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Chuck the calories

THE film "Love in Prague" shows scenes of charming natural landscape and mouth-watering dishes. For those who can't make it to Prague, the Czech Pavilion offers a delicious experience.

Czech cuisine is hearty and tasty: there's lots of meat, usually beef or pork, also poultry, plus potatoes or dumplings. Of course, there's plenty of beer.

The chef Lukas Vokrouhlik highly recommended beef in cream sauce, which is very popular in the Czech Pavilion. The cream sauce, made with heavy cream, was sweet but the chef added tart cranberries to create a bit of a sour taste to balance the sauce. And the beef, quite unlike Chinese beef that is usually tender, tastes a little tough. The dish with fruity taste is perfect with light beer.

Then came old Bohemian-style roast duck, a traditional festival food prepared with red and white cabbage and mother's dumplings. The dumplings occupy a special place in every Czech's heart.

The duck has a delicate texture and retains its moisture. Cinnamon was added during cooking to enrich the aroma and a spicy pepper sauce was served - altogether mouth-watering. Each bite seemed filled with "power" that can stimulate diner's taste buds and appetite. Dark beer with stronger body is the perfect accompaniment to this rich dish.

Dumplings are a staple in Czech meals. They can be eaten directly or dipped in various spices. Dumpling dough is made from potatoes, bread, eggs, flour and parsley. They look quite similar to Chinese steamed bun. However, the taste is slightly different, it's much more chewy and has a stronger cream aroma. Vokrouhlik joked that maybe the dumpling originated in China.

Czechs always say, "We can live without food, but we cannot live without beer." Many years ago beer was cloudy and muddy and uneven in quality. But Czech brewers, especially Pilsner Urquell, improved brewing technology and the storage. They use bottom-fermenting yeast and store the beer in cool caves to produce a brew with a beautiful golden transparence and long shelf life. The chef proudly declared that the beer in the restaurant is authentic Bavarian-style with perfect proportions of wheat, alcohol and water. This diner felt an overwhelming desire to swallow the beer - it was the best. The rich foam and delicate bubbles were perfect.

Light beer has a relatively thinner body and refreshing taste while dark beer has a malty flavor, higher sweetness and stronger body.

The restaurant is designed in traditional Czech style, suggesting the romance of Prague. There are many more male customers than female, perhaps because ladies are afraid of so much rich food with lots of fat and starch. Only if one throws calories to the wind can one fully appreciate Czech dishes without guilt.

The restaurant attracts many German customers. One of them, Nick Boriscavski, really enjoyed the beef soup.

"Czech cuisine is quite similar to my country's style," he said. "But here in Shanghai I taste the flavors and smell the aromas from my hometown."

Chunks of cured meats hang from the rafters and the place is filled with aromas of beer and mom's cooking. With all the atmospherics, one could imagine sitting beside the Vlatava (Moldau) River and listening to Dvorak's "Moldau."


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