Thursday, January 19, 2012

Peking Duck at China House

It was great to have dinner with my friends Aymeric and Smita. We decided on Chinese at the China House at the Grand Hyatt.

It was a very relaxed atmosphere with a lot of great conversation ranging from the state of Indian aviation to French and American politics to my Fun@Work project to the status of women in France, Germany and India.

The highlight of the evening was the Peking Duck which was outstanding. Peking Duck is one of the specialities of Chinese cuisine which has been prepared since the imperial era. The duck is carved by the chef in front of the guests with the thin, crisp skin being offered to the most important person. The meat is eaten with pancakes, spring onions, and hoisin sauce or sweet bean sauce.

Picture taken from the internet.

The proper way to eat it is to first pick up a slice of duck with the help of a pair of chopsticks and dip it into the soy paste. Next, lay it on the top of a thin pancake and add some bars of cucumber and shallot. Finally, wrap it up and savour each morsel.

Picture taken from the internet.

My rating for the China House:

Food - Excellent
Service - A notch below excellent
Ambience - Excellent

Monday, January 2, 2012

Czech food

The best part about visiting a country is trying out the local food. And it helps when you have friends to point you in the right direction.

Czech food is all about garlic soup, mushrooms, potatoes and meat.

Some sort of wafer which was delicious.

Hot cinnamon tea.

The famed garlic soup which is prepared in many different ways.

Meat and pancakes.


I loved this light honey cake.

Street food.

This looked delicious but you can give it a miss.
All flour with a dusting of sugar and cinnamon.

Irena's Garlic soup
3/4 liter of beef buillon or water
4-8 cloves of garlic
Cheese (edam, gouda, emmental)
2 potatoes
1 egg
Pinch of crushed caraway

Bring water or buillon to boil, add crushed garlic and cumin, small cubes of potatoes. Boil till potatoes are soft and add whipped egg. At the end add marjoram.

Put slices of ham and small cubes of cheese in a small bowl, pour soup on it and sprinkle with fried pieces of bread.

Irena's Czech potato pancakes

750 g potatoes
80 g flour
1 egg
150 ml warm milk
6 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of marjoram
½ teaspoon crushed caraway

Peel and gently grate potatoes, let still for 3-5 minutes and then squeeze as much water as possible from potatoes. Pour milk on it and add the other ingredients. Pour in a pan and fry the pancakes.

The beautiful city of Prague

Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe with waxing and waning fortunes during its 1,100 year existence. Founded during the Gothic and flourishing by the Renaissance eras, Prague was the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus then also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became the capital of Czechoslovakia. The city played major roles in the Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, and in modern history generally as the principal conurbation in Bohemia and Moravia whose second city is Brno.

Prague is one of those cities which has many many interesting sights and one can spend a lifetime discovering it. But some of my favourites are:
  • Prague Castle with the St. Vitus Cathedral which store the Czech Crown Jewels
  • Old Town with its Old Town Square
  • The Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square
  • The picturesque Charles Bridge
  • The vaulted Gothic Old New Synagogue of 1270
  • New Town with its busy and historic Wenceslas Square
  • National Museum on the Wenceslas Square
  • Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter) with its Infant Jesus of Prague
  • Josefov (the old Jewish quarter) with Old Jewish Cemetery and Old New Synagogue
  • Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, with its huge collections of glass, furniture, textile, toys, Art Nouveau, Cubism, Art Deco
  • Vyšehrad Castle and Cemetery where many famous Czechs are buried, including the composers Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana
  • Písek Gate, the last preserved city gate of Baroque fortification
  • The Dancing House (Fred and Ginger Building)
  • The Mucha Museum, showcasing the Art Nouveau works of Alfons Mucha

The concert hall

The view across the river

Prague has many bridges. Very picturesque.

The Charles Bridge entrance

View from the Prague Castle

The Senate

The Shrine of Infant Jesus

St Vitus Cathedral.
Reminds me of the Cologne Cathedral.

The changing of the guard.

The tribute to the martyrs.

The astronomical clock in the Old Town.

Absinth is legal and quite popular.

The National Museum at Wenceslas Square

I discovered Alfons Mucha in Prague.

The dancing house. Quite unique.

The medieval silver mining town of Kutna Hora

Kutna Hora is a silver mining town established in 1142 with the first Cistercian Monastery in Bohemia. Together with the Sedlec Ossuary it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The earliest traces of silver have been found dating back to the 10th century, when Bohemia already had been in the crossroads of long-distance trade for many centuries. Silver dinars have been discovered belonging to the period between 982-995 in the settlement of Malín, which is now a part of Kutná Hora. From the 13th to 16th centuries the city competed with Prague economically, culturally and politically.

The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist is a baroque-style church built in a gothic style at the end of the 13th-century.

The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady

Can't make out what this is, but it was near the silver mine.

Stone Fountain - was built in 1495 and sometimes it is also ascribed to Matyas Rejsek. This polygonal structure that was originally decorated by a number of statues stands at a beautiful location on a small square surrounded by a splendid complex of burgher houses. Kutna Hora was always lacking in Kutná Hora, therefore bringing a rich spring through a system of wooden pipes right into the heart of the town was a creditable effort.

The Stone Fountain

Saint Barbara's Church (often incorrectly Saint Barbara Cathedral) is one of the most famous Gothic churches in central Europe. St Barbara is the patron saint of miners (among others), which was highly appropriate for a town whose wealth was based entirely upon its silver mines.

Our first view of the St Barbara's Church

The quaint town

The monumental Jesuit College was build according to plans by the famous Baroque architect Domenico Orsi just next to St. Barbara’s Cathedral between 1667 and 1703. The appearance is quite austere, complying to Jesuit principles, only the front façade resembles Italian palaces of the early Baroque period. The artificial terrace in front of the College was enclosed by a low wall with 13 sculptures of saints favoured by the Jesuits. It was designed as a free resemblance of the Charles Bridge in Prague.

The terrace with its statues of the saints

Am not sure what this beautiful building is but I think it was the Prince's house

Don't miss the tour of the silver mines as well. Overall a very nice day trip from Prague.