Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Thai's Asian Food Shop

"Great acts are made up of small deeds."
-Lao Tzu

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 Francouska 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 Zborovska.

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. The 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, oysters 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. T

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
Francouzská 66
Prague 10

Mon-Sat: 10 am-8 pm
Thu: closed
Sun: 3 pm–8 pm

Dedicated to Max and Will


Pivní Filosof said...

Haha!!! Thanks for the dedication.
Great post, BTW. It does look like a great place to buy stuff that is otherwise hard to get here. That is the kind of shop I like!
And what if you have to travel a bit around the city to get your fix? It is part of the fun, I guess. We have all become too lazy, I think.
Anyway, you might know it, but there is a japanese grocery store in Korunni. When I worked with Japanese people here, they use to do their shopping there, so it can{t be bad. I think there is another one in Puskinovo Nam. In Prague 6.

Brewsta said...

Didn't know about the Japanese place. I'll try to check it out.

Julia said...

The place on Korunni is a Korean-Japanese place and has a good selection of frozen foods, etc. And if you're craving flavor, you can get homemade kimchi. Really excellent!

Anonymous said...

Where on Korunni is the other place? Went on a wild goose chase for it last summer, didn't see it. Will certainly go to above place, though. Mmmm, frozen exotic stuff...

Thanks, Brewsta! Yer the Brewsta-est!!

Anonymous said...

The Japanese/Korean place is near the corner of Korunni/Sumava.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant Korunni and Sumavska, mpt Sumava.
The shop is on the north side of Korunni, between Sumavska and Chodska.

Good_Will said...

Well damn! I was expecting it to be dedicated to me, since I was the first person to tell you about it. :(

First Afghanistan then Iraq, and now this........

But, ahem, putting the post in perspective, it looks like they have a slightly bigger store now, since they didn't have the jars of fish when they were at Gorazdova.

Just around the corner from me, it was. And now you get the benefits of all their goodies within walking distance.

Envious? Me? ;D

Cheers, Will

Brewsta said...

Ah, Good Will, I have a frightfully bad memory. But such unintentional slights are easliy remedied in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brewsta, heads up on your maps--you can type the address for any of these places into Google and choose the "Map" tab to get the local map for Prague. Waaaaay better interface to be honest. is for losers. :)

Brewsta said...

That'd be me:

Unknown said...

Hey, thanks for the info, great shop!

I have a question though, how do you actually fry the spring rolls? They look so great and I can't seem to be able to do this "deep frying"...

Also, do you have any idea where one can but some broth in cans? Those dry concentrates are so artificial!:(

Thanks alot for your help!:)


Anonymous said...

This place has fish sauce, peanut oil, all the hard to find stuff to really make authentic Asian food. My cousin definitely goes here, gets lost in the back room, it's amazing.
It has great friendly service and fair prices too.

Asian Food and Drink said...

That's pretty interesting stuffs to know about. thks