Saturday, August 7, 2010

Czech Cuisine, almost

So I have a lot to say about Czech cuisine. And I'm going to get to it in just a few posts. I'll probably have a whole week of posts about Czech foods, beer and dining. But first some decidedly unCzech food in the middle of Prague.

While the Czech Republic was under the harsh thumb of the communists, they played hosts for other peoples also under soviet rule. A large number of North Vietnamese people came to study, work and live here in the Czech Republic. The so called Vietcong, and others from the north moved here to attend schools or as guest workers, and they have stayed. There are 2 main Vietnamese enclaves in a Prague. A large unnamed compound in Malešice and TTTM(Trung Tâm Thương Mại for anyone who was curious)Sapa in Libus between Praha 10 and Praha 11.

Both are massive sections of warehouse space that has been broken up into small stands where cheap Asian goods are sold in bulk.
Plastic toys,
wedding dresses,
In fact whole mannequin families probably hundreds if not thousands of sellers, stockers, and buyers. What kind of food do you think they serve here. Pho of course! We were looking for an authentic bowl of Hanoi style Pho.(pronounced fuh)
We went to the TTTM Sapa compound to try a bowl of Pho bo which basically is a beef broth soup with rice noodles and some fresh vegetables and beef thrown in to order. The broth is left simmering for hours to extract all of the flavor from the beef and it individually served into bowls where the noodles, vegetables, herbs and meat are all cooked a la minute(to order)
We got our bowl from the restaurant
Which was the site of Anthony Bourdain's filming of his show No Reservations. However he didn't actually eat at this shop, more on that later. Here is our steaming bowl of Pho on a cold rainy day that was perfect for Pho.

How about a little glamor shot of my nice tendon-y beef. This is the good stuff people. A little bite, and pure protein goodness.Mmm it's making me hungry just looking at it. This was an amazing bowl of Pho, but actually the best we had was at the large unnamed complex in Malešice. There are no signs to lead you to the right place, and it's a long complicated route from Metro to the bus system to this marketplace. But this bowl of Pho with marinated pork was one of the best bowls of Pho I have had in my life. Perfectly clear broth but full of flavor. Nice firm noodles and the best most tender delicious meat.... MMMM

This was actually the dish that Anthony Bourdain had in TTTM SAPA Bún ốc. Basically it's rice noodles cooked in Snail broth, with a lot of tomatoes in the broth. Lots of greens and big hunks of fried tofu, more tomatoes and a big handful of snails. Jess loved this soup a lot and I really wish that I could have liked it more, but I mean EWWWW--- Tomatoes in STOCK? it's like tomato soup, one of the few things on the planet I just can't stand. After adding some garlic flavored vinegar and spicy red sauce I thought the balance of the stock was a lot better. But I still just can't like tomato soup.On the other hand the snails were quite a delight. The very hard texture of boiled snails, but tender enough to eat comfortably. The stock was heavily flavored with snail shells I think and the tofu, greens, onions and everything else was cooked perfectly. This uses a smaller vermicelli rice noodle then the traditional fat Pho noodle.
MM MM snails and this place doesn't skimp on the snails either.

There is only one photo I wish I could show you but we never got a non-blurry picture. This is a large compound with a lot of people working in it. So everywhere at lunch time the restaurants are delivering food, mostly soups. This is all done on bike. So there are people riding bikes everywhere quite fast balancing 2-4 huge bowls of Pho on a tray with one hand. Too bad they were traveling too fast to get a good picture.


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