If Poland was known for one thing, then that would probably be Pierogi. While Pierogi may be some of the best things out there, Poland offers so many more dishes that everyone should try.
The Polish culinary scene is possibly the true masterpiece of the country. While Italian and French food typically dominate the culinary world of Europe, Poland definitely rivals them.
The most common foods you will find in Poland revolve around the likes of meat, potatoes, cabbage and beets. The Polish use whatever is available to them, therefore the specialties may vary based on the region you are in.
An eating tour of Polish cuisine is not for the faint hearted. You have to throw the calories and fat intake to the side whilst visiting Poland. These hearty dishes are cooked with a lot of butter and creams as well as contain a lot of meat. Every dish is beneficial to try as they are to die for and the little bit of weight gain you may have in Poland is beyond worth it. These dishes are truly made with love as they are demanding and time consuming to make.
Here is a list of the must have foods on your next visit to Poland.
Yes, everyone knows that pierogi are the king of Polish cuisine, but did you know that they come in all shapes, sizes and flavors?
The most traditional Pierogi of all is the Russian. These delicious dumplings, as the Polish like to call them, are filled with cottage cheese and potatoes. They are boiled to perfection and then thrown into a pan sautéed up with butter and caramelized onions. Did you even go to Poland if you didn’t try these?
Another popular pierogi that we don’t often see outside of Poland is the sweet dumpling. These pierogi are stuffed with fresh fruits and drizzled with a sweet cream. They vary based on the season and the fruits inside are ever changing. If you visit in the fall you will find yourself indulging in an apple pie tasting pierogi while in the summer you may find a refreshing strawberry filled delight. One thing is for sure, plums or prunes are always an option as the Polish use this ingredient in many of their dishes. Keep an eye out for a sweet pierogi filled with a sweet cottage cheese. These pierogi explode in your mouth with a sweet cheese cake like flavor.
You want healthy instead, piece of cake, or pierogi for this matter. Many places offer the famed dumplings just boiled and filled with vegetables. You can have your pierogi stuffed broccoli, carrots or even beets. The most popular of the vegetable variety is cabbage and mushroom. Cabbage is a staple in Polish cuisine, which makes these pierogi some of the best you will have.
Looking for meat? The Polish always have an answer to that. Meat stuffed pierogi are easy to find. They can be stuffed with beef, lamb, or the most common, pork. You can have these pierogi fried or boiled, and they are quite filling. They taste like a meat ball wrapped in a pastry, which is a delicious combination.
If you want, you can stray away from the more common kinds of pierogi and have a gourmet selection. You can find anything from feta and sundried tomato stuffed to duck or beef brisket. These are of course delicious, but much more expensive and you will receive less on your plate. Pierogi come by very cheap as you can easily find a plate of about 10 pierogi for a measly $2. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?
Where we often see stuffed peppers in American or Italian cuisine, the Polish like to stuff cabbage. These things are delicious and full of mouth watering goodness. They are made from boiled cabbage leaves wrapped around minced beef or pork. The cabbage is also filled with chopped onions and barley or rice. Some restaurants may even throw in a prune or two to add some sweetness. Once finished being stuffed, the Gołabkis are placed onto the center of a plate and drowned in a delicious and fresh tomato sauce. They are the perfect appetizer or entree if you want a two or a dozen.
Bigos are one of the dishes that are not only traditional in Poland, but in other countries in central Europe. This is one of my favorites and is the perfect dish for a cold fall or winter night. Bigos translates into Hunter’s Stew, and there is a reason for that. This dish was traditionally served up by the wives of hunters using their fresh kill. The stew itself is not the typical soupy stew that most of us are used to. It is full of a light sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, and bite size chunks of meat. The typical meats thrown into the pot include pork, beef, bacon, veal, sausage or sometimes even duck. The stew also comes with mushrooms, onions, garlic and a wide array of spices such as caraway, nutmeg and paprika. Plums or raisins are also a common add in to the stew to sweeten it up a bit. It is absolutely delicious and tummy warming, but it takes awhile to make. The stew is typically cooked for several hours as the meat is left to braise before adding the other ingredients. When a restaurant runs out of Bigos for the day, don’t expect them to whip up a new batch.
