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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

How To... Eat Like The Locals - Poland

My dearest travellers,

There is an old Polish proverb saying "Fish, to taste right, must swim three times - in water, in butter, and in wine" :) if I say Poland, probably your mind will immediately jump to vodka and the traditional dumplings, named pierogi. But that is not all that Poland has to offer... the food here is diverse and very well made, "constructed" with great care! You may have read my article "What You Should Eat While In Poland" but here I will try to focus on specifics and also let you know on a Polish secret - the bar mleczny.
If you wish to try real Polish food I must tell you 2 things from the very beginning and I need you to keep them in mind:
1) Stop counting the calories - you will get immense headaches and you will not eat a thing the whole year. Just close your eyes and enjoy the taste - you will remember it your whole lifetime! And when it comes to Polish food the saying "one second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips" actually makes sense!
2) The Polish dishes are 99,99% meat based - so if you are a vegan or a vegetarian it is going to be quite hard for you to try truly typical Polish dishes. Remember: Pig is the best vegetable that ever existed!
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The typical Polish main ingredients used are sauerkraut (pickled / sour cabbage), beetroot, cucumbers (also pickled ones), sour cream, mushrooms, different types of regular sausages and some smoked ones as well ;) also Polish people, when cooking, love to use a lot of spices. When I first came to Poland I found each type of food was very spicy and with loads of pepper (both black and red). Now I am better and after 4 years I can handle it, but still when we are cooking at home my husband always puts on his portion extra pepper... hot! They like to use also marjoram and parsley.
The National Theater in Krakow & typical dish of pierogi at Babcia Malina :)
When it comes to deserts, caked and pastries are at the top. I found it very popular here to have homemade cheesecake and you can find it everywhere with different flavours - like chocolate or seasonal fruits - or in the plain version. I love cheesecake so I always order that! My second favourite, and probably the best selling cake in Poland, is the apple - pie with whipped cream on top! Apple pie here is named szarlotka so remember the name and use it carefully as it is delicious and addictive! ;)))
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Of course Poland has also a couple of weird types of food... some which I did not even try, even though I am here for over 4 years now! One of the examples is "smalec" - partially double fried lard with onion, marjoram and sometimes with apple or prune. Sometimes you can even have fried bacon parts in it as well... it is spread over slices of bread and served with pickled cucumbers and beer. It is usually an appetiser,  before the main dish. You can always find it at food market fairs - it is typical Polish and people just love it! It provides a layer of fat, before going drinking, which allows you to get drunk less faster than usual ;)
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Polish cuisine, you may observe, shares similarities with other Slavic countries - especially Czech, Slovak, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian cuisines. As I have said, it is rich in meat - especially pork, chicken and beef. Also another thing I have never ate until I got to Poland was "kasza" -  in English language that would probably be pseudo cereal buckwheat. Annual (in 2013) per capita consumption of groats in Poland ca. 1,56 per year (0,13 kg in a month). It is yummy and I prefer it to the regular mashed potatoes which are very popular here in Poland.
Typical Polish food in Krakow at the old Marchewka z Groszkiem in Kazimierz
The national Polish dishes are: bigos (sauerkraut, cabbage and meat cooked together), pierogi (dumplings filled with all sorts of things, from meat to mashed potatoes to sauerkraut to cheese to fruits...), kielbasa (Polish traditional sausage that can be of various kinds - for example: biala kielbasa (white), kabanos, wiejska kielbasa (country sausage)), golabki (free translation in English it would mean pidgeon - a type of cabbage roll with meat and kasza or rice), zupa ogorkowa (sour cucumbers soup), rosol (typical for the Sunday afternoon lunch - chicken meat broth with noodles), flaki (tripe soup), barszcz (beetroot soup) and my very favourite soup - zurek (sour rye soup - made with eggs, white sausage, potatoes, mushrooms - it is creamy and absolutely delicious!).
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When it comes to the fast food, the street food, here are the typical Polish products that you need to keep your eye on and try them:
  • Zapiekanka - also known as the "Polish pizza", is an open faced baguette topped with melted cheese, chopped mushrooms and other additions. You can ask for some ketchup, mayonnaise, garlic cream on top - or all 3 if you wanna go wild! Perfect for a night out in down, before/during/after a party ;)
  • Nalesniki - or pancakes, are perfect any time of the day if you are in a mood for something sweet. They have fruit or cottage cheese stuffings ans they are topped with jam or some chocolate or powdered sugar.
  • Obwarzanek - the typical Kraków pretzel -  a tally it's a cross between the bagel and a pretzel, topped usually with salt, sesame or poppy seeds. I don't ikea them that much but there are huge fans here of it, so maybe you should give it a go ;)
  • Oscypek - or smoked highlanders cheese ;) can be found also around Krakow, in the mountain area ( a must see of the region is Zakopane). It can be served simple or grilled. My favourite version is grilled with some cranberry jam (zurawina) on the side. It's fingerlicking good!
Of course there are multiple good traditional Polish restaurants, but what can be more traditional than the Polish milk bars - bar mleczny. Now you may ask, what is that?! It is a Polish form of cafeteria. The first typical milk bar "Mleczarnia Nadswidrzanska" was established in 1896 in Warsaw by Stanislaw Dluzewski, a member of Polish landed gentry. The typical milk bar had a menu based on dairy items, but they also served non - dairy dishes ;) they offer cheap but nourishing food. People prefer them over fast food as it reminds one of home - made style food and they also have low prices. They are very popular amongst students and elderly people, but they are looked down upon by other social classes - which is a shame! CNN and BBC have done several articles on the milk bars - I suggest Googling them. If ever you are in Poland,  give it a chance and drop by and let me know what you think ;)
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Also, if ever you reach Kraków or Zakopane, I recommend you to try the traditional Polish dishes cooked by Babcia Malina - I eagerly recommend the zurek and the fried dumplings with meat (pierogi). Let me know if you like them and also if you tried anything else from the above list :) I am anxious to hear what you think about the traditional Polish food!

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To...
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals 
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow - scheduled 08/09/2015
Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug - here to help the travellers of the world ;)