Tag Archives: markets

Little Vietnam in Prague. Finding Pho.

My favourite dish in the entire world is Pho. First discovered when I was just nineteen and wide eyed in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Min city, after finding my way to the city’s famous Pho 2000. After that I could, and would, quite happily eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A bottle of Tiger on the side and I’m in heaven.             

You can find somewhere serving Pho almost everywhere in the world. In Sydney, for the best and most authentic head to Cabramatta. In London? Head straight to Shoreditch. For the past two weeks I have been craving it more then usual. Most of my Sydney expat friends in London just happen to be of Vietnamese origin, all their parents being born and raised in Vietnam. So it wasn’t just me that was constantly craving a bowl of Pho, or a plate of Summer Rolls – I’m just the only one who is white. So for the past few weeks I had been sending regular messages; “Pho this week?” Though true to London form, making plans isn’t as easy as it should be. So off I set for a week in Prague still thirsty for soup.

One late morning a few days later however, I came across a market which really wouldn’t have looked out of place in any Vietnamese town I have ever been to. Squeezed inbetween stalls selling cheap knives and fake Calvin Klein underwear is where I found a tiny little shop, consisting of a two burner stove, a drinks fridge and a woodern board with a menu. I smelt it before I saw it, coming from a huge pot of broth on the stove; Beef Pho.

In front of the ‘open kitchen’ where several long communal tables with bench seats. Above then sat a wooden board with the menu, in Vietnamese and Czech, though it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read either of them. “One beef Pho please. Oh, and this beer”, opening the fridge and holding up a can of Czech Kozel. Proper South East Asian service; ‘Relaxed’.
  
It came out quickly enough and though it didn’t have a side plate of the usual bean sprouts, basil and mint, it was accompanied by some lemons and a chili and garlic oil. And of course a bottle of chilli sauce. The soup had the usual rice noodles and coriander, though it was a bit light on the spring onions – my favourite part. The broth however was clear, a slight layer of fat sat on top, and was just what I wanted.

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Though not my usual Tiger, I sipped the beer and slurped my soup in the warm and slightly humid weather. Around me small children wander around, their parents minding their respective stalls, Vietnamese chatting and laughter, it felt like being back in South East Asia even though I was as far away from there as I could get. Craving satisfied.

Caldo De Cabeza

Don’t speak Spanish and can’t quite figure out what this one is by the pictures? Sheep’s head soup! Another local dish at the San Pedro Markets in Cusco. Made from cutting a sheep’s head in half and letting it, and everything inside, cook in a broth with turnip and parsley. Only served until 11:00am, this is what the locals eat for breakfast.

‘Unfortunately’ I was unable to try this – what I’m sure was a delicious meal, as I arrived after 11:00am. A few friends however did get a chance to try it, and I managed to grab a couple of pictures and hear their opinion of the Cusco specialty.

When asked what it tasted like, one person replied:

“You know when you walk past a farm and it smells like sheep?…That’s exactly what it tastes like.”

Personally, I understand exactly what they are trying to say…I think. But if you can’t quite visualise it exactly, I spoke to a couple of other friends, Joe and Kim, who went one morning to have breakfast like the locals do.

Sheep Head Soup

“The sheep wasn’t to bad, but there wasn’t a whole lot of meat on the head, but as you can see it came with the ears on it, so that was a nice touch.”                    (See above picture).

Remember how I said that the soup is made with the head and everything that’s inside the head? Well, if you have a good look at the picture below, you can see exactly where the brain fits into the skull! If your ‘lucky’ enough, you may even get served up a bowl with a complimentary eyeball – or two. Yum…

Sheep Skull

“The broth had a bit of an odd taste to it, but I think that is just how they make it because when I had something else there it tasted the same. Other then that, there were a few different types of tatters in the broth. Pretty exciting stuff!”

So, if your ever in Cusco and feel like a local style breakfast, head down to San Pedro Markets. You will find this specialty in the ‘food court’ section of the warehouse, located in the far back left corner – and remember, ask for caldo de cabesa!

A big thanks to Joe and Kim for helping out on this one, providing their opinions and personal photos.

Toad and Fish Soup, San Pedro Market Cusco, Peru

When I was told that I would have a chance to try this local dish I was instantly keen to add something new to the list of odd things I’v eaten in forgien countries. I mean, I like frog’s legs – how different could it have been?

After first having a walk around the fresh fruit and vegetable section outside the inside markets, we headed through to the meat section and waited while our local Peruvian guide, Roland, disappeared and returned a few minutes later with a fresh bowl of toad and fish soup. From what I could see just by looking at the bowl of cloudy liquid, which contained toad, an unidentifiable oily fish, toasted corn kernals and shallots.

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I was one of only a few who was willing to try it, and once it was offered to me I became a little over confident and gave the soup a good stir to make sure I scooped up some toad and chunks of the unknown fish which had settled on the bottom. I was eager to try it, though I probably shouldn’t have been because it was definitely a taste which I didn’t enjoy at all. With an extreamly strong fishy taste, and a hint of something else which I’m assuming was the toad, it was definitely hard to swallow. If keeping it down wasn’t hard enough, there was still the four or five large corn kernals which I had decided to eagerly collect on the spoon as well. To large to swallow them with the rest of the soup’s contents, I was forced to chew them, and each time I bit into one the explosion of juices and the soup’s flavour reminded me of what I had just eaten.

Now, I’v eaten a lot of things from local markets all over the world, but I can honestly say that this soup is the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth. (Bold statement right there, but I stand by it!)  Probably the only dish which I would not try again – more for the locals!

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Luckily we had just bought a ’round’ of the local bread, which is baked in a circle and can easily be 30-40 cms in diameter! Nice and crusty on the outside, while soft and fluffy underneath, it is delicious! I was quite happy to snack on the bread until the flavour of the toad was completely gone!

For more of the weird and wonderful things which can be purchused at the San Pedro Markets in Cusco, Peru, check out this blog: http://www.everintransit.com/weird-wonderful-things-at-cuscos-san-pedro-market/

Special thanks to a friend, Emily, for the pictures and capturing this moment.