An Overview of Traditional Polish Food
If there is any cuisine that is known for being hearty, it's Polish food. Many Polish dishes contain eggs, cream, and meats making them very filling.
Chicken and pork are also commonly used in Polish cuisine but aren't always the main part of the meal. Cabbage, mushrooms, and potatoes are considered staples in Polish kitchens as these ingredients are contained in a large number of Polish meals.
The food of Poland has a lot of outside influences from bordering countries such as Lithuania, Hungary, Belarus, Ukraine, and Germany. Elements of cuisine from Russia, Turkey, and even Italy can be found in Polish food because of historical connections Poland had with these countries.
Polish food is rich and delicious and full of reminders of how life was lived in Poland over the centuries. There is something about a Polish meal that even makes a non-Pole's mouth water! Read on to learn more about what Polish cuisine has to offer and, as the Polish would say, 'Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa!'(Eat, drink, and loosen your belt!)
Starting Off: Polish Soups
Most meals in Poland start off with a soup of some sort. Perhaps the most commonly discussed soup of Poland is czernina, which is made from duck blood. This sweet soup was featured in an episode of "Bizarre Foods" but is actually a quite common and delicious soup that can even be found in many Polish restaurants in America.
Chłodnik is another popular soup in Poland which is made from beets, cucumbers, and dill. This cold soup is similar to borshch as it has a red or pink color (depending how much milk is added to the soup.)
As the usage of mushrooms in Polish cuisine is commonplace, there are also soups that are made from a variety of mushrooms. Zupa grzybowa is one such soup that can be made from a variety of mushrooms depending on what the cook desires or what is available during a particular season. Another popular soup in Poland is żurek which is made from soured rye flour and meat.
Polish Main Dishes
The main course is the most important part of the meal. Food in Poland is highly regional, but there are many dishes that are used as the main course all over Poland. Some of these dishes are even popular outside of Poland as many former Poles have introduced these dishes to the new regions in which they live.
Pierogi are perhaps one of the most widely known and loved of Polish dishes. These stuffed dumplings can contain a variety of different things and are really quite a versatile dish in that it can be made sweet and stuff with fruits or even chocolate or, more commonly, contain something more suitable for dinners such as meat, sauerkraut, mushrooms, or potatoes.
Bigos is another popular dish, made up of sauerkraut and meat. If you've tried choucroute before (a really popular French dish which you have to try,) this is very similar, but it is not quite as acidic.
My favorite Polish dish is Gołąbki which is cabbage rolls (my dad makes the best.) It is basically just seasoned meat and rice wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves and then baked with a really light tomato-ey sauce. Many recipes also contain mushrooms and other types of stuffing. Cabbage rolls are a traditional Polish recipe, but many people in neighboring countries make a variation of this wonderful dish.
Placki ziemniaczane are potato pancakes which absolutely delicious, but probably very bad for you. These are made from grated potatoes or sometimes mashed potatoes (which is how I prefer it) and are fried in a frying pan with butter. Some people eat these with applesauce on the side which is a nice way to sweeten up the dish, but I enjoy this with sour cream.
Kielbasa and Polish Sausage
Sausage is a very important part of Polish fare and no hub on Polish food would be complete without the mention of Polish sausages. Kiszka (from a popular polka "Who Stole the Kishka") is a very popular sausage in Poland and can also be found in areas of the US where there is a large number of Polish immigrants. This sausage is made from a variety of different meats but also contains either grains or, more commonly potatoes.
Being from an area of the US that is heavily populated with Polish people (South Bend, Indiana,) we can buy sausage in the supermarket that is just called "Polish sausage." It contains yummy ingredients like garlic and marjoram and is very popular at picnics where it is served instead of, or alongside bratwurst.
"Real" Polish sausage can be hard to obtain if you do not live in this area. Some people just call it kielbasa, but the word kielbasa doesn't mean a specific type of sausage, it just means "sausage" in general.
If you would like to try ordering this sausage online or would like to check your local supermarket for, it's important to know that it doesn't look remotely like the stuff Eckrich makes. It looks more like bratwurst but is paler. Even though it can be difficult to find, it is worth it as it is 10 times yummier than bratwurst and a billion times better than Eckrich!
Polish food is absolutely wonderful with the delicious soups and filling main dishes but is not complete without the amazing desserts that are what makes Polish cuisine so famous among non-Poles. Polish cuisine is full of cookies and cakes that are to die for. There are many different recipes for different tastes when it comes to dessert so anyone will enjoy a Polish sweet treat.
Kolaczkis are perhaps one of the most popular desserts from Poland. These are folded cookies that contain a fruit filling (usually apricot) or a sweet cheese filling and then are lightly dusted with powdered sugar.
Traditionally, these delicious cookies were served at Christmastime, but are now a year-round treat. Kolaczkis are best fresh, so it is best if they are homemade or if you are in a Polish area you can buy them in local supermarkets.
Mazurka/mazurek is not only a Polish folk dance, a sparrow, or someone from Mazur, but it is also the name of a wonderful flat cake. This cake is made from similar ingredients as kolaczki but is rolled flat. Like kolaczki, Mazurka also contains jam, but usually contains more than one type of jams in one cake. These jams are used to add a delicious fruity flavor to the cake and serve as the décor.
Babka is a delicious yeast cake that is shaped like an angel food cake. Babka is known for being an Easter dish. Babka is often made with raisins mixed in the dough and contains a fruit topping, but more and more cheese or chocolate babkas are being made (because everyone loves a chocolate babka!)
As you've probably noticed, Polish meals are full of calories, but what is gained in calories is made up for in the wonderful flavors that are a part of Polish food.
There are many ways to get a hold of good recipes for Polish food. If you live in a predominantly Polish area such as Chicago or Detroit it should be no problem finding a good Polish recipe. Polish food is very popular and thus there are some really good cookbooks that contain some amazing Polish recipes.
Questions & Answers
© 2010 Melanie Palen