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Thinking outside the Box

Thai Box steps up simple street food with its sleek, eco-conscious offering


Posted: August 21, 2013

By Jennifer Day - For the Post | Comments (2) | Post comment

Thinking outside the Box

Walter Novak

Thai Box shows that street food can still be a healthy alternative.

Thai Box has come to town, and it has nothing to do with sweaty men in shorts sparring it out in a ring. On the contrary, set in a shaded courtyard behind the Kotva department store, with its vegan, vegetarian, farm-fresh, sugar-, gluten-, lactose- and additive-free dishes served in biodegradable packaging, it's downright nonaggressive.

Thai Box isn't a bad name for the new "authentic Thai and high-quality street food" spot that popped up just a few weeks ago, housed in a simple but sleek wooden hut surrounded by four small foldable tables and chairs for airy outdoor dining - not quite Bangkok, but it works. Guests order, pay and pick up their food, to-go or to-stay, at the counter. Despite the impermanent look, the owners say they hope the place is here to stay. It remains to be seen how this will be achieved through the colder months.

On this visit, two smiley ladies and a man worked behind the counter, chatting and whipping up dishes for all passers-by to see. Early on a Monday evening, the tables were sparsely occupied. The eatery may have some way to go before it's truly buzzing, but the upside is a short wait and guarantee of freshly cooked food.

For such a small operation, the menu is fairly extensive, offering 14 different main, starter and dessert dishes with playful names such as Bangkok dangerous (110 Kč), a tofu or soy-meat red curry with bamboo shoots and Thai basil, or muay Thai salad, (75/85 Kč) a cucumber, carrot or green papaya salad with green beans, lime, garlic, chili and lemon. The tempting list of ingredients is a plus for people who like knowing exactly what they're putting in their stomach.

Thai Box
Králodvorská 12, Prague 1
Facebook.com/thaiboxfood
774 233 506
Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-7:15 p.m.

On the menu
Taxi man: tofu or soy meat with vegetables, crispy green beans, chili, garlic and basil
105 Kč
Lumpinee: glass noodle salad with soy strips, red onion, tomato, spring onion, coriander and peanuts, drizzled with lemon 110 Kč
Sticky air: sticky rice bathed in a sweet coconut milk, mango 75 Kč

Most orders are somewhat customizable, depending on your dietary restrictions, which is a step up for street food. Vegans can opt for no eggs, and those who do appreciate poultry products can have their mind put at ease that they are from local free-range chickens. Some dishes allow you to choose between tofu, soy meat or just vegetables.

The Thai food connoisseur may wonder how the right balance of flavors can be achieved with such limited ingredients. Thai Box's version of classic Pad Thai, called Thai night, (110 Kč) is a good place to start.

The dish arrived in a takeaway-style box, which Thai Box's Facebook page tells us is made from PLA biodegradable plastic. The no-frills Pad Thai noodles were appetizingly piled and mixed with the well-distributed egg, tofu and soybean sprouts. A nice touch was two small piles of ground peanut and dried chili on the side, as well as a slice of fresh lemon, allowing the eater to season to their heart's content. The quantity of chili gave way to that perfect tingle on the tongue, opening the flavors of the dish without turning your lips on fire. The sweetness of the noodles, which according to the menu is achieved with agave and rice-syrup, was satisfying without being sickly, and balanced well with the hint of lemon, peanut and chili. Overall, this dish was a highlight.

Another noodle dish, Phi Phi Island (110 Kč), isn't quite as beautiful as its namesake, but nonetheless pleases. Mixed with the lemongrass-infused coconut milk, the thin rice noodles have a wetter consistency and a more subtle sweetness compared to Thai night. The vegetables freshen up the dish without hijacking it, maintaining the right ratio of noodles to other ingredients. The interspersed soy meat is generously portioned, and the fact that it's not overly attractive is beside the point. This is street food, after all.

For curry-lovers, Bangkok dangerous is a well-balanced though not mind-blowing version of red curry with tofu. The unmistakable flavor provided by perfectly wilted leaves of real Thai basil might be what sets this apart from the Thai curry-wannabes you might find for the same humble price at the odd generic Asian restaurant in Prague.

To wash down the respectably spiced food, or to conjure up balmy nights in Phuket, Thai Box offers two bottled Thai beers for sale, Singha (50 Kč) and Chang (60 Kč). Or if you really wanted to round out the experience, go ahead and plunge your straw straight into a coconut (120 Kč).

You could argue that all that's holding Thai Box back from authenticity is a bit more grime, and a motorcycle sidecar full of fish, though the health-conscious eater might not mind going without.


Jennifer Day can be reached at
features@praguepost.com

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