Chlebíčky are Czech open sandwiches and legendary party food.
A little bit of language first. The full name is obložený chlebíček (singular) or obložené chlebíčky (plural) which literally means “small garnished bread(s)”. However, if you say just chlebíček or chlebíčky, everybody in the Czech Republic will know what you mean.
What type of sandwiches are these?
The most important feature is that there is only one slice of bread. Besides this basically anything goes. In general we could say that a chlebíček has three main parts: bread, spread and garnish. The bread is usually plain white baguette called veka. The spread can be anything from butter through typical Czech sandwich spreads like vlašský salát (vlašák). As for the garnish, there are traditional garnishes like cheese, ham, egg and gherkins but there are also luxurious varieties with caviar and smoked salmon. As for the size, the original chlebíčky sandwiches were rather small, nowadays they come in different sizes.
Brief history of chlebíčky
The creator of chlebíčky was a Czech charcuterie shop owner Jan Paukert who founded his shop in 1916 and invented the open sandwich not long after. It was the painter Jan Skramlík who came to his friend Paukert and said that he didn’t like the canapés called jednohubky because they were too small. He suggested that the ideal party food should be for two to three bites. And Paukert did well in taking his friend’s advice. His customers liked the new sandwiches instantly and Paukert’s shop became famous in the whole city of Prague. Many celebrities of that era loved his sandwiches. Among them Jan Werich or Vlasta Burian who even organized parties for his friends where chlebíčky was served.
The popularity of these party sandwiches is still huge. And no wonder, they have a much better bread-garnish ratio than usual sandwiches and because they’re open they look very pretty which makes them ideal party food. People make them typically for birthday or New Year’s Eve celebration but you’ll find them also at very fancy and VIP events.
How to make these sandwiches
As mentioned, anything goes. The original Czechoslovak standardized recipes contained around 100 types of chlebíčky. If you want to make some of the traditional ones, you will need white baguette for bread and some of the typical spreads: vlašský salát, pařížský salát, garlic spread or egg spread…and for the garnish some ham, sliced or grated cheese, boiled eggs and slices of red pepper, tomato and gherkins.
If you want specific recipes, here are several recipes for the spreads and sandwiches.