 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 stale bread or rolls (puffed rice can be found in store-prepared mixtures). In contrast to Austrian cuisine, Czech dumplings are made into larger rolls and sliced into smaller servings prior to consumption. Smaller Czech dumplings are usually potato-based. When served as leftovers, sliced dumplings are sometimes pan-fried or prepared with fried egg or boiled with sugar, melted butter and cocoa.
Czech potato dumplings are often filled with smoked meat, 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).
Rice (rýže), served simply boiled or made as Risotto (rizoto), or sometimes as rice pudding (rýžový nákyp).
Potatoes (brambory) are easy and fast to grow in the Czech climate. They are served boiled with salt and butter or oil. Baked or boiled and mixed into mashed potatoes (bramborová kaše). New potatoes are sometimes boiled in their skins, not peeled, from harvest time to new year. Due to the influence of foreign countries, potatoes are also fried, so French fries and croquettes are common in restaurants.
Buckwheat (pohanka) and millet grains (jáhly) are not very often served in restaurants. These are more commonly a home-cooked, healthier alternative.
Pasta (těstoviny) is common, either baked, cooked with other ingredients or served as a salad. Pasta is available in different shapes and flavours. This is an influence of Italian and Asian cuisine. Rice and buckwheat noodles are not common but are becoming more popular. Gluten-free pasta is also available, made from corn flour/starch and/or potatoes/potato starch and rice flour.
Bread (chléb or chleba) is traditionally sourdough baked from rye and wheat, flavoured with salt, caraway seed (kmin), onion, garlic, seeds, or crackling. It is eaten as an accompaniment to many soups and dishes. It is also the material for Czech croutons and for topinky which are slices of bread rubbed with garlic and fried in a pan on both sides.
Rolls (rohlík), buns (žemle), and braided buns (houska) are the most common forms of bread eaten for breakfast and they are often topped with poppy and salt or seeds. A bun or a roll baked from bread dough is called a dalamánek.
A loupák (sweet roll) is a crescent-shaped roll made from sweeter dough containing milk. It is smeared with egg and sprinkled with poppyseed before baking, giving it a golden-brown colour.
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, calf 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.
Jitrnice is meat cut into tiny pieces filled with sausage and placed on sticks. Meat from neck, sides, insides (lungs and spleen), liver, white pastry, broth and spices: salt, black pepper, jelly, grounded all-spice and ginger, garlic and sometimes onions. Klobása, known as Kielbasa in the United States, is a smoked meat sausage-like product from minced meat. It is spicy and durable. Jelito is pork meat sausage-like product containing pork blood and hulled grain (barley) or pastry pieces. Tlačenka is a meat product (it can be also chicken). It consists of little pieces of meat in jelly/aspic from connective tissue boiled to mush, served with onion and bread. Ovar is a simple meal from more fatty pork meat. These pieces of lower quality meat are boiled in salted water. Škvarky (pork rind), and slanina (bacon) are also eaten.
In restaurants you can find:
Guláš is a stew usually made from beef, onions and spices, however it also can be made from pork and sometimes game, e.g. venison. There are several vegetarian varieties with cabbage or potatoes. It is usually accompanied with knedle or sometimes bread. It is also traditionally served at home, as a pot of guláš will last for several days. It is well known that gulaš which is a few days old is better, as it has time to marinate and absorb all the flavours. Czech guláš is not to be confused with Hungarian “gulyás” which is a soup more similar to Czech gulášovka (a soup). Pörkölt is the Hungarian equivalent of Czech guláš.