Grocery Shopping in Prague: A Story in Photos

Note to self: If you want to make deconstructed hamburger salad (p. 38 in Well Fed) with ground beef, it’s best to learn the Czech words for beef and pork before heading out to the Tesco to buy groceries, lest you learn, midway through cooking (thanks, translate.google.com), that the reason your “hamburger” looks so pale isn’t that Czech beef is light-colored but, rather, is because the package you thought was beef is actually pork.

To wit:
mleté maso ​​hovězí = ground beef
mleté maso vepřové = ground pork

Duly noted.

You don’t even want to know the deliciously glutenous treats I’ve enjoyed over the past two days! (Ahem, beer.) But today we decided to hit the grocery store to see what it would maybe maybe maybe be like to be locals. It was a big adventure deciphering labels at the store, but we found most of what we needed, then settled in for an evening of one of Dave’s favorite dinner-at-home meals (the aforementioned hamburger salad) and a viewing of Bridesmaids on the laptop. It was just like at home, except through the open window we could hear tourists wending their way through the alley behind our apartment building and if I looked over my shoulder and out the window, I could see the Týn Church.

tynchurch

But let’s backtrack to the grocery store.

Once upon a time…

aisle2

Our first challenge was understanding how to acquire a shopping cart. Turns out, to unlock it from its shopping cart brethren, you have to pop a 5-crown coin into a slot on the handle. First, we hit produce where I was happy to load up the cart with onions, garlic, zucchini, cabbage, lettuce, huge red bell peppers, a giant fennel, and cucumbers. They also had all the usual suspects: broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes… pretty much all of the stuff we buy on a regular basis.

Then we browsed the bakery — but didn’t buy anything… even though I was quite taken with pink-and-white-striped doughnuts and dark, crusty bread rolled in sesame, poppy, and caraway seeds. Moving on…

We entered the packaged food aisles and saw these:

whatthe2

No idea what those are… If anyone out there knows what’s in those little containers with the crazy illustrations, please share in comments!

Next up: frozen veggies. There were Mexican (Mexickà) and Chinese (Čínskà) blends, but I chose Mediterranean (zucchini, broccoli, green beans, carrots).

frozenveg

frozenveg2

In the meat department, I bought a package of smoked salmon and lean ground beef pork since it’s not grass-fed. (Although I’m indulging in paleo-verboten foods, I’m trying to minimize damage where I can.) We traveled through the Valley of Yogurt (Seriously, there were aisles and aisles of yogurt varieties), to get to the mayo display. Who knew there were so many kinds? (I do miss my blender and homemade mayo!)

mayo

Our next detour was through the canned fish section. I almost bought some Norwegian sardines, but then I realized they weren’t filleted. I talk tough, but I just can’t choke down the sardines that include head, tails, and skin. Please don’t kick me out of Paleo Club!

Dave was kind of traumatized by these cans of smoked octopus.

smokedoctopus

And this lady did not approve. Of anything.

ladyinred

I was delighted when we found the spices and dried herbs. They had all the essentials except cumin. (Despite packages that say “cumin” which are actually filled with caraway seeds. It’s a trick!)

spices

herbs

After hitting the candy and potato chip aisles (ssshhhhh…), we were ready to checkout (especially since I had my newly-purchased Reisenthel shopping bag).

checkingout

I said “Dobry den!” to the checkout clerk, and she launched into a verbal paragraph of Czech, which made me feel welcome and like a dumb-dumb. “Learn Czech” is on my to-do list; better get on that! (Read this for a few reasons why learning Czech seems very daunting.)

Here’s our haul, including the non-paleo treats; avert your eyes if you’re sensitive.

Ground beef pork, smoked salmon, extra-virgin olive oil, cider vinegar, three kinds of mayo (to taste test. Verdict: none are as good as homemade; Czech brand was better than Hellman’s), dried herbs, and spices.

haul1

Onions, garlic, cabbage, fennel, zucchini, cucumbers, butter lettuce, iceberg lettuce, frozen Mediterranean veg, and red bell pepper.

haul2

Chocolate in 75% and 80%, a tiny packet of chocolate-hazelnut spread, plus Slovakian Miňonky bars, the most delicious, evil, not-dark chocolate ever, and my nemesis: flavored chips. I settled on ham & garlic and a bag with what looks like a meat-and-veg shish kebab on the front. They also had Roasted Chicken, Lemon Salt, and Cream and Onion flavors.

haul3

I stowed the groceries in our fridge, then rattled some pots and pans. First up, browning the ground beef pork…

DSC00876-4-1

… and eventually, after much somewhat frustrating chopping on a very small cutting board and tossing the salads in a soup pot in lieu of a salad bowl, we had hamburger (porkburger?!) salad…

DSC00893-21-2

We also had a side of not-very-photogenic sautéed zucchini and were feeling so virtuous, we might have shared a Miňonky bar. Maybe.

