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Thursday, 2 June 2016

There's An Egg In My Soup!!!

Dearest hearts,

One of the oddest dishes in the traditional Polish menu has to be the "soup" called "Zurek". Each time I start talking about traditional Polish dishes and I start explaining how it looks and tastes like, people start making funny faces and either refuse to taste it (just because the combination of ingredients is odd) or they just decide to give it a go... just a spoon... so they would say that they have tried such a spooky thing. But why is Zurek such a scary dish? Well if you look at the ingredients it's not the regular soup we speak of... inside you can find, mixed together, boiled potatoes and boiled eggs and white sausage and mushrooms! All in one creamy white soup! But I tell you, it's the best treat for before or during a party as it's so heavy and yummy that it fills up your tummy and you know you will not have a tough night out drinking ;) it's one of the Polish guarded traditions and secrets. It's either some Zurek or some zapiekanka (and if in Kraków,  the zapiekanka on Plac Nowy is a must!).
The Zurek at Babcia Malina, Krakow - Poland
I know it will be weird if you will ask for the Zurek unprepared and you will get the bowl of soup. You will probably want to ask the waiter why the egg is in the soup and why you have sausages in it as well... it's normal! Relax and enjoy the different and unique taste. Zurek is also the traditional soup to be eaten during Easter in Poland - for Christmas there is red beetroot soup with small dumplings called "ears" in Polish language as they are small and resemble the shape of the ear. In traditional restaurants it is also very popular to serve the Zurek in bowls made out of bread. It is not typical to have bread at the table for Polish people, unless you have sandwiches (kanapka) so this version may be appealing for people from Romania, for example, who usually eat soup with bread ;) for the Polish people it's customary to eat anything with potatoes. Each country has its custom! ;) There are 2 legends connected with the history of this soup: one of the evil in keeper and one of the old lady.
The story of the mean innkeeper says there was an evil man who used to twist it's innkeeping business always to his benefit. One day people wanted to "return the favour" and dressed a glutton in rich clothes and gave him a chest full of money. They made the glutton make a bargain with the innkeeper so that he should do a dish and that he can, no matter how awful,  eat it. If he would not, he would give the innkeeper all the gold. So the mean innkeeper started with some sour old soup, placed a smoked sausage, put in some eggs boiled from some days ago and found some mushrooms as well... all in a pot, boiled them and brought them to the glutton. The glutton ate the bowl of soup and asked for more. Intrigued, other people demanded a taste as well... in such way the mean innkeeper lost the bet and the inn, the people were happy and now Polish tradition has one hell of a soup ;)) 
Zurek in break - source of picture
The story of the old lady is nicer and it refers to a poor family where the old lady needed to make some food for her husband who was coming from work. She started with some white sour soup bit she knew she should add something more if she wanted her husband to get strength. So she went away thorough the town, the neighbourhood, trying to gather things that might give it some added taste and energy. She found a couple of potatoes, a few mushrooms in the forest and forgotten in a drawer some smoked bacon... still good... so she put it all in one by one and this is how the Zurek was born :) I bet her husband was surprised of the result as well! 
But if you ever taste Zurek you will understand it all... you either love it or you hate it! And the first time I heard about this soup I did not want to eat such a weird thing... now it's my favourite traditional Polish dish! Just be open minded and give it a go - it will probably be on top of your list of foreign foods as well ;) and if ever in Kraków, make sure you try the one at Babcia Malina - fingerlicking good!

Yours sincerly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Polish Zurek (With Eggs!)