These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.

Slovak food

When you dine out in Slovakia, expect a majority of dishes in a typical restaurant to be based on one of the country’s three basic staples: potato, pork and cabbage.

 Photo: Ján Svrček

The national dish is bryndzové halušky, or potato-pasta squiggles topped with sheep cheese and bacon. The quintessential Slovak soup is kapustnica, made with sauerkraut and smoked ham (or sausage).

Cabbage is served with main entrees (such as pork cutlet), and potatoes (boiled, roasted, french-fried) come on the side. Visitors who have climbed a Slovak mountain, found a rough-looking wooden restaurant (Koliba) and eaten a plate of halušky and a bowl of kapustnica are usually happy.

A hundred years ago, most Slovaks were farmers, which explains the cuisine: the food is simple, filling and made from ingredients grown locally in abundance. Long a part the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, Slovakia and especially Bratislava, has plenty of battered meat, smoked sausages, an assortment of tortes and cakes, thick, creamy hot chocolate, turkey cordon bleu, dumplings, goulash, and plum brandy (slivovica).

Guide to Eating Out

 Photo: Ján Svrček

A standard Slovak meal begins with soup (polievka). The most common, and probably the best, is cabbage soup (kapustnica, or kapustová polievka). This is made with sauerkraut, sausage or pork, and sometimes sour cream. Bean soup (fazuľová polievka) has a dark, thick broth. It usually contains smoked pork. Both soups are filling. Also common is tomato soup (paradajková polievka), made thin, thick, with and without cheese, and the zesty tripe soup (držková polievka). Garlic soup (cesnaková polievka) comes as either garlic in chicken broth with cheese and croutons or garlic in a creamy broth with parsley and is sometimes served in a roll. All soups generally come with bread or rolls (chlieb or rožky) on the side. If not, ask for pečivo (literally something baked, ie bread or rolls).

Slovaks don’t usually eat salads as a separate course. They eat them with the main dish, in small glass bowls. There are cucumber (uhorkový), tomato (paradajkový), and cabbage (kapustový) salads (šaláty). With soup and bread, you can make a meal out of a Greek salad (grécky šalát) or šopský šalát (chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, grated cheese, olives, and sometimes yogurt).

 Photo: Ján Svrček

Slovak food is filling so you don’t usually need an appetizer (predjedlo), especially if you have soup. Three common appetizers are bryndza (a spreadable sheep cheese with bread), syrový tanier (a cheese plate with bread and a few vegetables), and šunková rolka (ham wrapped around horseradish cream).

Most entrees (hlavné jedlá) contain meat. The Viennese schnitzel is called rezeň. This is pork (or occasionally veal) flattened, coated with egg and breadcrumbs, and fried. Čiernohorský rezeň is fried in a thicker batter and topped with cheese. Other pork (bravčové) dishes are chops (karé or rezy) or steak (roštenka). Meat dishes are sometimes stuffed with cheese (syr) and ham (šunka).

Chicken (kura) is generally fried (vyprážané), baked (pečené), or skewered and grilled (na špíze). Turkey (morka) is sometimes shredded and served in a spicy sauce (morčacie soté). A good dish is turkey breast stuffed with cheese and ham (plnené morčacie prsia). Beef, which is more expensive than pork or poultry, often comes as Viedenská roštenka (sirloin with fried onions) or beefsote (slices of beef sautéed with sour cream). Carp (kapor) and trout (pstruh) are the most common types of fish. They come - head, bones and all - baked (na rošte), fried (vyprážané), or coated in batter and fried (na masle).

Slovak restaurants are slowly tuning in to vegetarian food. Visitors are puzzled to find potato pasta with sheep cheese and bacon (bryndzové halušky so slaninou) and the eastern Slovak equivalent of potato dumplings filled with sheep cheese and topped with bacon (usually called pirohy so slaninou) on Slovak menus under vegetarian food (bezmäsité jedlá - literally meatless foods). It is best to see these dishes as ones where meat is not the central element, and to read carefully. Vegetarians should also be warned that Vyprážaný syr (fried cheese) often comes in two versions, one of which is with ham (so šunkou). You can always ask for theses dish without the bacon (bez slaniny). If you’re unsure, say to your waiter “To bude bez mäsa, však?” (“That comes without meat, right?”).

The classic vegetarian dishes are broccoli baked with cheese (zapekaná brokolica) and fried mushrooms or cauliflower (vyprážané šampióny, vyprážaný karfiol). Tofu is more common than you might expect and Italian dishes such as rizoto or pasta (cestoviny) are common. There are also a fair number of Chinese restaurants. As a last resort, you can combine side dishes, such as dusená zelenina (steamed vegetables) and opekané zemiaky (roasted potatoes).

If you order a meat entrée, you’ll be expected to order a side dish (príloha), usually rice (ryža) or potatoes (zemiaky). Potatoes come boiled (varené), roasted (opekané), french-fried (hranolky), mashed (zemiaková kaša), or as croquettes (krokety). Slovaks eat potatoes with tartar sauce (tatarská omáčka). Slovak tartar sauce is mayonnaise-based, but unlike tartar sauce in the US has no relish.

In some places, hot chocolate (horúca čokoláda) is the best desert. Crepes (palacinky) with chocolate sauce (s čokoládou), stuffed with jam (s džemom), or stuffed with a ricotta-like cheese (s tvarohom) are good. So are sweet noodles (rezance) in poppy seeds and butter. Another favourite desert often found in cafes is strudel (štrúdľa), which comes filled with apple (jablková), poppy seeds (maková) or cherries (višňová). Enjoy your meal - dobrú chuť!

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2005, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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