The saucy lesson

06-08-2005

Welcome to the ABC of Czech where this season we explore Czech vocabulary related to Czech food and cuisine. Today we'll give you a taste of Czech sauces - omáčky.

Sauces in Czech cuisine are not something that you just pour over the meat - they are a central part of the meal and often the dish is named after the sauce. So if the menu in a typical Czech restaurant offers, for example, dill sauce, expect to be served beef - hovězí maso and a heap of bread dumplings - houskové knedlíky swimming in a thick creamy sauce.

Probably the most popular is rajská omáčka - tomato sauce, but literally paradise sauce (because tomatoes in Czech are called "paradise apples" - rajská jablíčka). The sauce is red and sweet and children are crazy about it (less so of the beef and dumplings, though).

Svíčková omáčkaSvíčková omáčka Competing with tomato sauce is svíčková omáčka - literally candle soup, called after beef tenderloin which in Czech is svíce (meaning candle) or svíčková. The meat is baked with root vegetables which are then blended and cream can be added to the sauce. It's then served with dumplings, and preserved cranberries and whipped cream to garnish.

Then there is dill sauce - koprová omáčka - the scourge of schools and kindergartens. Hated by nine kids out of ten but still regularly served in school canteens. The meal again involves boiled beef and bread dumplings, swimming in creamy sauce with plenty of dill. The vegetarian variety features a boiled egg instead of the meat.

Mushroom sauce - houbová omáčka is similar, only with mushrooms instead of dill and much more popular. And so is okurková omáčka - gherkin sauce, again beef meat, dumplings and plenty of creamy sauce flavoured with finely chopped gherkins.

The standard portion of any Czech "omáčka" meal includes four slices of a dumpling. But of course, you can order more. So to sound like a real local you have to order svíčkovou se šesti - candle sauce with six (meaning dumplings).

You can practice that until next week. We'll be back to serve you more Czech food-related vocabulary. Till then dobrou chuť - bon appetit!

06-08-2005