Carp tanks appear in streets ahead of Christmas

Photo: CTK

Czech Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the traditional Czech Christmas dish, fried carp. Just like every year, thousands of carp have ended up in tanks in the streets of Prague to be selected by hungry Czechs.

Photo: CTK
A street vendor fishing a carp out of a huge tank and tossing it on a scale to weight it – that’s a scene you may encounter in Prague streets and elsewhere in the country between now and December 24, when all the fish finally end up on Christmas Eve tables.

The carp chosen by an elderly lady at the stall in Prague’s Narodni Street is on the smaller side – one kilo eighty – but it seems to be just what she was looking for. It is about to meet the same fate as hundreds of carp before it: the club and the knife. But not all carp are actually killed right on the spot. Some people take them home alive and keep them in their bathtub until the Christmas Eve. Most Czechs, however, let professionals do the dirty job for them. So, I ask one of the vendors, just how many carp a day pass through his hands?

“I would say some two hundred. That’s not bad at all, considering that this is our first day.”

After selling thousands of carp I ask whether he still feels like eating fish on Christmas Eve:

“I could eat carp all day long. I am looking forward to it more than the people who buy carp at my stall.”

Most of the carp in the streets of Prague come from the country’s largest fish-breeding region of South Bohemia. The biggest carp producing company from Trebon provides the market with some 8 hundred tons of carp each Christmas. Emmerich Cizek from Fishmarket:

Photo: CTK
“Two times a year, in the spring and autumn, we net practically all the fish in the ponds. The carp go to special storage ponds and await distribution. Our company produces about 20 000 tonnes of carp in the autumn, and some 800 tonnes are for the Christmas market.”

Some surveys suggest, however, that carp supremacy at the Christmas table is being threatened by more exotic fish, such as salmon, now widely available on the Czech market. But Emmerich Cizek doesn’t seem to be worried.

“Carp is an exceptional fish. It’s a freshwater fish and contains a high rate of omega 3 acids. Surveys have shown that two hundred grams of carp a week lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. I can only recommend it to those who care about eating a healthy diet. I have tasted a wide variety of carp dishes and I don’t really know which one to recommend because carp is always good. But as I get older and wiser, I prefer to use less seasoning and savour the natural taste of carp meat, which is light and delicious.”