If there is one thing that I have to admit, in regards to Polish people & their traditional food, than that would be the fact that it is quite hard to remain vegetarian with all the yummy meat dishes. Polish people love to eat and their cuisine is delicious and resembles very much to the food in the neighbouring countries... actually even with Romanian food, where the main vegetable is the pork ;) If you would like to feel like a Polish expert when it comes to food in Krakow, than you must take this guided tour by the wonderfully talented and friendly team from "FREE walking TOUR Krakow". The guided tour for Foods of Krakow runs Monday / Wednesday / Friday at 2 PM and Saturday morning at 10:30 am. As usual, the "FREE walking TOUR Krakow" starts from the front of the St. Mary Church, in the Main Market Square (Mariacki Kosciol).
The whole tour you will walk from the Old Town - Main Market Square - to the Kazimierz - Jewish District. You do not need to take any tram tickets with you - everything is within walking distance ;) All you need to do is prepare around 15 zloty worth of coins (around 4 Euro), as you will have to pay for each sample and it is better to have the exact change. Also, the "FREE walking TOUR Krakow" runs on sponsorships so even if it is FREE of charge, it is a custom to leave the guide a tip at the end - as much as you think the ride was worth it. I always leave a tip as the team is amazing and hey! even TripAdvisor lists them as the #1 team in Krakow ;) and for good reason!
Stop 1 - The Obwarzanek - every culinary road in Krakow starts with it! It is a must and you can find the stands selling it throughout the city, almost at every corner. It is one of Krakow's unofficial symbols of the city. It resembles a pretzel / bagel but the difference is that it is first boiled in sweet water, before being baked. First written mention of the obwarzanek dates back to 1394, meaning that it’s been a daily sight on Kraków’s market square for over 600 years.You can also spot the carts selling it from far away, as they are usually colored blue - Krakow's color :)
Stop 2 - Lard, Vodka and The Afterbite: Herring - Ambasada Sledzia - Once you will join a Polish party you will have to follow the rules. You cannot just start drinking like a fool, you need to be able to level up and maintain decency. The way to do it is by creating layers. The first layer, before going to a party, must be some kind of heavy food that would protect your stomach and help you keep the drink, without knocking yourself out from the first shot. You usually can have a soup called zurek or you can have lard. What is lard... lard is pig fat and here in Poland you can cook it with bacon, onion and spices, spread it on bread and eat it right before having your shots. The second layer, that's simple! The shot of vodka! - girls may like it here flavoured but the best is the clear vodka ;) (the one you will try on this tour). The 3rd layer = The Afterbite = usually pickled cucumber or herring. That's for cutting the taste of vodka ;) In Krakow there is one great place for all 3 layers = Ambasada Sledzia.
Stop 3 - Pierogi (dumplings) - are one of Polish dishes that can be named a wonder. Even thought may look like a hard dish to do, don't be fooled! Dorota, our lovely tour guide, recalled a story from when she did her first pierogi and she could not believe that only from flour and boiled water you could create such tasty things. The secret, I believe, is in the way the filling is done. The most common types of pierogi are the pierogi ruskie (translated: Russian Pierogi, but I was told Russian people do not have this dish so do not be fooled by its name!). Pierogi ruskie have potatoe & cheese (combined) filling. At the tour we tasted both the ruskie but also a version with season fruits - blueberries.
Stop 4 - Traditional cheese: oscypek & "Polish mozarella" - The next stop took us to the farmers market in Kazimierz, where we tasted 2 typical types of Polish cheese from Krakow region. You may have heard me mention oscypek before (as it is my husbands favourite) - this is smoked sheep milk cheese from the Highland area (Zakopane). It is made exclusively in the Tatra Mountains region of Poland. Also from the same region came the "Polish mozarella" = bundz ;) - also made from sheep milk, but softer.
