WordPress statistics show that my posts regarding food are by far the most popular and most frequently visited, consequently, they also require the least bit of writing on my part since they mainly consist of pictures. So, back by popular demand (and because it’s easy), I give you more food porn.
My journey through Europe began with Kiev and ended with Helsinki, in between were 2 months of some of the most incredible food I’ve ever tasted. Central Europe may be best known for its hearty meat dishes and fresh pilsner beer, but I can vouch that there is much more to offer. Since I covered the full longitude of this part of the world I got to sample the changes in flavors that climate can provide as well as differences in land locked versus seafaring countries. Below is a showcase of some of the many different dishes, drinks and delicacies I got to gorge myself on throughout my travels in Central Europe.
The roasted pork knee, a Czech specialty. A reasonable meal for 2 people, the knee joint is slow roasted and traditionally served on a spit over pickled vegetables with fresh horseradish and mustard on the side. This particular knee was consumed in a restaurant below my Prague Hostel (Hostel Orange) off Wenceslaus Square.
Dalmatian Ham, a signature dish of southern Croatia. Despite the name, this ham is indeed made from pig, not from the dog of Disney fame. The ham is simply named for the area of Croatia referred to as Dalmatia. Usually served as an appetizer, the ham is very thinly sliced and has a smooth oily texture. Very similar to Italian Prosciutto, but with a more noticeably smokey flavor. Accompanied by pickled vegetables and washed down with the local pilsner, Karlovacko. This plate was ordered while staying on Vela Luka, an island off the southern coast of Croatia. Not pictured, but also worth trying is the Croatian Pag Island Cheese, as it goes well with the ham.
A classic Croatian dish called Cevapcici, imported from the medieval Ottoman empire. Widely popular in the south of Croatia these finger length sausages are made of seasoned minced meat and served with onions and a red pepper paste. Since this is a fairly representative of Croatian “fast food”, this dish is often accompanied by French fries.
This was an epic Croatian meal that I received at a local kitchen in Vela Luka. On recommendation from my dive master I ordered the “mixed grill”, which, at a modest price of less than $10, provided me with way too much food. There were at least 4 steaks, some beef, some mystery meat. Chicken kebabs and more Cevapcici sausages. The grilled meats were served alongside some grilled veggies and more of that bitter tasting red pepper spread.
What you see above is simply a british style IPA, but what makes it unique is that it was served in a Prague monastery. It is neigh impossible to find a classic IPA in the sea of delicious lagers you find in central Europe, so this hoppy malt beverage was a welcome refreshment. The monastery is the Strahovy Monastery in Prague, situated in between Petrin Park and Prague Hrad. Its quite a hike up a steep hill to get there, but totally worth the effort since I hadn’t had an IPA in over 2 months.
Typical Central European street food, a brat with coarse ground mustard. This little guy was my lunch on a cold rainy day in Old Town Prague. Over 6 inches long and less than $3, it can’t be beat for any other fast food.
This is considered the most typical Czech dish, Roast Pork with dumplings and sauerkraut, or as its called locally: pecene veprove s knedliky se zelim or colloquially vepro-knedlo-zelo. I had this dish most often in Czech Republic, but I found variations of it all over Central Europe. It is essentially a slow roasted meat (beef or pork), smothered in a brown gravy and served alongside sauerkraut with rye seeds and Knedliky which are steamed and sliced bread like dumplings. The Knedliky are everywhere and certainly didn’t fit my idea of a traditional dumpling, these dumplings are more like undercooked bread and can be made from potato or wheat.
This is a chicken and cheese dish traditionally served in Czech Republic. The cheese is a gravy-like concoction and is used quite liberally over the chicken and French fries. Czechs love their cheese. Alongside the esophagus clogging portion of protein and starch were some fresh veggies and raw cabbage. This was served to me in a hole in the wall cafe in Ostrava and I garnered some dirty looks from the waitress/cook/owner when I couldn’t finish the gigantic portion I was served.
Goulash originated in Hungary, but it’s an extremely popular dish all over Central and Eastern Europe. A strange bit of trivia is that the name Goulash means “herdsman” in Hungarian. This pic is goulash from Krakow, Poland, and it was decidedly more tomato based than the beef based goulash I often ate in Czech Republic.
This is more typical street food, sausages and fries. I got this plate in Zakopane, Poland, on perhaps the coldest day of my entire journey through Europe. Zakopane is small skiing village in the southern mountains of Poland and even though it was mid-summer, it was cold and raining. The sausages were welcome nourishment along with the fries, carrot salad and grilled onions.
This is another style of roasted pork with dumplings and sauerkraut, in the Austrian variety. The pork is similarly slathered in gravy and the sauerkraut has the distinct rye flavor and bitterness, but the difference lies in the dumplings. The Austrian style is typically more spiced and textured than the pure white potato dumplings of Czech Republic. I was in Vienna for this meal, at an outdoor cafe while I waited on my clothing to dry at the laundromat next door.
This was perhaps the fanciest goulash I was served, I was at the Pilsner Urquell restaurant in Prague, immediately after my tour of the Staropramen brewery next door. As you can compare with the Polish goulash above, the Czech version is darker in color and served with the traditional Knedliky dumplings, garnished with raw onion. The spicy fresh red pepper bits were a nice touch to the dish and the dumplings blurred the lines between Czech and Austrian dumplings.
This is one of the mainstays of Croatian coastal cuisine, the seafood risotto. This particular risotto was mainly shrimp and mussels in a tomato base. Despite the fact that they always leave the heads on their shrimp, I felt closer to my second home of Charleston than ever with the flavor of local seafood.
Wrapping it up are a trio of lagers from the Staropramen brewery in Prague. Staropramen was by far my favorite beer in Czech Republic and it was awesome to tour the place where it was made, also the second largest brewery in Czech Republic. The tasting room offered fresh cold glasses of all type of lagers they brew. The three pictured are the Dark Lager, the Unfiltered Lager and Granat (special) Lager. Some of which you can only drink at the brewery itself.