Polish Food

Sorry, Poland, but your food isn’t gorgeous.

It’s delicious, don’t get me wrong. I could happily subsist on a diet of just pierogi for the foreseeable future. But photogenic, it just isn’t. During my recent trip to Krakow, my Instagram feed was devoid of food photos, because I struggled to find a shot that was crisp and colorful and not brown on brown.

Now that that’s out of the way, and I’ve offended the many readers of Polish heritage who grew up on these dishes, let’s talk about the taste.

Because in the end that’s what really matters, and Polish food has flavor in spades.

Polish Food

The king of Polish food has to be the pierogi. Essentially a large, thick ravioli, the pierogi is traditionally filled with mashed potatoes or some kind of braised meat. They are typically not served with a sauce, but left to speak for themselves, or if dressed, might have a small spoon of sour cream, or a sprinkle of sautéed onions or bacon. Meat pierogi with bacon on top? Yes please!

Less common is the sweet pierogi, filled with seasonal fruit and served in a small lake of sweetened cream. As you would expect, it’s totally delicious and the strawberry filling I tried was sweet and tart and bright.

Polish Food

Polish Food

Another well-known contribution of Polish food to the world must be vodka and its accompaniments. In Poland, where cheap vodka is the drink of choice for many, the harsh alcohol taste can be hard to shake. So, shots are followed up with a small  bite, typically something salty, which masks the vodka flavor almost entirely. Now, if you happen to be sipping on a fancy vodka somewhere, or have a particular affinity for the taste of vodka, you might not want to cover up the flavor.

But the rest of us would rather not feel the burn, so to speak.

The traditional bite of choice is pickled herring. If you don’t love pickled fish on its own, give it another try right after a shot of vodka. It is totally different, mostly a bright saltiness, that is very much appreciated in this particular combination.

Polish Food

Polish Food

Soup is almost its own food group in Poland. During my few days in Krakow, I tried four different soups. Four! In general, soups in Poland are hearty, meaty and usually have a mound of cabbage and root vegetables to add substance and vitamins. My favorite sample was bigos, also known as hunter’s stew. Full of sauerkraut, kielbasa and pork, it would be the perfect end to a long day spent hunting in the cold.

Or a good way to end a day meandering around Krakow!

One exception to the intense soup options was this beetroot soup served up in a small cafe, but even this seemingly light version was served over a generous spoonful of mashed potatoes.

Polish Food

I enjoyed a visit to a local market, where I found proof that Poles love their fruits and veggies, even though I didn’t have a single salad during my entire visit. I’m not sure what percentage of this bounty is eaten fresh versus braised down into a hearty soup, but that’s a question for a different day.

Polish Food

Polish Food

Cooking seasonally is central to the food culture in Poland, and during the long cold winters, dried fruits, beans and lots of preserved meats help get families through the dark months. Hence, all the pickled cabbage, and smoked sausages, the foods for which Poland is the most famous.

I loved sampling fresh sauerkraut and pickles, with just the lightest pickling. The kraut was still a bit crunchy and the pickles had a nice snap to them.

It reminded me that even a dish as single minded as pickled cabbage can have endless variation.

Polish Food

Polish Food

Finally it’s worth mentioning that Poland is in a bit of a boom on the beer front, with craft breweries popping up all over. During a work event, I got to sample plum beer and cherry beer, both dense, cloudy and somewhat sweet with fruit. I really enjoyed the unique combinations, but these beers are not particularly ‘chug-able’ – my single adjective to describe my favorite beers.

I got a lot more mileage out of some of the other beer offerings. On a warm afternoon, some new friends and I sat around an outdoor courtyard, sampling beer and relaxing in the sunshine. It was the perfect way to wrap up a food marathon and to appreciate Polish food culture in all its delicious glory.

And then I went off to find another plate of pierogi.

Polish Food

Do you like Polish food? What is your favorite dish? And are you as pickle obsessed as me?

If you love Pinterest as much as I do, why not Pin this?

Polish Food

  • April 23, 2016

    I’ll be going to Warsaw next week and I’ll definitely be doing a food tour. I can’t wait! 🙂
    Dominique recently posted…Curaçao – Day Trip Klein CuraçaoMy Profile

    • April 25, 2016

      Julie had a blast on the tour. Ended up hanging out with the people from the tour afterwards, and had a few beers and even more food!

  • April 27, 2016

    This post makes me simultaneously nostalgic for my time living in Krakow and seriously craving Polish food in all its delicious forms. Especially soups, miss a hearty Polish soup!
    Julia recently posted…Bay Area Eats: Khyber Pass Kabob in Dublin, CAMy Profile

    • April 29, 2016

      Haha – I have several Polish co-workers and they’re disappointed that I didn’t try some of the more ‘adventurous’ versions – the types with various organ meats. So apparently I have a LOT more to learn!

  • April 29, 2016

    I’m Polish and a big fan of pierogi 🙂 so I’m happy you liked them, but I must admit your photos of them are pretty terrible and discouraging – I guess if you’ve eaten them at someone’s home they would look much better and be really good for photos.
    By the way, what is the strange green sauce on the plate?
    Monika recently posted…Flavours of PeruMy Profile

    • May 2, 2016

      Fair enough, Monika. I’m sure there are other settings (other than a paper plate) where pierogi look more beautiful! And the green sauce was a minty condiment that was on the table at a restaurant. I just added it to everything 🙂

  • May 5, 2016

    I think food tours and photography tours are the best idea ever! Such a great way to see a city!

    Those pierogis look like dim sum or potstickers! When I lived in Seattle, my favorite food stand was a place called Piroshky, Piroshky – perhaps a Russian version? Although they were more like Empanadas/Calzones.
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted…Two Days in PhuketMy Profile

    • May 6, 2016

      Ok, that sounds delicious. I think that there is some version of delicious pocket food everywhere. Maybe I should go on a mission to find all of them 🙂