Eating the Pikador in Prague
The Story of the Czech Street Food Superstar: The Hotdog
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Every culture has its street food. Wikipedia describes street food so: “Street food is ready-to-eat food or drink sold by a hawker, or vendor, in a street or other public place, such as at a market or fair. It is often sold from a portable food booth, food cart, or food truck and meant for immediate consumption.”
It is often cheaper than restaurant food and each region has its specialties. The French have their baguettes, Germans their sausages, Mexicans have tacos. In Czechia you can get the hot dog or ’parek v rohliku’.
From Bullfighters to Prague Streets
The hotdog has been around since before Columbus ‘discovered’ America.
German sausage makers also spread it to America in the 19th century where it quickly became a favorite with sport fans and during the Chicago exhibition of 1893.
The Czech hotdog history is relatively new. According to Wikipedia, the staple began when a butcher named Václav Masopust from Česke Budejovice saw the hotdog on his vacation in Madrid, Spain in the 70s. He came home, named the snack Pikador after bullfighters (Picadors) who were equipped with a spear (smaller version is needed to hollow out the baguette) and began to sell a revised version in his deli.
But do not expect the American hotdog wrapped in a split bun with toppings like coleslaw, relish and onions. The Czech hotdog consists of a Czech baguette ‘rohlik’, with a hole burrowed out for the cooked or grilled sausage ‘parek’ to sit in. The result is somewhat funny looking but delicious.
As expected, you can get the Eurodog on a stand on the street throughout Prague and Czechia. Your choices are simple, ketchup or mustard, which is the classic way to eat it, but you can also try the horseradish for a spicy alternative depending on what each vendor offers. The vendor will add the condiments before the sausage as per your choice.
You can expect to pay about 25 crowns.
To Queue Or Not To Queue
You can sit At Namēsti Míru (Square of Peace) and watch the hotdog traffic. The Ladislav Červeny hotdog stand has a steady stream of customers.
A queue forms and quickly dissipates in a matter of minutes. The hotdog is quickly prepared, and no one waits too long. The customers are often tourists and students, but the average Pragian does not scorn this street delicacy.
Why All The Fuss?
Parek and Rohlik and Why They Are The Staples of Czech Cuisine
To understand the popularity of the Czech hotdog, one must go deeper into the local eating habits and food culture.
The baguette has a place at table just as the hotdog does and not necessarily together. Both foods are popular on their own and are the go-to dishes of the nation.
Rohlik is the ultimate snack. Czech eat the rohlik every day with almost everything. They'll pair it with sliced meats, cheese, all kind of spreads, yogurts, marmalades and even on its own.
The baguette is best fresh and available in all bakeries, markets and street stands daily. Czechs head to their local bakery first thing in the morning to start their day with a fresh baguette.
It can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. It is not unusual to see a Czech child munching on just the baguette.
Párky, or sausages, are a typical snack. It is easy to prepare, quick boil, steam or grill and voila, your sausage is ready. Czechs serve it with bread, potatoes, French fries, or even with a salad. There are many kinds available at the local market, but the frankfurter, or European sausage as we call it, is a staple of the Bohemian kitchen.
When Vaclav Masopust created the Pikador, he understood the simplicity but also the genial pairing of the two staples into one. This street food seemed a natural combination, and he was right. The popularity of the Párek v Rohliku grew across the country and is now on the to-eat list of every tourist guide of Czechia.
Everybody Loves the Pikador
So next time you see a hotdog stand, order one: “Jeden párek prosím”, and find out for yourself what the Czechs have known since 1978.