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Monday, 7 April 2014

What You Should Eat While In Poland

Dear friends,

Last Monday, in order to take you away from the notion that a new week started, I was telling you about What You Should Eat While In Romania. Today I thought I may help my friends who will travel to Poland with a few ideeas of what they should try while in Poland. Now food in Poland and Romania is quite similar but it is way more spicy ;)  so be prepared for a lot of pepper! Polish cuisine has evolved over the centuries to become very eclectic due to Poland's history. Polish cuisine shares many similarities with other Central European cuisines, especially German, Austrian and Hungarian cuisines, as well as Jewish, Belarussian, Ukrainian, Russian, French and Italian culinary traditions. It is rich in meat, especially pork, chicken and beef (depending on the region) and winter vegetables (cabbage in the dish bigos - which is very similar to the Romanian version of  "varza cu carne"), and spices. It is also characteristic in its use of various kinds of noodles the most notable of which are kluski as well as cereals such as kasha (from the Polish word kasza). Generally speaking, Polish cuisine is hearty and uses a lot of cream and eggs. The traditional dishes are often demanding in preparation. Many Poles allow themselves a generous amount of time to serve and enjoy their festive meals, especially Christmas eve dinner (Wigilia) or Easter breakfast which could take a number of days to prepare in their entirety.
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The Polish national dishes are bigos; pierogi ; kielbasa; kotlet schabowy  (type of breaded cutlet); gołąbki  (type of cabbage roll); zrazy  (type of roulade); roast (Polish: pieczeń); sour cucumber soup (Polish: zupa ogórkowa) ; mushroom soup, (Polish: zupa grzybowa) (quite different from the North American cream of mushroom); tomato soup (Polish: zupa pomidorowa); rosół  (variety of meat broth); żurek  (sour rye soup); flaki (variety of tripe soup); and barszcz among others.
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The main meal might be eaten about 2 p.m. or later. It is larger than the North American lunch. It might be composed of three courses especially among the traditionalists, starting with a soup like a popular rosół and tomato soup or more festive barszcz (beet borscht) or żurek (sour rye meal mash), followed perhaps in a restaurant by an appetizer such as herring (prepared in either cream, oil, or in aspic); or other cured meats and vegetable salads. The main course usually includes a serving of meat, such as roast or kotlet schabowy (breaded pork cutlet), or chicken. Vegetables, currently replaced by leafy green salads, were not very long ago most commonly served as surówka  – shredded root vegetables with lemon and sugar (carrot, celeriac, seared beetroot) or sauerkraut (Polish: kapusta kiszona). The side dishes are usually boiled potatoes, rice or more traditionally kasza (cereals). Meals often conclude with a dessert such as makowiec, a poppy seed pastry, or drożdżówka , a type of yeast cake. Other Polish specialities include chłodnik (a chilled beet or fruit soup for hot days), golonka (pork knuckles cooked with vegetables), kołduny (meat dumplings), zrazy (stuffed slices of beef), salceson and flaki (tripe). (Wiki, my dear friend, helped a lot ;) )
Zurek @ Babcia Malina
Of course, as an expat and a traveler, when you enter a new land you feel the need to mix with the locals and what better way to do this than trying the food?! One of the first things I have tried in Poland was żurek and pierogi. A good friend of mine took me to a wonderful place called Babcia Malina and I became an instant fan of this place - they have homemade food, just like a granny would do, and typical Polish ;) Zurek = sour rye soup = a soup made of soured rye flour (akin to sourdough) and meat (usually boiled pork sausage or pieces of smoked sausage, bacon or ham). It is specific to Poland, where it is known as żur or żurek, and a variant is known as barszcz biały ("white barszcz") which is made with wheat flour instead of rye. The soup is also found in the cuisines of other western Slavic nations such as Slovakia (kyslóvka). A variation of this soup is found in Czech Republic (kyselo - with mushrooms and without meat). Though at first, when I heard it was a white sausage - egg - potatoe - mushroom soup, I said NO! thinking that for sure I will throw up. My friend disagreed and said I should try it at least once. I am glad I did! as now it is my fav meal. It is one of the things I would truly miss if ever I would leave Poland.
Pierogi with meat @ Babcia Malina
