It started about a year ago: in early December 2011, we had a great couple (hi Nina and Art!) over for a cooking class. We had fun, cooked some food, drank some wine and talked about things to do in Prague. Well into the conversation, we were asked: "Oh, we almost forgot: Do you know where's the seat of the Strudel Man? We definitely want to see the Strudel Man!" We had no idea what they were talking about. Nina and Art proceeded to tell us that they had seen a travel show on TV where a lady visited Prague and had "the best strudel of her life" from a vendor selling strudels out of a window in a small street, probably in the Zizkov district. So we started researching the establishment online and found… absolutely nothing. Luckily, Nina and Art knew the address so we printed out the map for them and told them what else was in the area that they might enjoy. Two days later, we received a message that they enjoyed the strudel. We forgot about the strudel after this incident, but here and there, a traveller from the US would ask about the strudels from the small vendor somewhere off the centre. Nevertheless, we would still keep forgetting to actually visit the place. Fast forward to two days ago: we received an email from a lady (hi Sandra!) who has booked a tour with us: "Have you heard of the Susta strudel? There was a TV show in the US and they said they have the best apple strudel!" It was a sign. We knew we simply have to go to check it out. So we did. Yesterday. And here's our report:
The Susta strudel is an establishment you simply have to know about to find. There are not signs, directions, no online presence, no advertising, nothing. Mr Susta bakes his strudels in a side street of the Zizkov district in the shadows of the Vitkov National Memorial (a sight we definitely recommend that everyone visit), in the "kocarkarna" (formerly a small storage room for baby carriages) of a prefabricated panel house from the 1970s. The sign just says "Strudel". And that's exactly what Mr Susta (we assume it's the man behind the counter) is selling - strudel. Namely three kinds: apple strudel, farmer's (curd) cheese strudel and poppy seed strudel. The text next to the window says the precise ingredients of the strudels. We opted for the apple and the poppy strudel. They we both sugar coated and wrapped in a neat paper wrapper. The strudels, weighting at 480g (about one pound), cost from CZK 42 to 48 (less than two Euros).
And now for the most important part: how does it taste? It's good. Is it special? Is it the best strudel we've ever had? Not really. The apple strudel was better than the poppy version - the poppy filling was too sweet and lacked the rich flavor we are used to in other offerings, and was also denser than usual (which hints at the use of flour or other filler). The apple strudel was much better as far as the flavor is concerned, but we like the strudel at other places in Prague better, incl. the strudel at the Café Savoy, for instance. So yes, Susta Strudel (Jeseniova 29, Prague 3) is a nice and unique (and very local) place to stop at when you visit the Vitkov National Monument, but is it worth a separate visit? Not really, at least in our opinion.
Can't wait to visit and/or return to Prague and want to get a taste of some strudel? Don't worry, we are here to help: what you'll find below is a strudel recipe we have borrowed from our food blogger friend, Kacka Zvykacka. It's a recipe of our (soon former) First Lady, Livia Klausova, which she likes to use when she bakes strudel to welcome visiting heads of state (she really does that, allegedly). We think it's quite telling that while the US First Lady promotes vegetables and healthy foods, the Czech First Lady bakes strudels.
Apple Strudel Recipe
200ml/1cup double cream
500g/17,6oz of flour
pinch of salt
- Let all the ingredients reach room temperature. Put the flour in a bowl, cut up the butter into small pieces directly in the flour, add the egg and the pinch of salt.
- Work the dough with hands, gradually adding the cream, until the dough sticks together and is compact.
- Put the dough in the fridge for an hour, and for 20 minutes in the freezer (optional - to allow for better rolling).
- Roll the dough with a pin to a thin layer.
- Put breadcrumbs into the middle part of the strudel (the breadcrumbs will soak up the juice from the apples, leaving the bottom crust dry and crispy), and the filling on top of the breadcrumbs (apples cut to thin slices, cinnamon, cane sugar [depending on how sweet the apples are], raisins marinated in (Czech) rum, calvados or other aromatic alcohol (or apple juice if you don't like alcohol), and walnuts, lots of them.
- Put the sides of the strudel over each other and close the strudel at the ends.
- Bake in over at 170C for about 40 minutes until brown.