If we were having coffee in Seoul then it would be later in late morning … because the coffee shops don’t open any sooner. Our hotel was in the Ewha University area, ensconced between two train stations, surrounded by neighborhood eateries but nary a one to open before 10 am.
Well there was one coffee shop, it opened at 8:30. We found it soon enough and quickly became regulars. Like clock work, every morning we squeezed through the door as soon as it cracked open. One latte and one Americano please.
It opened everyday at 8:30am except for Sundays. On that day we scoured the sidewalk until we found the lights on in a European style sweetery, which also sold coffee. We ordered our brew and for good measure, ordered their specialty. It was a hot sweet bread slathered with jam, chocolate or nut butter. Making it involved winding fresh dough onto a thick wooden dowel and slowly baking it in a rotisserie type oven. It took a while. I got to talking with the young man behind the counter.
“Where are you from?” That’s a standard question for aliens in a foreign country.
“Slovenia,” he said. In my head I knew this was part of seceded Russia. My geographical puzzlement may have shown. “It’s in the same area as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.”
“Are there many ex-pats like you in Seoul?” The day before I’d been surprised to see a grey eyed Caucasian girl working in an Azerbaijan (another cartographic mystery) restaurant.
“There are some. Most Serbians go to America, only a few go east and fewer to Korea. There’s maybe twenty five of us here. It’s a great place to travel around.”
He removed the rotating dowel from the oven and shifted it up a slot closer to the top grill. On the counter he readied a steel dish fashioned with two support beams at either end. The device looked vaguely familiar.
“What’s this bread called?” I asked.
“It’s a bit hard. TrrhhdLoh,” he said. “Like how it’s spelled. TRDLO”
I may be poorly versed in geography but I’m encyclopedic about food. I now recognized the bread as a traditional Czech pastry and became quite excited to taste it.
Later I carefully tore apart the warm trdlo. It was buttery sweet, chewy and gooey, messy with melted peanut butter and chocolate chips. An unexpected taste of Eastern Europe in South Korea. Wonderful with coffee on a Seoul Sunday morning.
Seoul, South Korea. May 2016