It’s been a fair few years in the Czech Republic for me now, and in that time I think I’ve pretty much successfully acclimatized to Czech cuisine, even if I don’t tend to eat it on a regular basis. I love a good svíčková or guláš for dinner (not lunch – eating big in the day is one Czech habit I just can’t get used to). My all-time favourite Czech dish is stuffed dumplings savoury or sweet, and I’m eternally grateful that I reside in a country where it is considered acceptable to consume the latter as a main course. I even light-heartedly named both myself and this blog after the humble knedlík, though admittedly have yet to feature this culinary namesake in any actual entries - it’s just too hot at the moment for traditional heavy Czech stodge. Winter will be a different story though!
But the one culinary aspect of life here I will probably never fully understand is the ongoing Czech love affair with the humble rohlik.
When I first started here, I marveled at my one Czech colleague’s ability to turn up to work in the morning with a bag of half a dozen rohliky and slowly but surely munch his way through the lot over the course of the day – a large lunch in the local hospoda notwithstanding. I now, of course, realize this is common practice here. A Czech Facebook page set up in honour of the rohlik has attracted 7,515 fans and counting, while the the so-called "Angličký Rohlik" topped with melted cheese and ham has garnered an even greater fanbase, with an impressive 9,005 signed up at the time of writing. PragueGinge and GirlinCzechland both report regular altercations with Czech other halves in the Albert bakery section should they have the temerity to wish to spend an extra crown or two on a nice multigrain bap or other such hedonistic dough-based goods instead.
Personally I have always considered rohliky a borderline “foodstuff” consisting of nothing more than glorified sawdust and air – in short, a chewy, rubbery pretender to the baked goods crown. And no – I don’t mean rohliky fresh out of the oven lovingly hand-crafted by Babička; I am referring here to your bog-standard Albert / Tesco / Billa shop-bought rohlik at 1kč a pop. When fresh baked Czech rye bread is so nice and almost equally inexpensive by comparison, I’ve always just thought – why bother? (Unless you are trying to keep baby occupied while you do you grocery shopping of course, going on to retrieve the drool-covered stump at check-out in order to pay...)
Anyway, in the interests of culinary adventurism and cultural assimilation, yesterday I dedicated all my meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner to the unassuming rohlik.
Kicking of my day of bready-based experimentation, snídaně yesterday therefore consisted of rohlik and strawberry yogurt.
An odd combination maybe, and one that I wasn’t expecting to particularly like. Surprisingly though, I actually found it really worked, with the creaminess of the yogurt successfully counteracting the otherwise dry chewiness of the rohlik itself. That said, this is coming from the girl who used to take cheese and jam sandwiches into school for lunch, so admittedly my judgment in terms of what foods go with what is somewhat questionable here.
For lunch I had rohlik with šunka and sýr – on top of course rather than in the middle.
Bleh – far too dry. Though bought earlier that day, the rohlik tasted predictably stale and chewy, despite the valiant effort by the otherwise blameless cheese and ham to redeem it.
Later for dinner, I stopped off at the Anděl sausage stand for a párek in a rohlik with mustard squidged down the sides.
Again, this was surprisingly ok – the outside of this particular rohlik was actually nicely crusty rather than rubbery and dry, and the sausage and mustard moistened up the inside nicely. It certainly wasn’t the worst 15kč I’ve ever spent at any rate.
My conclusion after a day on the rohlik diet?
My opinion is that rohliks are just about acceptable when served with some type of moist topping or filling, such as yogurt or soup, to detract from the otherwise characteristic dryness and utter lack of flavour. Apart from that though - beyond the obvious price-tag - I still just don’t get the appeal – sorry!!
The Czechs have a famous saying that “beer is liquid bread”. I can only assume here that what with all the admirable national efforts put into the fine art of brewery over the centuries, the bakery of actual “solid” bread has in this respect correspondingly fallen by the wayside.
As for me, I’ll pass on the rohlik for now – but I’ll take a Gambrinus please… ;-))))