Food Review | WTF Is A Trdelnik And Does It Taste Any Good?

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Monday, June 27, 2016 

under Food by Alex Panayotopoulos


The Good: Decent flavor, fairly cheap price, choice of toppings is interesting, and it’s trdelník! In China!

The Bad: A bit undercooked, and the shop design is an offence to anyone vaguely European.

 

If you’ve been wandering down Shǎanxī South Road recently, presumably to mourn that desolate, shattered wasteland, you might have noticed a full suit of armor standing on the corner of Chǎnglè Road, and a bunch of half-assed Renaissance Fair looking shop assistants behind a counter.

 

This, my friends, is Trdlo, and it’s the first place I’ve seen in China that does trdelník. It’s kind of okay.

 


 

First, a disclaimer; I’m not Czech. I don’t like hockey, I own more than one pair of trousers and none of them are patched, I don’t wear sandals with socks, and I can’t do that impossible rolling r sound they make like it’s no thang.

 

But I lived in the Czech Repu—sorry “Czechia” for like, 10 years. Never learned the language, I didn’t possess a second fully-articulated tongue. It was in Prague I discovered one of the city’s favorite way of getting tourists to shut up about the architecture for a few precious minutes; piping hot trdelník. The other way is a continuous stream of cheap and amazing beer but it has a tendency to backfire.

 

Trdelník, for those of you who haven’t spent much time at Central European Christmas markets, is a traditional pastry that’s popularly found in the Czech Republic these days, but also Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and apparently Germany and Luxembourg, according to Wikipedia. It’s made of dough wrapped around a rolling pin-looking thing, roasted over a fire and then doused in sugar, cinnamon and chipped walnuts. It’s amazing.

 

(Note: The name’s trdelník, ‘trdlo’ is the wooden rolling pin you wrap the dough around, but people sometimes use the name interchangeably.)

 


Pictured: A trdelník stall in Prague. Note the tourist-friendly English signs, and the insane haphazard assortment of "words" on that road sign.

 

But does Trdlo live up to my cherished childhood memories?

 

They do have a regular old “Original Volume Classic Chimney” (“normal”) trdelník for 10 RMB, just dough and sugar glaze. In Prague you could get 2 pints of beer for that in a pub, but still, 10 RMB isn’t bad at all, considering what we pay for decent bread and croissants in this city.

 


Oldschool Trdelník


The dough was pretty good (somewhat surprisingly), but it could’ve gone for a few more turns over the hilariously fake wood-fire. It was lukewarm and just sort of squished together and collapsed when I put any pressure on it. It should be too hot to touch, and there should be a bit more of a crunch when you tear into it. But a decent try at the original, authentic trdelník.

 

The rest of the menu massacred any pretence of authenticity. For an additional 5 RMB to 12 RMB more, you can douse your trdelník in just about anything. Oreos? Almonds? Cheerios? Lay’s freaking potato chips? What in the name of Václav Havel’s painfully thin moustache is this travesty?

 



Why is "lemonade" a mocktail?

 

I tried the one with Lay’s Potato Chips (15 RMB). Again, lukewarm, a bit too squishy, but to my great surprise and the sputtering outrage of little old Czech babičky everywhere, the weird combination of sweet dough, sugar and salty chips pieces kind of works.

 


Lay's Potato Chips Trdelnik

 

Same for Shredded Coconut (12 RMB). Again, it fails miserably at the authenticity test, but it was still pretty damn good.

 


How would you get coconuts into Europe anyway?

 

They also serve mulled wine for 15 RMB. I didn’t get any because it’s 30 degrees outside, but if this place lasts until winter, I’ll give it a try for nostalgia’s sake. For nostalgia’s sake, I hope the fuwuyuans will also stink of overcooked sausage, foetid body odour and stale beer, too.

 

But let’s talk about the shop itself.

 




 

Apart from an interior that clearly announces loyalty to House Baratheon, the shopboys wear lederhosen and they’ve got the EU flag flying (still with all 12 stars). Czechs do not, in fact, wear lederhosen. The Czech Republic is in the EU, but doesn’t use the Euro and is fairly Eurosceptic. Trdlo could’ve tried being a bit less patronising. Did the Czech Consulate refuse to let them fly the flag without selling Pilsner Urquell at the same counter?

 

Actually, that’s a great idea.

 

And they have the most amazingly dumb ad for the shop looping on the TVs hanging over the counters. Seriously, if you’re in the area, stop by and watch it, you don’t even have to buy anything, just watch.

 

The Verdict:

So that’s the trdelník at Trdlo. It’s all right, but it’d be better if they roasted them a bit longer. It’s fairly cheap and some of the weirder toppings are surprisingly decent if you get past the fact that they’re a bastard brutalization of everything trdelník was in your memories, which, unless you’re me, probably won’t be a problem.

 

It’s a dumb, stupid shopfront, but it wasn’t designed for people who’ve actually lived in Europe, so fine. Okay. Crucially, it’s the only place I know in Shanghai, if not China, where you can actually get something that looks like a trdelník. Sort of. It’ll do.

 

 

 

 

Bonus content: The Origin Story of Trdelník according to Trdlo



Once upon a time, there was a war, probably in Europe because all the good wars are in Europe.


The soldiers eventually got hungry, probably from marching on their stomach for so long.


The king decided the best use for dough in these troubled times was to wrap it around his shaft...


... and shove it somewhere hot.


Suddely, a magic made him teleport to the modern day times. It's magic, so we don't have to explain it.


For some reason, no one seems alarmed by the knight who appeared from thin air with pastry on his shaft.


Now he's giving the shaft-pastry away to eager crowds. Presumably his soldiers have been left to starve because who cares.


"Please take this quickly, the metal armor inducts heats super well and I'm literally roasting in this thing."


And that, children, is how shaft-pastry became trdelnik.

 

There was also some subplot about how this was all being filmed by some foreigner director, but we could barely make sense of it as is.

 

****

 

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COMMENTS

1 Comments


Excellent article and fantastic original ( unoriginal ) idea

Unknown:

June 29, 2016

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