Carp is the traditional Czech Christmas meal found in Prague. This isn't a strange choice because fish has a religious meaning: it's eaten instead of meat on days of fasting. Christmas Eve is a day of fasting and therefore carp features on the menu. Carp is easy to breed and this fish has enough meat between its bones to feed an entire family, which helped it to become a popular meal.
Carp in the streets of Prague — Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone
Several days before Christmas, fish mongers with huge plastic tubs brimming with live carp appear on the streets. Customers select a good-looking specimen from the tub and take it home in a plastic bag. This carp will spend the last days of its life in the bathtub because many Czechs like to eat the fish as fresh as possible.
Not everyone is happy to have a live fish in the bathroom which has to be massacred on Christmas Eve. That’s why many people leave the killing to the vendors, who fish out the carp with a net, weigh it and kill it. This is done very dexterously and the head is cut off in one blow; it'ss later used for cooking carp soup. The fish is covered in flour, breadcrumbs and egg and then fried. Traditionally, carp is served with potato salad made of potatoes, peas, onions, carrots, parsley, celery, pickled gherkins, eggs and mayonnaise.
You'll find live carp sellers in front of Kotva Department store in Republic Square, Námestí Republiky, close to the old town, and in many other places, often just outside metro stations.
Book a table in Plzenska Restaurant in the Municipal House if you don’t like the idea of having a carp in your bathtub. Their Christmas Eve menu features mushroom risotto, fish soup, fried carp and potato salad.