Fermented, spicy, sweet and sour – this is the flavor palette of traditional Polish cuisine. Its centuries-old history delights with its variety and unexpected combinations of ingredients. We introduce you to the top ten national dishes of Poland.
Historical roots Over the centuries of its existence, Polish cuisine has borrowed the culinary traditions of Ukrainians, Jews, Belarusians, Lithuanians and Italians. The culinary traditions were influenced by the special geographical location of the country and the interdynastic marriages of European rulers.
For example, at the beginning of the 16th century, King Sigismund married an Italian noblewoman from the Sforza family, after which exquisite Milanese dishes and desserts were added to Poland’s cookbook. For example, marzipan.
The Poles adapted all borrowings “to suit themselves”, so nothing remained of the original European recipes. The first cookbook discovered by historians, from which knowledge about traditional Polish dishes came, was called “Compendium Ferculorum, alba Zebrano porta” and was published in 1682. From it we know that medieval food was fatty and heavy. And it was based on cereals and game, which have now been replaced by potatoes and poultry.
The unspoken “king of soups” in Poland is Zurek. This is one of the most delicious and ancient dishes in the country, which locals advise every tourist to try. The ingredient that has captivated people is “shut,” a leaven made with rye flour.
The sour sourdough is mixed with meat broth, potatoes and pieces of sausage. One thing remains unchanged – thick and rich Zurek is served in a bread plate with half an egg. Due to the simplicity of the recipe, this soup was considered a poor man’s food; in the modern world, it has become a traditional treat for Easter and an important item on the menu of any cafe in Poland.
Polish zurek is also found in the culinary traditions of neighboring countries. For example, in Belarus. We recently talked about this when we wrote about the national cuisine of this country.
If you love Solanki, you will also love bigos – a traditional Polish dish made from sauerkraut and meat. It was admired by Polish poets, and was even served at social events in New York. The modern version came to us from the 18th century and was considered a “robber”, that is, inexpensive.
To prepare bigos, sauerkraut, meat or minced meat and spices were mixed in one huge pan. The perfect bigos takes three days to cook. Now it is considered a “winter” dish that can warm you up in the most inclement weather.
The origin of this sausage is still debated. Kashonda appeared in Polish cuisine in the 17th century, most likely from Germany or Denmark. Buckwheat and pearl barley porridge, blood, pork liver, lungs and fat were added to the minced meat.
Kashan Ki was served only in rich houses, although for a long time the sausage was associated with food for peasants. They could only afford this treat on major holidays. Kashonda is usually served with sauerkraut, bread or potatoes, and in the summer it is grilled.
4. Duck with apples
You can’t visit Poland without trying duck with apples. This juicy dish is the main tradition and table decoration at Christmas and Easter. The recipe is incredibly simple! The bird is stuffed with apples, doused with beer and put in the oven for several hours. The duck is then served with potatoes or sweet dumplings.
Polish women could buy poultry at the local market and delight their family with a spicy, warming dish. And for the rich, duck with apples was an indispensable attribute of every hunt, where they shot game and had a festive dinner.
Traditional Polish beef tripe stew is very simple and healthy. Thanks to its rich broth, flaki cures hangovers, and due to the high collagen content in scars, it is prescribed for sprains and fractures to restore bone tissue.
The most popular recipe includes beef or veal tripe, a thick broth cooked with roots (carrots, celery, parsley) and spices. All the ingredients are very easy to get, but it will take 4 to 5 hours to prepare. The soup is served hot and in deep bowls.
6. Polish zrazy
According to one legend, this meatloaf made from chopped beef with spices was brought to Poland by the Italian Queen Bona Sforza, the wife of the then ruler of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. For a long time, the dish was considered suitable only for noble classes. King Vladislav Jagiello especially loved zrazy.
In Polish cuisine, zrazy is prepared in two ways. There are zrazy with filling – these are rolls in which various additives were wrapped. For example, vegetables, eggs, mushrooms. Or the filling is simply wrapped in meat and fried in onion or mushroom sauce.
7. Oscypek grill
Oscypek is a smoked sheep’s milk cheese popular in Poland. This famous taste deserves a separate discussion. To make cheese, a special EU certificate is required, which 10 Polish farmers currently have. It is eaten ready-made or grilled and served with lingonberry sauce.
To do this, the cheese is cut into small flat cakes and placed on the grill. Some pieces are wrapped in bacon. And, of course, they add berry sauce, which makes this taste experience unforgettable.