You may have seen similar posts highlighting Slovak specialities on other websites, and surely some of them will suggest a slightly different choice, but there are Slovak dishes that will unfalteringly appear in all ‘to try’ lists. You’re very likely to find these frequent flyers at the top of my selection, while there might be some surprise delicacies towards the end, which I have picked exclusively for Cookslovak fans.
1. Halushki with Bryndza Cheese
Yes, I have given the place of honour to our national dish. It is said that you need an acquired taste for bryndza cheese, but all my friends visiting from abroad developed an instant liking for Halushki with Bryndza Cheese. Indeed, who wouldn’t like these gnocchi-style dumplings smothered in fresh sheep’s milk cheese and topped with crispy bits of fried bacon? I’m quite sure that if you order the dish in one of the many salashes around Slovakia, you’re up for a gourmet experience. Especially at the beginning of summer when the cheese is creamier and full of nutrients from newly-grown pastures. Of course, I will encourage you to buy A Taste of Slovakia book, where you can find a step-by-step recipe for the dish.
2. Sauerkraut Soup or Kapustnica
Next comes our traditional soup made from sauerkraut (fermented white cabbage), which has quite a few variations, yet they all have one thing in common – kapustnica is a wholesome, comforting soup that can’t be missing from our Christmas or New Year’s Eve table. We also like to serve it at open-air festivals, particularly in the winter, at large family gatherings or wedding parties. I posted a recipe for a light, meatless kapustnica here.
3. Smoked sausages
They are indispensable for the kapustnica soup. The main ingredient for smoked sausages or klobásy is meat from hogs, which is sometimes combined with venison or other game. Smoked sausages are often served on their own, either hot or cold, with slices of bread and a spoonful of mustard on the side. Thinly sliced sausages frequently appear on cold buffet platters together with traditional cheeses and a selection of crude vegetables.
This wonderful dessert is one of the gems of our Austro-Hungarian culinary heritage. The Slovaks, not having their own state up until 1993, were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1867 and 1918. It seems that numerous ethnic cuisines of the Empire blended well together, no matter how oppressive this period is seen by Slovak historians. I, for my part, am very thankful to my Grandma, who was fluent both in Hungarian and Slovak, for introducing me to the art of strudel-making. Her poppyseed, nut, apple or cheese strudels were simply DIVINE.
5. Potato bread
If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t miss a chance to taste our potato bread next time you’re in Slovakia. Now, I’m not saying this because I’m Slovak. Bread is part of my everyday diet (however unhealthy it may sound by the latest standards), and I’m a discerning customer, but I do believe the potato bread is something my country can be proud of. Buy good honest bread from small bakers, many of whom use traditional baking techniques and long preserved family recipes to make winning breads. Ask locals if you don’t know where to find them.
6. Traditional cheeses
Made from cow’s or sheep’s milk cheese, these artisanal cheeses are best to be sampled at our salashes. Some of these mountain farms (and restaurants in one) offer more than just a tasting experience. You can see the cheeses being made from scratch, learn about the life of batchas, or explore our folk culture.
7. Honey cookies
You’re most likely to find these beautifully decorated cookies at Easter or Christmas time, but you won’t get them in regular shops. They are made to order by skilled ladies like Alžbeta from Kremnické Bane:
I wrote a post about Alžbeta‘s decorative art here.
8. Skalický trdelník
I dare not translate the name of this sublime dessert into English, but to keep the original name would render it unpronounceable for foreign visitors. It may make more sense to explain what’s behind the two words. Skalický is an attribute to Skalica – a small town in the southwest of Slovakia where the traditional recipe for this hollow pastry comes from. Trdelník suggests the way it is made by winding the dough onto a trdlo. But pronunciation problems aside, you will easily find trdelník, if not Skalický, at all food festivals around Slovakia, as well as at permanent trdelník‘s street stalls in the capital city of Bratislava.
9. Cod in Mayonnaise
The recipe for this salad-style dish was invented after the World War II by a Slovak cook from Bratislava. Basically, it is cooked shredded cod mixed with grated carrots, onions and gherkins, seasoned with vinegar and herbs, and covered in mayonnaise. If you’re planning a hiking trip in Slovak mountains, this is what will keep you going. Cod in Mayonnaise is usually eaten in the morning, for breakfast or brunch, and is sold in plastic pots of various sizes or jars labelled as Treska, which is a Slovak word for cod. Buy those marked with an Exklusiv logo if you want a high-quality product. Limited editions of the Treska come in elegant clip-top jars before Christmas.
10. Včelovina mead
The multilayered taste of Včelovina mead is difficult to forget. It captures the sweet flavours of a Slovak summer, and manifold smells of our meadows – all in a bottle of this golden nectar. You won’t buy Včelovina in regular shops, but if you decide to track its origins to Smolenice, you’ll understand why this award-winning mead is so unique. They organize a Medoween festival at Haloween, and a couple of more in the summer, so watch their Facebook page if you want to spend a great day out. Smolenice is a little town in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains, just a little over an hour bus ride from Bratislava – the capital of Slovakia.
You can read more about Včelovina mead here.