I went past this place every day for a year when I taught at Mat-Fyz. And even though I knew a farmers’ market was hidden somewhere (Hall 22) beyond the knockoff handbags and cheap polyester shirts, I didn’t go before leaving for New York.
On Pan Cuketka’s recommendation, though, I went today, and beyond rows of the best-looking vegetables I’ve ever seen in Prague was the true Holy Grail of the market. Buried near the end of a long aisle of toys, clothes, and belts for sale, and under taped-together blue and green pieces of tarp serving as a roof lies a tiny kitchen with a serving counter. A sign offers four kinds of pho. A minute after you order, you’re handed a steaming bowl of pho, brimming with chopped chiles and green onion, sliced onions, pickled garlic, beef strips, bean sprouts, rice noodles, and broth. (Mine has a tentative red swirl of nuoc cham hot sauce, which I hoped was enough to make me look serious about things but would not be so hot as to bore holes in my sinuses. I was wrong, but it was worth it.)
The Vietnamese population in the Czech Republic is approximately 60,000. Yet the only place you find Vietnamese cuisine is in the Vietnamese market SAPA, or at this market near the Holešovice train station. It’s not clear why, though Mr. C. speculates that the regulations and red tape involved in opening a different kind of restaurant than the ubiquitous Chinese bistros (run by Czech Vietnamese) scares off many would-be proprietors of pho. And that’s a shame, because this is the best food around for miles.