Bohemian cuisine consists of filling meals prepared with basic ingredients. Bohemia is located in the western Czech republic, right next to Germany. Once considered its own country, the hilly area is landlocked and known for its fertile farmland. Historically, Bohemia's main food came from farming and herding. The cooking style of the area is simple, and the ingredients are "meat and potatoes" fare. However, it's what Bohemian cooks do with those basic ingredients that makes the food special.
Bohemia once occupied parts of Hungary, Austria, Poland and Germany. However, its heart has always been in the same area, what is now the western Czech republic. This is why many Czechs also consider themselves Bohemian, regardless of the region they live in. It's also why "Czech" and "Bohemian" are often used interchangeably in terms of cuisine from the area.
Historically, homegrown ingredients have been the main food available to Bohemians. Potatoes and cabbage feature largely in many Bohemian recipes. Grain and meat, especially pork and beef, are commonly found in Czech dishes. Poultry, game and freshwater fish are also used here and there. When it comes to adding bite to their food, Bohemians often turn to onions or beer. They also turn to smoked and pickled ingredients, such as sausage and sauerkraut.
Like ingredients, spices that could be easily procured or grown in the region are the most common in traditional Bohemian cooking. Salt, pepper and garlic are the main spices seen in many Czech recipes. Caraway seeds and mustard are utilized in certain dishes, particularly meat. General garden herbs, such as rosemary and parsley, are also used.
Bohemian Cooking Techniques
Basic techniques are the mainstay of Bohemian cooking. Stewing, roasting, boiling and baking are the main cooking methods. Light frying is also used. Smoking and pickling are the main preservation techniques, since refrigerators are relatively new in terms of historical Bohemia.
Roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut, also known as vepro-knedlo-zelo, is a common dish in the Czech Republic. Roast the pork with caraway seeds, onions and beer for a classic Bohemian taste. Boil a mixture of milk-soaked bread and egg to make the dumplings. Serve the sauerkraut plain or mix it with chopped up sausage. Goulash is often thought of as a Hungarian dish, but there are Bohemian versions as well. Goulash is a heavy stew that can contain anything you have on hand. The Bohemian version mixes tomatoes, onions and beef or pork in a beer or broth base.
The Bohemian culture enjoys sweets just as much as the rest of the world. Kolache, also known as kolacky, is a sweet pastry filled with poppy seeds, chopped fruit or jam. Make the pastry open-face or closed, depending on personal preference. Palacinky, an egg and milk based pancake topped with jam, is a common treat you can serve for breakfast or dessert. Smear the thin pancake with jam and roll it up to serve it in the traditional style.
- History World: History of Bohemia
- The Czechoslovak Cookbook; Joza Brizova
- The Food and Cooking of Eastern Europe; Lesley Chamberlain
- Czech & Slovak Kolache Recipes & Sweet Treats; Guild National Czech & Slovak Library & Museum
- The Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst, Ron Herbst
- Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images