Goulash and Potato Pancakes
I could eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or every meal through out the day. Yeah, it is that good. The Polish are known for potatoes, hence potato pancakes. These pancakes taste like a sweet hashbrown pancake. They are crunchy on the outside, yet puffy on the inside. To make them, one must mash up some potatoes and throw in some grated onions and egg while mixing them together. They are next thrown into a skillet and fried with a little bit of oil. The same process of making a regular pancake, but this time its potatoes. When they are added to the goulash is when you have the masterpiece. A traditional Polish goulash comes with cubed beef or pork and is cooked like a typical stew with a tomato sauce full of fresh vegetables. Add the savory taste of the goulash on top of the sweet and crunchy potato pancakes served up with some cream on top and you have yourself a Polish delicacy. Is anyone else’s mouth watering?
Okay, this thing could feed a family of four, but I somehow managed to eat the entire thing myself. Pork Knuckle might not look like the best food ever, but it is a hell of a piece of meat. This dish is seen all through out Central Europe, and is definitely a must try. The meat is very tender and juicy and goes down perfectly with a fresh beer. If you order one, be ready to have people taking pictures of you like you’re a celebrity.
Śledź w śmietanie
Let me translate this for you, “Herring in Sour Cream”. Sounds disgusting, right? Well, its actually not at all. This was the one dish I was kind of worried about for my taste buds, but I was surprised. Herring is typically a very salty fish, but the sour cream as well as the fresh apples and onions take away from the saltiness and create a very refreshing dish. If you have the guts to try it, its worth it.
Another one of the more interesting dishes, but yet again a hit for my tastebuds . Chłodnik is a very traditional Polish recipe consisting of beets, radishes, fresh dill, cream or milk and eggs. Whereas most soup is served hot, this one is served cold. Sounds kind of odd, but this soup is a perfect refreshing appetizer on a hot day. If the color doesn’t attract your eye immediately, the hardboiled egg splashed into the middle of it will. This cold soup should be on everyone’s menu.
Beets and Cabbage
Just about every main dish includes one of the two. I am a huge fan of both, so this was heaven for me. Beets and cabbage are usually served as “fried”. When we think of fried, we generally think that means the food is dropped into some kind of nasty oil and cooked until crunchy. In Poland, fried is the same thing as sautéed. These fried beets and cabbage side plates are always sweet and delicious. They are always worth having, especially since they will only run you $1.
One of the biggest Polish delicacies, especially the holiday season, is Smalec. Not the prettiest or most appealing of dishes, but I promise you, it’s worth trying. The bread alone probably makes the quirky snack as it comes fresh and homemade out of the oven, fluffy on the inside with a crunchy crust. The next ingredient is what typically scares people away: Lard. That’s right, this delicious country bread is SMOTHERED in lard, otherwise known as 100% pig fat. The spread that is made for smalec contains a lot of lard, spices and I guess, love…? After the lard covers up that once beautiful piece of bread, it is then covered in some meat and pickles. Does this sound appetizing? No, probably not, but it is EXCELLENT! There is something about that salty and creamy fat flavor, accompanied by the crunch of bread, that really helps that hot wine go down.
When I arrived to Poland, I was on a mission. That mission was to find Chrusciki. As my grandmother is Polish, I grew up only hearing stories about this delicious treat. Little did I know, it was a Christmas specialty and was not around in July when I visited. I quickly found out that it only comes around once a year because it is very time consuming to make. I searched and searched until I finally found it, and oh my was it worth it. It may not have been the same name at this bakery, but they told me it was the same thing. Chrusciki is a very light piece of non yeast dough covered in powder sugar and shaped into bowties or little triangles. It’s like a funnel cake, but much lighter and more dry. A lot of people like to put honey and chocolate on them, but plain is good enough. If you are lucky enough to find them, eat as many as you can.
I myself am not a doughnut man at all, but I had to try a bite of Poland’s take on the doughnut. They definitely live up to the hype, but will surely give you a fat butt in no time. You can find them at just about every corner through out Poland. It seems like a lot of bakeries fight each other to see who can make the fattest and most round doughnut on Earth.
Another item I searched for and found in my dying seconds before leaving. Piernik is different from any gingerbread you have had. It is more of a thick and moist cake filled with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. The one I tried had a tiny bit of crunch to the outside layer and was filled with the tiniest amount of plum marmalade to add to the taste. Possibly the best bakery item I have ever had in my life. The country is full of them around Christmas time as the markets compete for the best gingerbread.
It is not a hidden fact that Poland has some amazing food. If you’re a foodie, or just like to eat your way through everything while traveling, you need to get to Poland asap. Eat hundreds of pierogi, drink cold beet soup on a hot day, and finish it off with some delicious gingerbread. It’s a weird order, but I wont judge, because I did that….
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