Among Prague locals, the ubiquitous trdelník – a chimney cake-like confection made out of grilled dough and topped with a sugary walnut powder – is something of a joke.
Partly because the tourist-marketed treat isn’t even Czech (it’s Hungarian/Slovak in origin) and partly because, well, it isn’t very good. Especially compared to some of Prague’s more authentic food offerings.
Trdelník booths started popping up at Prague Christmas markets in droves about a decade ago. And when photos of an ice cream-filled trdelník made worldwide headlines two years back, it was clear that chimney cakes had found a permanent home in the Czech capital.
Now, take a walk on Karlova or Nerudova streets in the center of Prague, and you’ll see trdelník vendors all but stacked atop each other, filling their chimney cakes with not just nutella and ice cream but hot dogs, bacon, cabbage, eggs, and just about anything else you can imagine.
The Prague trdelník has become so revered among tourist crowds, in fact, that it has recently made a new Lonely Planet book of the top food experiences around the world, as the lone representative of the Czech Republic. Go figure.
In Ultimate Eatlist, Lonely Planet runs down the world’s must-try foods, which include items like Spain’s pintxos, pizza margherita in Naples, Texas beef brisket, South Korean bibimbap, Jamaican jerk chicken, and much more.
And coming in waaaay down at number 470 is the Prague trdelník.
“Sightseeing Prague’s baroque delights will inevitably lead you to the discovery of an altogether different one; spirals of sugar-coated pastry hanging in shop windows or toasting on a side street grill,” describes Lonely Planet.
“A word of warning – these, trdelník, are about to become your new obsession. After all, who could possibly resist crispy, caramelized sugar and the warm waft of cinnamon on a winter’s day.” Uh-huh.
There’s no denying the popularity of trdelník in Prague, but it’s poor representative of Czech food culture. Especially when contrasted against, say, a good svíčková and a cold Pilsner.
What are the best food experiences in the world? Here’s Lonely Planet’s Top 20:
1. Pintxos in San Sebastián, Spain
2. Curry laksa in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3. Sushi in Tokyo, Japan
4. Beef brisket in Texas, USA
5. Som tum in Bangkok, Thailand
6. Smørrebrød in Copenhagen, Denmark
7. Crayfish in Kaikoura, New Zealand
8. Bibimbap in Seoul, South Korea
9. Pizza margherita in Naples, Italy
10. Dim sum in Hong Kong
11. Ceviche in Peru
12. Pastéis de nata in Lisbon, Portugal
13. Oysters in Freycinet, Australia
14. Cheese experiences in France
15. Jerk chicken in Jamaica
16. Lamb tagine in Marrakech, Morocco
17. Chilli crab in Singapore
18. Moules frites in Brussels, Belgium
19. Peking duck in Beijing
20. Pho on the Hau River, Vietnam
For the full list of the 500 best food experiences throughout the world, check out Lonely Planet’s new book Ultimate Eatlist, which retails locally for about 650 CZK.