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Ovocné knedlíky (fruit and cheese dumpling)

Plate of ovocné knedlíky, or sweet fruit dumplings, from Cafe Savoy in Prague, Czech Republic

What: These fruit and cheese dumplings, ovocné knedlíky, are among the staple sweet dishes (like the crepe-esque palačinky) that have long been found in Czech home cooking, as evidenced by the recipe’s presence in important Czech cookbooks for the past two centuries. Made from milk, butter, flour, eggs, salt, and dry cottage cheese (aka “curd cheese”), these dumplings are commonly filled with strawberries, apricots, plums, or plum jam. For visitors to Prague, they are a sweet, unexpected delight, and a classic vegetarian Czech dish you cannot miss.

Where: Of course, the very best fruit dumplings are those prepared by someone’s babička, or grandmother, but failing that, we like Café Savoy (Vítězná 5, 150 00 Praha 5, map), which comes closest in execution if not in old-timey ambience. (It has been around since 1893, but has been thoroughly refurbished; today it’s one of the Ambiente Restaurant Group’s smart, modern cafes, and is frequented by everyone from politicians and models to families with kids.) Bonus: Service is friendly and it’s a non-smoking restaurant.

When: Mon-Fri, 8am-10:30pm; Sat-Sun, 9am-10:30pm. Though it may seem like breakfast or dessert food to some of us, knedlíky are best at lunch. Czechs love sweet entreés for lunch and even dinner, so fruit dumplings as a main midday course is not unusual at all. (In fact, when it’s placed on dessert menus, it’s often for the benefit of tourists.)

Order: Domácí ovocné knedlíky, or “homemade fruit curd cheese dumplings” (258 CZK). Here, they are filled with seasonal fruit and topped with sugar and butter. The best part, though, is that you get to choose the topping: grated curd cheese, chocolate, traditional Czech grated gingerbread, sour cream, or cinnamon with sugar (and no one will mind if you ask to try them all!). Knedlíky are most commonly served with warm butter and curd cheese on top—that’s the traditional, low-budget way—but feel free to experiment, as the other options can only make them tastier…and we’re sure Grandma wouldn’t mind.

Good to know: Café Savoy offers a nice variety of typical savory Czech dishes and sides, including an exquisite mashed potato puree, and great breakfasts—still a rare find in Prague. You might consider trying the homemade bread with sliced Emmentaler cheese, topinky (toasted Czech bread), and bábovka (a traditional spongy Bundt cake)—you can find some of those and more as part of the “Savoy Breakfast” (245 CZK)—or the yummy scrambled eggs with chives (available for breakfast, but known to many Czechs as a quick lunch). Then read a newspaper and kill time until you’re hungry for dumplings!

Alternatively: Many restaurants and dive pubs will serve fruit dumplings as part of their daily lunch menu; look for them under “vegetarian entrées.” A few other spots to try are Klášterní pivovar Strahov (Strahovské nádvoří 301, 118 00 Praha 1, map), where the plum version is sometimes offered—when it is there, it’s listed under desserts on the English menu, but you know better!—and Restaurant Marie Teresie (224-226-345; Na Příkopě 23, Praha 1, map), where they’re often offered as specials. —Contributed by Zuzana Boehmova


 

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