Dim sum is a Cantonese speciality originating in the tea houses of the Silk Road where these small dumplings were served at tea time; those of us more accustomed to the Western dim sum experience know the version sold at Chinese restaurants from carts.
While authentic Chinese food has traditionally been hard to come by in Prague, tasty shumai dumplings and pillowy pork buns can be had in the Czech capital—you just have to know where to look.
Chances are if you peek into one of the city’s hidden courtyards you’ll find TamarindTree, a Cantonese pop-up run by Czechs who have pioneered the dim-sum trend in Prague.
The guy behind the stack of steamer baskets is Ladislav Dvořák, former Asian station chef at the Mandarin Oriental Prague; his business partner Jitka Palusková takes the orders.
“Láďa did an internship in Mandarin Oriental Bangkok where he learned how to make dim sum. He fell in love with [it] and a few years later decided to introduce it to the Czech people,” says Jitka.
The beginnings of their project, which celebrated one year in February, coincided with the take off of food trucks and pop-up restaurants in Prague, and TamarindTree quickly gained a loyal following.
“Street food culture fully came to our country in the past year and we’re very happy to be a part of it,” says Jitka who adds that, “Czech people are much more open to new flavours. There are new interesting food-related projects popping up every month.”
In the beginning their customers were mostly Czechs but the past few months have seen an upswing in the number of foreigners stopping by to get their dim-sum fix.
“We love that because foreigners usually compare us to what they tasted in the world. That is a huge help for us and we can keep doing things better.”
It’s hard to imagine the dim sum here getting better; having attended two of the events myself I can vouch for the tasting plate (95 CZK), a mix of perfectly steamed dumplings filled with duck and chard, shrimp and pork, chicken and shiitake mushrooms.
The menu varies from event to event: a recent visit saw additions of fried beef cheeks dumplings (35 CZK), dumpling soup (70 CZK), and a Peking duck pancake (55 CZK), slivers of moist duck in a soft wholewheat wrapper.
The bestseller though is the pork bun (70 CZK) a slider of pork belly meat marinated in hoisin sauce and garnished with crunchy cucumber and scallion that tends to sell out quickly.
“We use traditional recipes for the dough and original steamers; fllings and sauces are adjusted to what we like. We try to use as many fresh, Czech ingredients as we can,” says Jitka, which means using a local butcher and shopping at the farm markets for herbs and veggies.
The choice of pop-up is pretty inspired—I first caught them outside of the new Bokovka wine bar where patrons queued on a bitingly cold Saturday evening and, more recently, on Restaurant Day. Fans of the operation are wondering when the duo will open a restaurant.
“We would like to have our place oneday but right now we truly enjoy spreading street food culture in our homeland! We love to prepare food outside and do pop-ups at various places.”
Look for TamarindTree March 18 at Kafe Karlín, March 26 at Náplavka farmers’ market, through March 26 at La Bottega restaurants, April 8-10 in Brno and April 21 in Vrchlabí.
Follow TamarindTree on Facebook for additional dates and details.
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