Polish dishes you have to try when travelling to Poland
When it comes to visiting Poland, most people think of gorgeous, natural landscapes and ancient monuments. However, believe it or not, it is also possible to learn a lot about Polish history and culture from… the country’s traditional dishes! In this article, you will learn about the origins and customs associated with some of the most iconic traditional dishes of Poland.
Enjoy your meal! Or, as the Polish people say, „Smacznego!”
Sour soup (Żurek)
Sour soup (zurek) is a traditional Polish soup, prepared based on a meat decoction, which is concentrated with bread sourdough. This sourdough usually comes from rye flour, which has a characteristic, sour flavor.. It is a specialty of regional Polish cuisine, but it can also be found in other North Slavic countries, such as Belarus and Slovakia.
There are some uncertainties about whether sour soup is the same thing as white borsch, because according to one of the traiditions, both names are used interchangeably. However, according to other customs, sour soup is an acidified, lenten soup served with an egg or some potatoes, while white borsch is a soup prepared based on a decoction from bacon and sausage.
Bigos (Hunter’s stew) is a traditional dish made from cabbage and meat. It originated from Poland, but it is also popular in Lithuania and Belarus.
Between the 17th and 18th centuries, bigos was known as a dish from chopped meat, fish, or even chopped crayfish, with the addition of lemons, limes, and vinegar. In the 18th century, people began to replace expensive ingredients with sauerkraut, which was a way of imitating elite cuisine, and that’s the origin of the 19th century name „bigos z kapusta” (Hunter’s stew with cabbage) came from.
However, despite all the changes made over the centuries, many cookbooks still have recipes for bigos without cabbage. One of such cookbooks is „365 obiadow za 5 zlotych” by Lucyna Cwierczakiewiczowa.
Pierogi (dumplings) are pieces of slim, flexible, and sticky dough filled with various types of stuffing and cooked in water or steamed. The dough can be made from any type of flour (wheat flour, rice flour, or even corn flour) with the addition of water, eggs, yeast and fat (usually butter or oil).
According to legend, Jacek Odrowaz was delighted with the flavor of dumplings during his trip to Kiev and he brought them to Poland. Some people believe, that he fed poor people with dumplings, which he made all by himself.
In the beginning, dumplings were only served for special occasions. For example, kurniki – large dumplings with stuffing from chicken meat, were served at weddings, knysze were served at funerals, and small, sweet dumplings known as saniezki and socznie – on name days.
When you ask someone about the most popular, traditional Polish dish, you shouldn’t be surprised, when they mention the schabowy cutlet (pork chop) in their top 5. This cutler is fried on clarified butter, surrounded by golden breadcrumbs and served along with fried cabbage and potatoes. And although it is often the very first thing that comes to mind, when you think about Polish cuisine, it wasn’t always as popular as today.
The word „kotlet” appeared for the very first time in 1860, between the pages of the cookbook entitled „365 obiadow za piec zlotych” by Lucyna Cwierczakiewiczowa.. The interesting fact is that the value meentioned in the title – 5 PLN, is not accidential. Long ago, pork meat had an opinion of meat dedicated for physical workers of lower social classes.
The history of the tatar steak might seem slightly strange, or controversial, because it is associated with being prepared from horseflesh. But it isn’t certain how much of this theory is true.
Tatar warriors became historically famous as a band of wild and untamed hordes under the leadership of Genghis Khan. When they took off to conquer Europe, they were assigned with all the worst possible qualities.
However, the fact, that the Tatar steak was made from horseflesh, is not exactly true. During their long journeys, the Tatar warriors did carry raw meat under saddles, but it was actually beef, and not horseflesh. Besides, steakes are more often associated with beef, which is meat from cow, so it doesn’t have much in common with horseflesh.
Bread with lard and pickled cucumbers
Some people living in the countryside associate lard with the basic type of fat to spread on bread. It often replaced butter and was a good ingredient for sandwiches, but it was also used for frying and baking meat. Nowadays, during the renaissance of traditional cuisine, it can be found not only in pubs, but also in very exclusive restaurants.
People living in big cities probably mostly associate lard with regional cuisine and a delicious treat, which is served in traditional inns before the main course. But for people living in the countryside, lard is simply a type of fat for lubricating bread.
Lard is a type of animal fat, and that’s why it’s not a good idea to eat it every day. But when you do eat it, it can be quite delicious.
Golabki are a half-meat dish made from stuffing rolled in leaves of white head cabbage. The traditional ingredients of the stufing are minced pork and either rice or groats, as well as further additions, such as onion, mushrooms and spices. There are also different types of stuffing, for example stuffing with poultry, mutton, or stuffing without meat. Before serving, golabki are stewed or fried.
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, golabki are known as holubce, in some regions of the United States, they are known as glubkis, in Lithuania people call them balandeliai, and in Germany – Krautwickell. They were also introduced in Sweden, probably thanks to Ottoman believers of king Karol XII, who lived in Stockholm in the 18th century.
Oscypek is a type of hard, smoked cheese, prepared from sheep milk, which is characteristic for the Polish mountains, especially the region of Podhale. It was popularized in Poland and other European countries.
Oscypek is produced in the form of small, fusiform blocks with typical, decorative edges, which are typical for this region. The patterns on the edges are made in a small, wooden mold, the so-called „oscypiorka”. The name „oscypek” most likely comes from the word „scypanie”, which means „diffractioning”. The oscypek is made in a traditional way by shepherds on mountain pastures. After milking the sheep into a wooden pail, the milk is siphoned off through linen cloth, and after that, the curd is impressed and shaped up.