Slovakia's Good Luck Fish Dish

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In general, people in Slovakia are not used to eating fish, but around the winter holidays, Slovakians and other eastern Europeans enjoy a local specialty: fried horse-shoe shaped slices of carp served with a mayonnaise potato salad. The horse-shoe shape is viewed as a sign of good luck. The carp are bred in special ponds and then are distributed to specialist shops in all the towns and villages before the holidays. Many Slovakians keep the fish alive in their bath tubs before preparing the traditional meal.


  1. 00:00 M/S: Carp waits in the bathtube for getting part of Christmas dinner. 00:06 D/S: Carp in the bathtube. 00:10 SOT: Frantisek Porkert, fish producer. 00:16 W/S: Fishermen fishing out the pond. 00:24 M/S: Fish in the pond from which the water is sewed. 00:28 W/S: Sewing of the pond and fishing out the carps. 00:32 M/S: Fishing out the carps. 00:39 W/S: Fishermen are sizing carps standing in the water. 00:44 D/S: A northern pike among carps. 00:50 W/S: Carps sizing. 00:55 M/S: Carps sizing. 01:00 SOT Peter Krissak, fish breeder 01:05 M/S: Carp in the market. 01:10 M/S: Child is watching carps in the market. 01:16 W/S: Christmas carps selling. 01:20 D/S: Carps in a shop. 01:26 W/S: Carps in a shop. 01:29 D/S: Slaughtering a carp by a professional butcher. 01:32 D/S: Portioning a carp. 01:35 M/S: Professional butchers are cleaning carps in a shop. 01:40 D/S: Portioning a carp 01:47 W/S: Professional butchers are portioning carps for customers. 01:53 W/S: Fishing out the pond. 02:00 M/S: A carp in the market. 02:04 W/S: Special shop with Christmas fish, open just before Christmas. 02:11 M/S: People buying a Christmas carp. 02:17 D/S: A head of slaughtered carp. 02:20 W/S: Special shop with Christmas fish, open just before Christmas. 02:24 D/S. Carp held in a bathtube. 02:28 D/S: Carp held in a bathtube. 02:33 SOT.: Peter Krissak, fish breeder. 02:38 M/S: Slaughtering a carp at home at Christmas Eve. 02:46 SOT Denis Varga, young man who keeps tradition. 02:52 D/S: Crumbing the carp slices. 02:56 D/S: Crumbing the carp slices. 02:58 D/S: Crumbing the carp slices. 03:04 M/S: Frying the carp slices. 03:11 D/S: Frying the carp slices. 03:15 D/S: Frying the carp slices. 03:20 W/S: Fish in a pond, catched in net. 03:25 M/S: Fisherman fishing out the pond. 03:29 D/S: Carp horseshoe-shaped slices, crumbed and fried and served with potato salad are traditional Christmas dish in Slovakia.


  1. soundbite (Slovakian)
    Frantisek Porkert, Fish producer: Here in Slovakia, we are not used to eating fish. We are far away from big rivers, maybe that´s why people do not have eating fish encoded in their genes. Just three days before Christmas everybody remembers that he should eat some fish, according to tradition. Other groups of fish consumers are people with health problems.
  2. soundbite (Slovakian)
    Peter Krissak, Fish breeder: In Czech republic, fish breeding has very long tradition. People in some regions tried to utilize the infertile land by building ponds there. A cyprinid fish from the Danube river called "sazan" turned out to be the most effective for breeding. Sazan was cultivated into a carp suitable for fish farming. The tradition of eating fish came to Slovakia after World War I, in time of Czechoslovakia, when Czech specialists for fishing industry brought their knowledge here. Until the carp reaches the Christmas table, they is breed for three years to weigh 2 to 3 kilos. In autumn fishermen fish the carp out of ponds and put them into storage basins. The carp are ready for Christmas market after three months in the basins. They are very drained after this time. Some people want to save the life of their Christmas carp and set them free by putting the fish into a lake or river. But there is just very small probability that it will survive. The carp are not able to eat during the winter when the water is cold. Carps are distributed one week before Christmas. People usually keep them at home, in their bath tubs. Children like to feed them but the fish is not able to eat and is just waiting for Christmas.
  3. soundbite (Slovakian)
    Denis Varga, Young keeper of tradition: We cut Christmas carp into horseshoe – shaped slices, sprinkle them in flour, egg and breadcrumbs, put them into a pan and fry for three minutes on each side. Carp is the most significant fish for industry of European Union. Ancient Romans started keeping them in ponds. People in Slovakia usually eat fish once a year, on Christmas Eve. They must be very careful as carp has large amount of small bones which can be dangerous.