The end.

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Comments

  • Desiree Doucet says:

    I have some Reisenthel shopping bags (4 of them in different colors that make up my primary shopping bags) and every time I use them, someone comments on how cool they are.I LOVE Reisenthel stuff!

    • Mel says:

      I got mine at the cutest kitchen goodies store in Mala Strana. I wanted EVERYTHING in that store! Fuchsia Kitchenaid mixer… swoon!

  • Stacy says:

    Awesome! Jealous! I cannot wait to travel the world and assemble meals as you are doing.

    Also, quick thank you again for Well Fed. Recently uncovered a whole host of food sensitivities (within the Paleo realm) that has made cooking very challenging (NO avocado, lemon, cabbage, carrots, celery, nightshades of any kind, and black pepper…just to name a few) but your cookbook has been a life saver! I have been living off pork carnitias for a week, pretty close to being better than bacon 🙂

  • Victoria says:

    DOBRÉ ODPOLEDNE, Mel. Just wondering how prices compare with US prices? And what are you drinking while in Prague?

    • Mel says:

      The prices on food at the grocery store are slightly less than at home in Austin. Everything we bought today came to about $40 USD.

      Drinking… when I’m being good: water. When I’m being naughty, Staropramen beer and Becherovka. Today I had both! OMG.

      • Amy says:

        My boyfriend got a bottle of Becherovka for Christmas because you’ve talked about it. He like it but prefers Zwack.

  • Andrea D. says:

    I hope you are safe…please update and let us know!

    • Mel says:

      We are safe; thanks for thinking of us. The gas explosion was somewhat nearby, but far enough away that we didn’t hear or see anything. I’m sad for the people that were injured and probably scared out of their wits. But there were no fatalities, so that’s a blessing.

  • Nina says:

    Hi Mel! It is so fun to see you around czech stuff and taking pictures I can see in our store on a daily basis, that is so weird 😀 😀 I believe you can find cumin in a pack with ŘÍMSKÝ KMÍN. And the chocolate bars you guys got are the only ones we buy too :)))

    Those things in a little containers with funny faces (he is called PIVRNEC, he is like a national beer hero, lol) are salads made of some veggies, cheese and mayo, one of them is a mix we put on a fried bread (we call that TOPINKY), I personally never tried these and I am pretty sure they are not very good 😀
    The crazy illustrations on top, as I said, is Pivrnec, it is like a Czech national “beer hero” and we have a lot of comic books with this character (it is very cheap, alcoholic, many times racist and chauvinist humor, so not one of my favorites) but people (well, men who drink a lot of beer) really like him. You probably know that czech word for BEER is PIVO, so that is why he is called PIVrnec :)))

    Yay, so sad that I moved away from Prague 2 months ago!!! If I was still there, I would invite you for coffee!!! Have fun there 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Ah! Mystery solved. Thank you SO much, Nina! Now I’m really tempted to try it… just to say I did. I love the mythology Czechs seem to build up around characters. So fun!

      I’m sad to not see you in person, too!

  • Hannah says:

    Ok, wait a minute, Dallas and Melissa have a draft of Well Fed 2? Um NOT FAIR and JEALOUS.

  • Deana says:

    Oh, memories of living in Prague and food shopping…. Traditional Czech yoghurt in the glass jars is fantastic, if you were so inclined. There’s cream on the top, and the chocolate hazlenut one is great. When I lived there I was a vegetarian, so I didn’t have the meat buying adventures. (I sure hope you brought shopping bags.) And at Tesco, they always wanted one to pay in exact change, but I always broke my 1000Kc notes there.

  • Colleen says:

    Your dish make me think of larb – the thai pork salad – I make a paleo version at home a lot.

  • TaraCorinne says:

    Those pictures turned our amazing! The colors of that woman in the outfit are vibrant. What kind of camera do you all use? Also, trip looks super fun!

  • Rhonda says:

    My husband and I visited Prague, but our time there was way to brief, we loved it…enjoy!

  • Ludvig says:

    Welcome in Europe ! Nice to see you have fun in Prague.

    Before eating 100% Paleo, I enjoyed to eat some Czech dishes, especially one of the variant of Polévky (that can be paleo) and sweet knedliky, delicious !

    @Victoria, when I trip somewhere, I also like to compare the cost of living somewhere else, for that I use before : http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/comparison.jsp, then I compare there when I buy my groceries, etc..

    Anyway, I really can’t wait to see more picture and read your next blog post !

    Have fun in Prague !

  • Vicki says:

    Melissa, you must tell me where you saw kale for sale! I’ve lived in Prague for 10 months now and have never been able to find it! Enjoy the rest of your stay here!

