Date: November 18, 2012
Location: Apartment in Vinohrady, Praha 2
Mood: Headache 😦
Listening to: My roommate’s music
No, November 17-18 are not Asian Days for everyone in Prague, it was just for my friends and I. November 17 is actually an important date in Czech history, where students stood up to the Communist occupation and started the Velvet Revolution, so it’s a national holiday. Unfortunately this holiday is celebrated mostly by demonstrations and protests, so when we were looking for cultural things to do, we found a few too many pictures of police in riot gear. So we decided to stay clear of Wenceslas Square.
This is where the Asian-ness comes in. As a little bit of background info, the Vietnamese are the third largest minority (after Slovaks and Romani) in the Czech Republic, a lot came during the communist era as ‘skilled workers’ and well, set up shop. Literally. On almost every corner there’s a potraviny, convenience store, and most of them seem to be owned by Vietnamese people. So naturally, there’s a pretty sizable ‘Little Hanoi’ on the outskirts of Prague, where you can get everything from knockoff purses to Phở. It’s not quite easy to get to, involving a metro ride, a bus, and a decent walk, but it was worth it.
Here’s the entrance- the area is called TTTM Sapa. No, it’s not a super-plush part of town, the stores are in old Communist Era buildings shaped like cement shoeboxes, and to get there you pass more than a few apartment complexes with that characteristic boxy architecture. But as soon as you pass through these gates, it doesn’t feel like Europe anymore, suddenly European faces are the minority, and everything is written in Vietnamese first, English second, and Czech third. Quite interesting.
…Or, you know, not in English or Czech at all. The main shopping area (a warren of little stalls selling different types of clothing) reminded me of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (which I STILL haven’t written about!) and was fascinating. The above picture is a little alley with a few good restaurants. Unfortunately neither Kasia nor I were in the mood for Phở, so we got…
Bubble tea! Lychee for me (left) and banana milk tea for Kasia. It was her first time trying bubble tea and I bought tapioca pearls at the giant supermarket so we could make it at home instead of spending 60kc ($3, but food is much cheaper here than in the US, so that seems absurd to pay for a drink) on it.
But the weekend wasn’t over- two of the things that I got at the awesome Asian grocery store were sticky rice, rice paper wraps for summer rolls, and seaweed (nori) wraps for sushi.
- Summer Rolls are like Spring Rolls except the wrapper is see-through rice paper, which is a little chewy, and they’re not fried. They’re really good road trip snacks (I learned this with my former roommate going from Nashville to Ohio,) and fun to make.
I just googled summer rolls and turns out they are Vietnamese, but I’m pretty sure the sushi rolls push it over into “Asian.” Oh, and the fact that we went out for Korean food that night. I don’t have a picture of the spread, but for 600kc ($30) my roommate and I got bulgogi (fried beef and veggies, that you fry on the grill set in the table and wrap in lettuce) plus kimchi, kimchi pancakes, jap chae (rice noodles) and fried rice. Oh and a couple of other side dishes I can’t remember. Like I said, food is pretty cheap here. And amazingly delicious. Happy Asian days!
The next day we ate McDonald’s and KFC. Hey, we’re allowed to be homesick, even three months into the program.
*Note: When I was looking up Sapa on other blogs and sites, several claim that only Vietnamese people or those with wholesale licenses are allowed in. We (two white girls) walked right through the gates with nobody looking twice, and it was Saturday afternoon. We didn’t see any signage, either. There were also other white people in the big supermarket, which also served wholesale customers (we stood in line behind a guy with several flats of beer- I HOPE it was for his potraviny and not personal use!) but we weren’t the only ones doing our personal shopping. So I guess the Vietnamese/Wholesale requirement remains a mystery.
Till next time!