I realise I haven’t really spoken about my thoughts on food, which really is quite a major part of any culture.
My first ever meal in Prague was a fantastic welcome, (I specifically chose a Czech specialty) pork so tender it fell apart, sweet delicious cabbage and beautifully soft dumplings. Nom nom. I also had a Czech goulash – beef with pickles and potato dumplings (which I’m not sure ever saw a potato).
Cabbage is served with everything. Everywhere.
Poland – I bought a ring pretzel from one of the street vendors, it was thick and filling but so tough I almost got cramp in my jaw… I have since discovered that these sort of pretzel things are sold everywhere but not all are stale. I have tried perogie, like ravioli with various fillings inside. One meal I had simply said ‘meat’ perogie. So I took my chances and it was quite nice, although I think they served it with chunks of fat on top. Not sure I was too keen on that, but as always, adds to flavour.
There have been some things where I have wondered ‘what the heck is that!?’ and then requested it for dinner. This is how I discovered pork knuckle. Never having had it before and not really sure what to expect I was served this massive bone surrounded in meat and fat. The meat took some digging out but it was delicious having been roasted in plum and honey sauce and garlic. It was served with the most superb roast potatoes ever. I did also very much enjoy chocolate coated banana on a stick I bought from a market but don’t think that’s particularly Polish…
Apparently the Polish know their vodkas – hazelnut vodka was recommended to me and dear god, it was the most beautiful thing. I’ve never been one for drinking spirits neat (aside from shot form occasionally) but this I could drink neat aaaaallll day long. Will have to search it out in England…
In Slovakia I pointed to a random ice cream flavour ‘rafaela’. Jackpot, it was coconut – and bloody yummy too. I went to a restaurant advertising Slovak cuisine and had fried chicken with sesame seeds, potatoes and a tomato spinach salady thing. Really good, felt quite fattening despite the salad. I would have liked to try something else from that restaurant for another night but the guys serving were miserable buggers – I couldn’t work out if they were just surly boys or hated foreigners, I don’t know. And I didn’t fancy having to challenge their poe faces again.
Hungary – believe it or not, I never ate goulash here. I did try paprikash krumpli which the owner of the hostel cooked up for everyone. It consisted of potatoes, a paprika broth, more potatoes, chopped sausages (one being chorizo I think) and some potatoes. Very filling. And they kept offering us more bread. Delicious bread but more stodge to go with the potato stodge. Eastern Europeans know how to do stodge. I was a little bit too scared to try langos, it’s like a big doughy bready pizza base sort of thing, fried, with cheese and garlic on top. Everyone that I’ve spoken to about it have said that it makes you feel pregnant. So I missed out on that one.
I got to try a Hungarian drinks specialty: Palinka – a fruit brandy – in various flavours. I tried some cranberry flavour and Elderberry I think… And Unicum which tastes disgusting, like medicine. Ugh. But I must admit I think I preferred it to the Elderberry palinka.
Romania – here I had my first taste of polenta, can’t say I thought much to it, shaped in a stodgy ball covered in cream, accompanying meat in cabbage rolls which were well worth suffering the polenta for. I had polenta again in another restaurant and I enjoyed it much more here, which goes to show it’s how a thing is cooked which can make you form an opinion, not necessarily what it is. I’ve had quite a bit of cabbage on my travels and Romania is no exception, aside from the cabbage rolls, there’s been fried cabbage too. And cabbage comes with a lot of things on the menu. In Sibiu I went to a recommended restaurant but I made the mistake of ordering very non-Eastern European vegetables. Vegetables are rarer than hens teeth in this neck of the woods. The meat was fab, kinda like a hunters chicken but with pork instead. The vegetables were obviously unloved.
I’ve had papanashi here for dessert – like a donut but with jam and sweet cheese cream spread over the top instead of inside. The centre had been cored, so to speak, and the little ball of dough left over had been fried too and put on top. Delicious.
I’ve lost count how many times I have used the word delicious. A lot of the food here had been utterly gorgeous and I know I’ll miss eating my way round Eastern Europe. But I’m going to come back with some extra poundage, I’m sure of it, ha ha! So much eating! So much frying! So few vegetables!