One half of me is German, the other is Polish. Polish food to me means comfort food, feeling home and being reminded of childhood. Of course, just as in other countries, you’ll find different food and various traditions in different areas of the country. Most certainly, however, you’ll be able to find most dishes when you travel to cities like Warsaw, Kraków or Gdańsk. There are plenty of delicious things that I could imagine naming as 5 dishes you should eat in Poland, but I’m going to limit myself to my favourites.
Every culture has their own dumplings. Some kind of meat or vegetarian stuffing covered with a thin layer of dough. In Poland the most common stuffing are ‘Pierogi Ruskie’, stuffed with a kind of white cottage cheese, potatoes and fried onions; Pierogi with a meat filling that is very unique due to how it’s prepared and the spices used; and then Pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms. All of these are delicious and there are more and more new inventions when it comes to stuffing. Pierogi are usually boiled or fried and served with lard and fried onions. You can also eat them as a dessert, stuffed with blueberries or strawberries and then served with sour cream and sugar – lovely!
Żurek is a thick soup that is made from a base of fermented rye. It sounds a bit strange but it’s very delicious, especially with some fresh bread on the side or around it. Yes, around it, because Żurek is very often served in a hollow bread loaf. Other ingredients are marjoram, potatoes, cooked smoked sausage and hard-boiled egg.
Bigos is very popular during winter to warm you up and because the fermented cabbage it’s made of has a lot of Vitamin C to keep you healthy. Bigos is basically a stew from fermented cabbage (or Sauerkraut), fresh cabbage, smoked sausage, mushrooms, braised meat, sometimes dried prunes and a lot of spices. The longer it’s cooked for (sometimes for several days), the more intense and almost caramelised it tastes. You’ll find it a lot around Christmas time.
Pączki are the Polish version of doughnuts. Fried round and slightly flat pieces of dough dropped into hot oil until golden brown, then filled with jam and sprinkled with sugar. Sometimes instead of just sugar they get a quick dip into a simple sugar glaze and a couple of candied orange pieces on top. They’re eaten best when still fresh and warm. The most common filling for Pączki is rose jam and you’ll get them all year round. Don’t miss out on eating a couple on Tłusty czwartek (Fat Thursday), the official day for Pączki, before lent starts.
And finally, the traditional Polish sausage. There are plenty of different kinds of sausage in Poland. The most common one is made from a mix of pork and beef. The meat is coarsely ground and mixed with garlic, Marjoram, juniper, pepper or other herbs and spices and is then usually smoked. Kielbasa can be eaten as a snack, on bread, or is often included in dishes like Bigos or Żurek. You’ll also find sausages made from veal, sometimes chicken and there are recipes that add bacon to it as well. Make sure to try a piece, maybe with a shot of Vodka.