Polish cuisine is an amalgam of various traditions and was shaped throughout the centuries, changing with the country's history. The meals eaten every day by families vary a bit depending on a region, though some features distinguish us from the neighbouring countries. As Poland is quite a cold land, the food served here is usually quite heavy. The most traditional dishes are based on various meats, seasonal vegetables, and all kinds of grains. Here's a chapter of a diary of a Polish foodie, in which I am going to talk about the flagship meals of Polish cuisine you should try on your next trip.
Traditional meals are based on meat products, pork and chicken being the most commonly consumed. On a Sunday family lunch, you are most likely to see minced meat cutlets or pork chops (similar to Viennese schnitzels) served with mashed potatoes and salad. Another popular way of preparing meat is cooking it in gravies. Poles also really like eating meat in the form of sausages ('kiełbasa') or cold cuts that are usually served for breakfasts or dinners, together with bread.
For the enthusiasts of more extreme meaty experiences, in Poland, you can find a whole variety of unique meat-made meals. One of the most popular festive dishes is the tripe soup. This kind of stew is made of the pieces of cow stomach and, I can assure you, there are many fans of its taste. Another interesting gastronomic experience might be liver cooked with onion or apples. On the Polish menu, one can also find a jelly made on pigs' feet. It is cooked for many hours together with carrot and spices and eaten with white vinegar or lemon. "Kaszanka" is a kind of sausage made of pig's blood and buckwheat. It tastes the best when fried on a pan.
The base of every Polish lunch should be in the form of a soup. The most basic one - broth ('rosół'), is usually a starter for a Sunday family midday meal. Apart from that, in Poland, you can also try a sour-rye soup served with sausage and a hard-boiled egg. The latter is usually also an addition to a specific, sour sorrel soup. Whenever in the country, you should always use the occasion to try a clear beetroot soup ('barszcz') that is an inherent part of the Christmas celebration in the country. One of the favourite tastes to try during winter are soups based on pickled goods such as sauerkraut and cucumbers.
When the end of summer comes to Poland most households are preparing themselves for the cold days. It is already a tradition to make jars with pickles to put them in the homes' cellars. The base of the winter menu is usually sauerkraut that can be served as a side salad or in the form of 'bigos'. It is a long-cooked stew - a mixture of meat, pickled cabbage, dried mushrooms and plums, which make the mix full of aromas and flavours. You can have it accompanied by potatoes or a slice of sourdough bread. During the fall time, picking mushrooms in the forests is a national tradition, thanks to which we have a variety of meals based on them. Mushrooms, like cabbage or cucumbers, might also be put in jars to later serve as a side dish during a family dinner.
If you are a vegetarian, like me, you are still likely to find some delicious meals, even though it is mostly a meat-based cuisine. First and foremost, Poland is a country of dumplings ('pierogi'). This little dough pockets can be filled with anything you can imagine and are served cooked or fried. I would suggest trying the ones with sour cabbage, potatoes and cottage cheese ('ruskie') or sweet, with white cheese inside. Apart from them, we also have delicious, fried potato pancakes with sour cream on top, or cooked potato dumplings to have dipped in gravy. Probably the most famous thing to eat during any family holiday is a vegetable salad made of cooked root vegetables mixed with mayonnaise (that you might know under the name of the 'Russian salad').
After lunch, it is usually time for something sweet. A Polish house is usually filled with a smell of a yeast-cake that tastes the best with a glass of milk. Other than that, when in Poland, you should try a poppy-seed cake, an apple pie, or a cheesecake. One of the best things to have on-the-go is a deep-fried, yeast doughnut, filled with various jams (the rose flavour being the most common). They are a flagship sweets eaten in tonnes during the Shrove Tuesday.
Probably one of the most commonly drank beverages in Poland is tea. Whenever you visit any granny in the country, you will most definitely be served a cup of this hot drink accompanied with some cookies. Apart from that, we like having some home-made juices, prepared from seasonal fruit. As the stereotype says, the Poles drink vodka during the times of celebration. You can have it in many kinds and tastes, like plum, cherry or hazelnut. It became popular recently to open little shot bars with nibbles, made to resemble the communist-style pubs. There, for a small amount of money, you can have a shot accompanied by herring in vinegar, jellied pork legs, meat tartar, or pickled cucumbers.
Even though Polish cities are full of restaurants serving foreign cuisines, there are also multiple places where you can try traditional meals. Such are the milk bars that I already described in one of my stories. One of the best places to have a full Polish dinner is 'Kuchnia u Doroty' in Cracow. It has a great, homely atmosphere and the menu comprised of quality, home-like dishes. The restaurant has very affordable prices and is extremely popular among locals and tourists in Cracow. I hope this edition of a diary of a Polish foodie was a good introduction to the flagship meals and will help you get an idea of what to try on your next trip.
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