Stop 5/6 - Pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut & kielbasa Krakowska and Lisiecka -While at the farmers market in Kazimierz, we also had a stop to taste the pickled cucumbers & pickled cabbage - that would have went lovely also for stop 2, along with the clear - crystal - water-like vodka. The 3rd stop on our way through the local market was at the meat stand, where we tried 2 types of local meat products. The sausages, in Poland, are usually called kielbasa. We tried kielbasa Krakowska & kielbasa Lisiecka - both produced in the Malopolska region. It also seems, the guide told us, that the late Pope John Paul 2nd was a fan of the Lisiecka ;)
Stop 7 - Zurek - the White Barszcz Zurek (Sour Bread Soup) or simply called Zurek, is perfect instead or lard (see stop 2) when you are on your way to a party. It is a creamy soup made of soured rye flour and meat (usually boiled pork sausage or pieces of smoked sausage, bacon or ham + the additional boiled egg + boiled potatoe on the side ;) That's how you want it!). Passing through to the next stop you will be able to see the Plac Nowy. Pin the place down and come by on an empty stomach. This place has THE BEST ZAPIEKANKA in town! :)
Stop 8 - Bigos - The Hunters Stew, or the Bigos, is a traditional meat and cabbage stew. It is indeed a Polish national dish, and you can see it served in all the traditional Polish eating places. Here we ate it in a place extremely close to Plac Nowy - called Wrega - and I would really like to come back and try some more as it is the best one I have ate until now (except the ones home-made). Typical ingredients include white cabbage, sauerkraut, various cuts of meat and sausages, often whole or puréed tomatoes, honey and mushrooms. In very rare cases bigos can be made without meat or cabbage, but the presence of sauerkraut is absolutely essential.
Stop 9 - The Sweets: Racuchy - And here comes the icing on the cake, the cherry on the top: RACUCHY! Racuchy or racuszki is a traditional Polish dish from the same family of foods as the crêpe and similar to American pancakes. Racuchy is made from some flour, milk, eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt. Racuchy are made with yeast or, in other versions, baking powder or baking soda is used. Rauchy are pan fried in oil. In Poland, racuchy are usually eaten as dinner, snack or supper. Racuchy can be eaten plain, sprinkled with sugar, or topped with powdered sugar. In alternative versions some cream or sour cream can be used. The most popular version of racuchy is stuffed with slices of apple and served with sugar and that is exactly what we had - I actually had one and a half ;))) They were so finger-licking good! And we ate them at Marchewka z Groszkiem, so I know now where to go ;))
The cost of the FREE walking TOUR - Foods of Krakow:
- The Obwarzanek - free, on the house :)
- Lard, Vodka and The Afterbite: Herring - Ambasada Sledzia - 4 zloty for the vodka shot + 1 zloty for the afterbite of herring = 5 zloty
- Pierogi (dumplings) - 1 zloty each - if you tried the Russian one + the blueberry = 2 zloty
- Traditional cheese: oscypek & "Polish mozarella" - 0.5 zloty to taste both of them
- Pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut & kielbasa Krakowska and Lisiecka - 1 zloty for each pickled veggie = 2 zloty if you tastes both + another 2 zloty for the 2 types of meat = 4 zloty
- Zurek - free, on the house :)
- Bigos - 1.5 zloty per the try-out (slice of bread included)
- The Sweets: Racuchy - 2 zloty per wonderful yummy sweet :)
The time needed = around 2.5 hours (I was Saturday from 10:30 to 1 PM)
I recommend this tour with all my heart, of you wish to know more about the typical dishes of Krakow. I have been living in Krakow for more than 4 years now, and I was trying to get to this tour for a while but during the week I cannot manage & during weekend we are always away... Even if I knew most of the food and I had already tasted it, it was still a pleasure to find new good places to eat out. Some I knew and some I didn't but this was indeed fun :) Please do try it out as well and let me know how much you liked it.
#FreeWalkingTourKrakow offers the best walking tours in town, so check out their offer:
- FreeWalkingTourKrakow - StreetArt - FreeWalkingTourKrakow provides city tours in Polish, English & Spanish. You can find them on Facebook or on their website or you can just call them at +48 513 875 814. I joined them in a StreetArt Tour and it was amazing!
- FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Macabre Krakow - stories about ghost and real vampires... methods of torture, bodies under the Main Market Square with their hands and legs tied, stories of impailing living people... dark and twisted and perfect for a rainy Saturday evening :)
- FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Her Story - there is a saying that if the men is considered to be the head of the family, than the heart belongs to the woman.
- FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Pagan Krakow - do you wish to know about the old beliefs of Polish people but also about interesting facts like: "Did you know that General Hans Frank along with other members of the Nazi party celebrated the Yule holiday when they were living inside the Wawel Castle?" - join this tour once you see it up and running ;) (Beginning of March)
The Twisted Red LadyBug