Thai's Asian Food Shop
For hard-to-find ingredients and other Asian goodies, this small Vinohrady store is your best bet
"Great acts are made up of small deeds."
At my home, at this very moment, sits a pot of homemade tom kha gai soup. V makes it a few times a year. Love the stuff.
But cooking Asian specialties at home in Prague is not so easy. Getting the proper ingredients has often required a scavenger hunt around the city and occasionally necessitated the import of ingredients from abroad.
But Thai's Asian Food Shop is making things a whole lot easier. Even more so for us since it moved from Gorazdova in Prague 2 up to Francouzská in Prague 10.The shop is just two small rooms, but in that limited space, you'll see a respectable selection of hard-to-find stuff.
In the front room, there is a freezer holding a wide variety of seafood. There are some treasures in that chest.
You will usually find one kilogram packages of frozen shrimp (prawns). These are special for a few reasons.
First, a bag only costs 250 CZK. That is about half of what a similar-sized bag of frozen shrimp will cost you at the fancy shop, Seafood, on Zborovská.
The shrimp at Thai's Asian Food Shop have been cleaned and shelled and frozen -- uncooked. That last part is key. These shrimp are terrific for cooking.
The pre-boiled shrimp you'll find elsewhere are problematic if a recipe requires that you put them on the stove. Heat will often cause them to shrink and get hard.
The pre-boiled shrimp are fine if you want an instant shrimp cocktail after they defrost.
I saw frozen, uncooked shrimp at Tesco this week, but they were uncleaned, with shells and heads on.
In this front freezer, there was another fantastic catch: Barbecued eel. I'd never seen it for sale before at a market. The big unagi costs 250 CZK. This seemed like a great bargain to me.
Previously, the best deal I'd found for barbecued eel was at the Japanese restaurant, Miyabi. There, it costs 390 CZK. It comes with rice and miso soup, but the eel is half the size of the one I bought at the shop.
I defrosted the eel when I got home. Since it was already cooked, I heated it up in the microwave. It was absolutely delicious. Such fine meat. I mixed up a little sweet soy chili sauce on the side and ate the whole thing.
I regretted not buying the second one I saw in the freezer. I went back the next week, but it was gone. I was told they'd get more the next day.
In the front freezer, there are many other types of seafood, including cuttlefish, small shrimp, mackerel, and fish balls.
Next to this freezer, are two stand-up coolers that have a wide variety of Asian roots and greens for cooking.
For tom kha gai soup, you can get galangal. This ginger-like root is one of the harder to find ingredients in Prague.
They also have packages of kaffir lime leaves. This is one of my favorite flavors in Thai cooking.
The shop has lemon grass, Thai basil, cilantro, green peppercorns, bean sprouts, and several things I had never seen before.
Trying to figure out what some things are can be a bit of a challenge. More on that later.
There is another freezer in the back room.
We picked up some frozen spring rolls from there. These were vegetarian. I fried up a few.
They were very simple, just filled with shredded sour cabbage. But I'll say they were very good.
I can't tell you how many times I've had spring rolls that had off-tasting filling. Not a problem with these. They had a fresh, clean taste.
The shelves in the back room are filled with a great variety of products you won't find too many other places in Prague.
It really is quite impressive how many things they fit into such a small area.
There are rices, beans, noodles, and nuts.
There are all kinds of sweet sauces, soy sauces, oyster sauces, curry pastes, and soup mixes.
There are cans of exotic fruits and vegetables, and jars of little fish. I can't begin to name them all.
There are many things I think I'll probably never try. But then V will find some exotic recipe calling for something I've never heard of before, so you never know.
You can even find some soybean pudding or more ordinary rice pudding if you want.
On a recent visit, we came back with several items we needed for our cooking.
There was masaman curry paste (59 CZK), unsalted peanuts (39 CZK), a liter of coconut milk (59 CZK), sweetened cream of coconut (39 CZK) -- they also have unsweetened, Indonesian tamarind soup paste (39 CZK), and hoisin sauce (45 CZK).
One favorite little snack we found was their wasabi broad beans. They're not cheap at 65 CZK for a can. But these are the most addictive little things I've found in a while.
Someone shared their wasabi peas with me recently and I found they didn't taste as nice.
These flat beans have plenty of that great sharp, sweet flavor.
One problem at Thai's Asian Food Shop is the man I always see working there. He is friendly enough. But he doesn't speak English. Or Czech. So, don't expect him to answer too many questions.
But if you speak Vietnamese, then you are in luck.
Another problem is that they do run out of things I must have like cilantro and eel.
It is possible to make a trip to the shop on the Vinohrady-Vršovice border and come away disappointed.
But I'd say these are minor problems that are far outweighed by the benefits. There are a lot of goodies there. Even I am surprised that I've had so much to say about so little a space.
Yes, Thai's Asian Food Shop is small indeed. But it is a great act to follow.
Thai's Asian Food Shop
Dedicated to Max and Will
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