As second course I would for sure select some pierogi - fried, not boiled! - with meat :) Pierogi are dumplings of unleavened dough – first boiled, then they are baked or fried usually in butter with onions – traditionally stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit. Of central and eastern European provenance, they are usually semicircular, but are rectangular or triangular in some cuisines.
The Polish word pierogi is plural; the singular form pieróg is rarely used, as a typical serving consists of several pierogi. Pierogi are similar to the Russian pelmeni or Ukrainian varenyky and are not to be confused with pirozhki (the Russian word for stuffed fried buns) or a pirog (the Russian word for "pie"). Polish pierogi ruskie are similar to the Ukrainian varenyky in version with potatoes and cottage cheese (quark). In Romania, a similar recipe of pierogi called colţunaşi in Moldova and Bucovina or Chiroște in Republic of Moldova exists. Colţunaşi is often a dessert filled with jam (usually cherry) or with cheese (telemea or urdă) and the dough is made with wheat flour boiled in water as ravioli. In Transylvania, the name "piroști" is used in Romanian families of German or Slavic origin and the filling can also be a whole, fresh, seedless plum. The term "colțunaș" is used by native Romanian families and are usually filled with smântână, traditionally called "colțunași cu smântână".
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When it comes to sweets I always loved the sernik here - the cheesecake ;)  It is one of the primary desserts in Poland and I love love love it! It is made primarily using twaróg, a type of fresh cheese, and you can always buy it from almost any shop. When it comes to drinks, well they are specialised in vodka, beer & mead. Poland lays claim to having distilled vodka since the 8th century. In the 11th century when they were called gorzalka, originally used as medicines. Poland is known for its production of vodka (wódka). The world's first written mention of the drink and the word "vodka" was in 1405 from Akta Grodzkie, the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. Well-known brands are: Spirytus Rektyfikowany (It isn't a vodka, as vodka is a drink with about 40%-50% alcohol, "spirytus" on the other hand is between 95% and 96% alcohol and is mostly used as baking ingredient or sterilising liquid only in very rare cases as a drink), Wyborowa, Soplica, Pan Tadeusz, Belvedere, Chopin, Luksusowa, Sobieski, Siwucha, Biała Dama, Polonez, Ultimat Vodka, Starka, Żubrówka, Krupnik, Żołądkowa Gorzka. Pure vodka is drunk as a rule. It is not customary to drink vodka out of a tiny glass of brandy, but preferably will be a 50 - to 100 - milliliter glass (shot glass).
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Poland is also a land of beer. Beer (Piwo) is brewed to different types of beer. Almost every major city has its own brewery. There are also traditional breweries, some of which look back on a centuries-old history. Popular brand names include Żywiec, Tyskie, Warka, Lech, Okocim, Piast, Łomża, Perła. Almost every brewery in Poland has a summer Beer Festival from the city/town where the brewery is located. According to a 2009 Ernst & Young report, Poland is Europe's third largest beer producer: Germany with 103 million hectolitres, UK with 49.5 million hl, Poland with 36.9 million hl. Following consecutive growth in the home market, Związek Pracodawców Przemysłu Piwowarskiego (Union of the Brewing Industry Employers in Poland), which represents approximately 90% of the Polish beer market, announced during the annual brewing industry conference that consumption of beer in 2008 rose to 94 litres per capita, or 35,624 million hectolitres sold on domestic market. Statistically, a Polish consumer drinks some 92 litres of beer a year, which places it a third behind Germany. Breweries also produced more beer in 2011, which, at 37.9 million hectoliters, is a rise in production of 3.4 percent compared to the year before. With the average beer drinker in Poland consuming around 100 liters a year, Poles are catching up with the Germans, who drink an average of 103 to 105 liters annually. In Poland, the growing popularity of beer from small breweries regional, grouped in the Association of Polish Regional Breweries (Stowarzyszenie Regionalnych Browarów Polskich). While the beer produced by large corporations are losing popularity.

P.S. Polish people also like to drink beer with juice in it - typically it would be malina juice (raspberry).  You may also find beer with honey and I suggest you try it. Worth a shot! I know people who would drink it 24/7 and people who have headaches just by taking a sip. You may also want to try mulled wine and mulled beer if you are in Poland during winter time - that is quite a treat! Let me know what you liked best ;)

Yours truly,
The LadyBug that wishes you will have a nice Polish experience :)