Gastronomy Travel

The origins and curiosities of Czech Trdlo

By on 24th December 2016
Photo: Gemma Delle Cave

Among the many interesting things you can do on a journey to the Czech Republic, it is unavoidable to taste one of the typical Czech sweets: trdelnĺk, or better the trdlo, even though the word refers to the roller where it is prepared on. Just to make you understand what it is, try to figure it by thinking to a spit-roasted chicken and replacing the feathered animal with this sort of sweet doughy cylinder sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon wrapped around the spit!

Origins
The origins of trdlo can’t be explained as easily as its looks however. The sweet pastry as everybody knows, doesn’t come from the modern trdlo capital Prague or even the Czech Republic for that matter. Legend has it that earl Jozsef Gvada’nyi’s cook invented it at Skalica, in Slovakia, during the end of 1700; but the most ancient reference about it was found in a Gyula’s piece. Gyula was a Hungarian poet working in Skalica, that’s why some people think trdlo comes from Hungary too. Other legends say Hungarian general József Gvandányi brought to in Moravia during the 18th century, or that a German cook took it home from Transylvania, where later it spread in Slovakia. The certain thing, indeed, is that lots of European countries eat this sweet, calling it in different ways: trdelnĺk, trdlo, kurtos or kurtőskalács (derived from the shape of a fireplace, kürtő in Hungarian).

Preparation
Although the authorship is a little bit confused, and more likely it’s not originating from Czech, this beautiful delight is diffused especially there for lots of reasons. One obvious is that once the Czech Republic and Slovakia were one nation: Czechoslovakia. Another reason is about the secrets around its preparation. First, the manually made pastry is rolled around the rollers; then immersed in sugar and cinnamon or dried fruit and put on the embers, where it becomes golden and crunchy on the surface; in the end, it’s pulled out the rollers and served hot, natural or with chocolate.

This original way of cooking and the high quality of ingredients gave this sweet its own legacy. In fact, it’s impossible to visit Prague and not seeing a store with its distinguishing trdlo-shaped sign, and in particular not smelling the intense cinnamon among the streets. It captures you so much you have to buy a trdlo and try it immediately!

Photo: Gemma Delle Cave
Photo: Gemma Delle Cave

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