    • Mel says:

      I *think* it was kale. Now I’m wondering if may it was collard greens. Anyway… it was big, dark green leaves. The Tesco on Narodni Trida… in the produce department… along the left-hand wall on the very bottom shelf, tucked in the corner next to the wall. They were big loose leaves in a bin… right on the border between produce and the bakery. If you get to the mushrooms and Asian-ish veg, you’ve gone too far… just back up a little. It looked like there were bins of maybe day-old veg stacked there, too.

  • Carmel says:

    Vicki

    The pics look like my local Tesco at Narodni Trida, but I’ve never seen kale there. Do tell, Melissa, if that was the store where you saw it. If so, I’m a little disappointed. I shop there nearly every day and the one and only time you’re ever likely to be in my local shop, my husband went instead! I’ve been keeping an eye out for you and Dave, but no sightings yet.

    • Mel says:

      That was the Tesco at Narodni Trida! In case you didn’t see my comment above, here’s where I think I saw kale:
      “I *think* it was kale. Now I’m wondering if may it was collard greens. Anyway… it was big, dark green leaves. The Tesco on Narodni Trida… in the produce department… along the left-hand wall on the very bottom shelf, tucked in the corner next to the wall. They were big loose leaves in a bin… right on the border between produce and the bakery. If you get to the mushrooms and Asian-ish veg, you’ve gone too far… just back up a little. It looked like there were bins of maybe day-old veg stacked there, too.”

      I hope we run into each other while we’re here… would be fun to say hi! We’ll be skulking around until May 9, then we’ll be back at the end of the month, too.

  • Teresa says:

    Love the gloves/fannypack combo on the disapproving lady. Awesome. 🙂

  • Jan Twiss says:

    Hi Mel!!!
    Your Mom told me you are in Prague so I looked up your blog. Tia & I spent time in Prague 4 yrs. ago and loved it! Our guide was Helena Matejickova and we stayed at Hotel Rokoko for a week. I fondly remember all the tourist sights and the food was amazing! I remember the Jewish museum, Prague castle, Strahov library, that John Lennon mural and Kutna Hora & the bone church. So many wonderful memories! I hope to return one day. Enjoy your time and stay safe.

    • Mel says:

      Hi, Jan! You listed some of our favorite places, too. I LOVE the food so much — I cannot get enough cabbage and pork. Definitely my kind of cuisine. We’re off to see the witch parade on Kampa Island now. Love to you and yours!

  • Jenn says:

    Mel, I can assure you that sardines that you can buy here in Norway (that are actually from Norway) do not have heads. Fins and tails, yes. If they still had heads, I wouldn’t touch ’em!

    Love reading about your European travels! You don’t know this, but Well-Fed has been vital in keeping me and hubster in yummy meals for my first Whole 30 (day 30 is tomorrow), so THANK YOU! 😀

    • Mel says:

      Maybe I can buy them and cut the tails off!

      Best wishes for a smooth Whole30 experience… enjoy it! It can be hard, but it’s also pretty awesome.

  • Emma says:

    The lady’s classy outfit totally makes up for her disapproval.

    So fun to see you out and about only a few hours from me…and where I’ll be in a week and a half! Unfortunately, since we’ll be there with a group (hubby and work friends are marathoning), I won’t have too much say in the food choices. Especially the night prior – can you say Italian restaurant to carb-load (I’m smiling with clenched teeth every time it’s mentioned. You can only last 90 minutes on glycogen! Go with fat and protein! It’ll last WAY longer! Those carbs won’t do much when you’ve hit mile 10+! AARGH!!!!!!!!!). Hooray for salads?

  • MC says:

    I love this post! I really feel like we are on this adventure with you.

    Thanks for taking the time to keep us posted!

  • Casey says:

    Oooh, drink a Staropramen Cerny for me. It’s the dark version. You can get Staropramen in the U.S. (if you’re lucky), but they don’t import the Cerny. That was the best thing that passed between my lips on my European adventure in 2001!

  • This was such a fun post to read and see pictures of – it feels like we’re traveling and learning with you!

  • Jenna says:

    Yay! Prague. Such a lovely city. The artists on Charles Bridge. The amazing astrological clock, the cobble streets, all the wonderful things I wanted to bring home with me from the shops. The disturbing cathedral at the top of the hill with all the skeletons. I climbed to the top of the tower there and had the worst case of fright and could barely move. I was by myself. I am not sure how I got myself down. It is a little fuzzy.

    Have a lovely time and Happy Birthday!

  • Isla says:

    I spent a month in Germany and we had to use coins to unlock the grocery carts too! Also went to Paris and lost our passports and got to spend a lot of time at the American Consulate acquiring new ones! When I look back though, all I think about is all the fresh baked bread and chocolate. Happy travels!

