Wondering where the real Vietnamese food is in Prague? Are fresh herbs and Asian goods your thing?
Where did you get those bags of frozen tiger shrimp? Where do you get your fresh Thai basil and long beans? Where did you get all those fresh herbs for your Vietnamese summer rolls?
If we had a nickel (a Czech koruna, perhaps?) for every time we’d been asked these questions, we’d have enough money to buy a vote in the Czech parliament.
We covet the secret no longer. Here’s the scoop…
We’ve been to two Vietnamese market mazes in Prague. One called “Sapa” (named after the hill tribe town in northern Vietnam) in Prague 4, and another unnamed network of Vietnamese shops in the Malesice district in Prague 10. Although the pho and produce are decent in Sapa, we’ve become more familiar with the Malesice outpost.
Malesice Vietnamese Market: How to get there:
By car: Take Vinohradska away from the center of town past Strasnice (Vinohradska becomes Cernokostelecka). When you reach Depo Hostivar metro station (where the Esso gas station is), take a left on Sazecska. Head about 600 meters, past the printing press and take a right onto Tiskarska. The turn in for the market is another 500 meters or so. Enjoy navigating the tight parking areas within the market maze.
By public transport: From Zelivskeho or Depo Hostivar, take the 208 bus away from the city in the direction of Dolni Pocernice to stop Tiskarska. From Tiskarska stop, walk up the road about 50 meters to the driveway entrance (marked “Velkoobchod”, or something similar). To return to town, cross over the grassy divider to the street going the opposite direction and pick up the bus.
Getting in: On our first visit with a Thai friend, we were told that access was granted to “Asians, those with dark skin, or zivnostensky list holders for retail businesses.” We've walked and driven in dozens of times in the last 2-3 years without a problem, having only to present a zivnostensky list once. Just smile at the guards and walk/drive past.
Once you get in: On the main entrance road are two shops on the left that sell various Asian goods and tea sets; one has a shellfish freezer with shrimp, mollusks, etc.
On the corner where the entrance road turns right are two food shops full of herbs and other Asian foods. We had become regulars for fresh herbs and tiger prawns at the shop on the corner closest to the turn (across from the building pictured with flags). If you show curiosity, you will be rewarded with advice on how to cook Vietnamese food and use the products properly.
After the entrance road turns right, you'll notice a small parking lot. That parking lot traverses a series of alleys marked A, B, C, D, etc. Walk up alley “A” for arguably the best pho in Prague. Half way up alley A on the left-hand side is a scruffy little soup bar whose windows are lined with fresh greens. Try this one, or continue further up alley A to the end on the left. Caddy corner to the public toilets is the other choice pho kitchen.
Yes, we know, there aren't many competitors serving pho in Prague. Having been to northern Vietnam, we can vouch that the two places we mention here serve the real deal, boiled from beef bones in giant metal cauldrons. There are other places (in the center of Prague and also out at Malesice) that serve faux pho made from pho bouillon cubes.