The Czechlist: Dam si tikka masala, prosim


(The Independent)

There’s a neighborhood just north of Prague’s Old Town called Holešovice. That’s pronounced “hole-ye-so-vye-say,” if you’re wondering. It’s a nice neighborhood sandwiched between two pretty hipster-y parts of the city, Letna and Karlin. This gives Holešovice the unique quality of being an eclectic and hip yet affordable part of Prague.  

With its nice array of cafes and convenient location to the rest of the city, Holešovice has quickly become one of my favorite neighborhoods to chill in. I probably visited it, like, once a week for the first two months I was here.  

That all changed a couple weeks ago. My parents and I were sifting through the Holešovice market, the appropriately-named de facto center of the neighborhood, when we smelled the unmistakable scent of Indian food wafting towards us. If I remember correctly, it might have been saag paneer. Whatever it was, we were hooked and we stumbled towards it in a daze.  

Ten minutes later, I was digging into chicken tikka masala and fresh garlic naan. And when I mean fresh, I mean I saw them scoop up the naan dough and slam it in the oven. I’ve never seen that before.  

Sidenote: The title of this article translates to “I’ll have the tikka masala, please.” 

It goes without saying that the food was sensational, or else I wouldn’t devote an entire article to it. Even after my parents and I were trapped by the smell, I instinctually lowered my expectations, because it’s Indian food in central Europe. Asian food in this part of the continent can be extremely hit or miss. This was a hit – not only did this little hole in the wall place have some of the best ethnic food I’ve had in Prague, it was some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had, period. On top of the taste, my meal cashed out to an insane 119 Kr, or $5.23. That’s ludicrous.  

You may be thinking – sure, Daniel found a place that’s cheap and tasty, hasn’t he found tons of joints like that all over the city? What makes this one so special?  

My answer to this theoretical question is hard to put to words, but the closest thing I can put down is the hominess and atmosphere of it. This place isn’t a high-flying business. It’s a tent with two picnic tables outside. The kitchen is smaller than my sophomore dorm room in North. The menu is maybe a dozen items. It’s all run by a small family, and their toddler daughter waddles around you while you chow down. Sometimes I sit next to her and eat while she watches educational videos on YouTube. I’m rambling, and that’s the thing; it’s hard to pin down this feeling. The reason I’ve been back four times in the past two weeks isn’t just because of the food, it’s because I feel like family when I’m there. Being thousands of miles from my three families: My real one, UConn and The Daily Campus – that feeling goes a long way.  

That feeling warms my heart every time I go back.  

Actually, it might be the tikka masala.  

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