Czech Food – Svickova
Chalkboards and menus very often abbreviate this meal to just Svíčková but actually it’s full name is “Svíčková na smetane” which means “tenderloin with cream”. Without doubt this meal is in the top 3 most popular Czech meals along with goulash and schnitzel. Phonetically is sounds like “sveetch-kovah”. Let me explain what you should be getting.
What is Svíčková na Smetaně?
For a start Svíčková is a beef dish and specifically it should be beef coming from Sirloin or Shortloin part of a cow hence why on an English menu this meal is usually listed as “Beef Sirloin”. So you are looking for high quality marbled beef with a layer of fat on the side, reasonably thinly sliced so no more than 2 slices of beef on the plate. Restaurants can try and get away with offering part of a tip roast or bottom-round roast (less fat content so less moist). On the beef should be a thick creamy gravy which historically would have been made from root vegetables. Finally, a slice of lemon on which should be whipped cream with cranberries or cranberry jam. You might think it’s an unusual combination but the lemon gives it a little kick in the middle of all the sweet gravy and cranberry jam compliments beef very well.
If you don’t want that part then it’s very easy to just lift it up and separate it. Also on the gravy will be a side of bread dumplings. In this case the dumplings are there to soak up the gravy, the meat is there to provide taste and you sweeten as required using the cream and cranberry. Always save a piece of dumpling to wipe the last sauce from the plate!
Variations of Svíčková na Smetaně
The two big variants with Svíčková are the dumplings and the gravy. You would always expect bread dumplings but occasionally you’ll find a mix of regular (houskove) and herb dumplings (Karlovarsky bread dumplings with green herbs) or if you are really lucky it will be bacon dumplings. For the gravy some places go very light whereas others offer a gravy that looks almost orange but the common factor is that it is a thick creamy gravy that has a sweet taste. Restaurants would not expect to serve anything other than dumplings with Svíčková but on occasion I have seen this served with rice.