When Chris booked our trip to Prague and Bratislava, while I was excited for the sights, Christmas markets, and the pastries/desserts, I will be honest and say that the day to day food that Central Europe is known for is not really up my alley. I love spices, heat, texture, and complexity in food. The simple meat and potatoes food culture has never really been on my top cravings list. In fact, Chris always makes fun of the other kids at Kaia’s school when we talk about the sheer variety of food we have exposed her to, from different cuisines to various spices to even chili peppers. He likes to say, “well, of course she likes / eats (insert food we feed her). She doesn’t just eat meat and potatoes like all those other kids.”
But you know what? When I’m in Prague or anywhere in Central Europe, I am happy to eat local food and try new things. I rarely have eaten potato “dumplings” made from a dumpling “loaf” sliced like bread slices and presented with goulash. Beef and pork are commonly eaten in rich stews in this part of the world, as are potatoes in many forms, whether it’s boiled or mashed and pressed into dumplings. Our first meal at a restaurant (canteen style, where you take a tray and a ticket, then go to each stall and choose what you want, then pay at the end) on our first night was beef goulash (Czech style, which is apparently different from Hungarian style according to the menu – always learning!) stew with sliced potato dumplings, along with the local favorite beer on tap, Pilsner Urquell. The goulash was pretty tasty, and the texture of the potato dumplings really surprised me. It looked dense when you peer over it, but when you cut into it with a fork and eat it, it’s actually quite fluffy and spongy.
For something sweet to end our meal, we also had knedliky for the first time, which are sweet dessert dumplings made with quark, a type of soft cheese, flour, egg, yeast, and some sugar. They are typically filled with a fruit — most commonly apricot or berries. Once you choose the fruit filling for your sweet dumplings, the server then ladles a big dollop of a warm, sweet cheese based sauce, along with a sprinkling of savory cheese. I was pleasantly surprised — it was quite satisfying! I could see how people could grow up eating knedliky and have them as a craving.
It was a hearty meal, and one that would fill us up and keep us warm at the beginning of this cold week.