  • ginny lee says:

    I love foreign grocery stores. We made a point wherever we went in Asia to wander through. You have to unlock the carts in Korea too. My daughter was a vegetarian the first time she visited us in Seoul, and the second summer she gave that up because she really missed out the first time on experiencing the culture. I guess I am saying life is short, enjoy the chocolate/bread.

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for lookin’ out for me… you can rest assured that I’m eating plenty of chocolate and enough bites of bread to satisfy the temptation 🙂

  • NJ Paleo says:

    Wow, it sounds like you’re having a wonderful time! I speak Russian and “dobry den” to you too (and I’m assuming it’s the same thing ha ha). I’m fascinated by your grocery shopping. Good thing there aren’t ham & garlic chips here or else I’d be in some serious trouble….

  • Loralie says:

    Hilarious! I bust out in laughter at the lady that did not approve. Way too funny. They have a pretty tasty gluten free beer in Prague if I recall correctly from my trip on 2011. Not Paleo though. Enjoy!

  • Boya says:

    Hi Mel

    Thank you for sharing, sounds great! I am off to Prague in 2 months and was wondering where you stayed? Or any recomendation would be great. Thank you
    Boya

    • Mel says:

      For our past three visits to Prague, we stayed in an apartment in Old Town that is beautiful, reasonably priced, hosted by a charming owner named Pasquale, and has the best location EVER. http://www.arcadiaresidence.com/?lang=en If you decide to get in touch with the Arcadia be sure to tell Pasquale that Dave and I sent you!

      On our last trip, the Arcadia was booked for our last week, so we stayed in a hotel on the edge of Mala Strana. I also really loved it there! It’s called the Hotel Julian, and the service was excellent. The room was very comfortable and pretty, great breakfast in the morning, and it’s also an excellent location on the Castle side of the river: http://www.hoteljulian.com/?lang=en

      Enjoy! and don’t be shy if there are other questions I can answer for you.

  • Neil Goldman says:

    Hi Mel,
    I want to rent an apartment in Prague 2 next summer 2014. It is near Vinohradsky Pavilon. The owner tells me that the Albert Super Market is still open there. I think it has closed. Do you know of any other supermarkets in that area? He also says there is a City Spar near, but I am unable to locate it. Any help will be appreciated.
    Thank you. Neil

    • Mel says:

      I didn’t know the answer to your question, so I asked a friend in the Czech Republic. This is what she said:

      “The map says there IS an Albert right next to the Pavilon (or right in it???), but I am not 100% sure if it’s opened, so I checked some supermarkets near it..

      I checked the map, it is very close to where I lived (and now I am almost in tears because I miss it so much!!!) :)) and there is:

      a) SPAR very close
      b) Albert pretty close
      c) the best option: Jiriho z Podebrad square with Metro A to Flora, where is a huge shopping center with Albert and tons of different shops.
      d) Also there is Tesco Express close to I.P. Pavlova

      ALSO!!! On Jiriho z Podebrad Square are farmer’s markets three times a week

      There is also BILLA on Korunní street, nice one, but they don’t carry much meat, though I liked shopping there and then visit this nice small french café on the opposite side of the street, it is like a vintage store and café in one, we loved it there

      In this area there are also many many many Žabka stores, they are opened all day, some even till 10pm.

      There is a non-stop Tesco tiny bit fruther away, in Vršovice, at Eden and the easiest way to get there from where he will be staying is Metro A from Jiriho z Podebrat to Namesti Miru (one stop) and from Namesti Miru tram number 22 to Slavia, it stops right next to Tesco)”

      Hope this helps!

  • Nat says:

    Hi Mel, I am Czech, and I am really pleased you liked our food. Somebody mentioned Czech knedlíky/dumplings, especially sweet filled with fruit up here. I must say they are really delicious, and I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t love them. But, there are also some knedlíky that are served with sauces or stewed cabbage/sauerkraut and they are typical for the Czech cuisine and very popular. Lots of Germans and Poles come over for dinner over the border just to have them in the restaurant. By the way, I have never ever seen any problem with getting kale. I think each greengrocery has it on shelves. Personally, I don’t like it, but it is one of the most usual vegetables eaten in Central Europe.

    Regards from the Czech Republic,

    Nat.

  • Terezka says:

    Welcome in Prague! I am great fan of your books, if you need any advice where to shop in Prague gladly I can provide the list. Especially now during the season of Farmer’s market it should be fun! And if you wanna stop by for a cup of coffee you are more than welcome in Muj Salek Kavy or Místo, would be an honour to meet you! Enjoy new life here!

    • Děkuji! We are very happy to be here! We live 2 blocks from the farmers market on the naplavka, and we LOVE it. I would be so happy to meet you! Muj Salek Kavy and Místo are both so lovely!