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11 fundamentals of Polish cuisine

11 fundamentals of Polish cuisine

From the beloved pierogi to the irresistible Zapiekanka, Musement shares 11 fundamentals of Polish cuisine that you must taste in Poland.

Polish cuisine is famous for its variety of starchy, cheesy, and meaty dishes that originate both in Poland and its neighboring countries. Whether you need some guidance with a milk bar menu or eager for some downtime in Warsaw, there’s plenty to whet your appetite. From mouth-watering doughnuts to satiating dumplings to rich pork, Poland offers some of Europe’s most particular (and caloric!) eats. Here is a selection of our favorite Polish foods that run the gamut from street food vendors to grandma’s kitchen.

1. Pierogi

These quintessential Polish dumplings are undeniably tasty and you absolutely must indulge in a dish anytime you visit any Polish city. The variety of fillings is vast, however, and the most popular include cabbage and mushrooms, minced meat or cottage cheese, and potatoes (pierogi ruskie). Usually topped with melted butter or traditional Polish onion and lard crackling and accompanied by a side of sour cream, pierogi not only taste delightful, they’re also very filling.

2. Herring

Herring, like no other dish, holds a special place in Polish cuisine. This versatile fish makes for a great evening snack with your vodka (shot) or a breakfast topping for your sourdough bread and is always served at weddings. Usually served marinated in oil with pickled onions and dill or in sour cream with a slice of sourdough bread.

3. Bigos

Much more appetizing than it looks, bigos combines sauerkraut with chopped meat, then is cooked with Polish seasoning. This stew is a perfect dish to fill you up and keep you warm and is best consumed with a slice of sourdough bread.

4. Żurek

If you want to try something truly particular, treat yourself to a portion of Zurek (pronounced ‘zhureck’). Made out of fermented rye and cooked with garlic, sausage, bacon, or ham and egg, the soup is hardy enough to suffice as a main dish. You may even find it served in an edible bread bowl.

5. Kotlet schabowy

A breadcrumb-coated pork chop served with potatoes and salad or cabbage, kotlet schabow is a typical Polish riff on schnitzel, popular weekend fare in just about every Polish household.

6. Placki ziemniaczane

Potatoes are a fundamental of Polish cuisine and placki ziemniaczane (potato fritters) are just one of their many iterations. These crispy potato fritters can be eaten on their own as well as with a side of sour cream or Hungarian style, topped with a meaty sauce.

7. Rosół

Every Polish household serves this simple yet incredibly tasty and flavorsome chicken broth at least once a week. It’s usually prepared by slow cooking chicken bones and root vegetables with seasoning and served with noodles and boiled vegetables.

8. Gołąbki

Golabki (meaning ‘little pigeons’) is a traditional Polish dish comprised of white cabbage leaves filled with minced meat mixed with rice and onion and served with tomato sauce. You can find them in every Polish household and restaurant.

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9. Zapiekanka

You haven’t tasted the ultimate Polish street food until you’ve tasted zapiekanka. The Jewish quarter of Krakow is home to the best, though each Polish city boasts its own beloved zapiekanka spot. The basic version of this long ciabatta-like piece of bread is topped with mushrooms, onions, however, you can take your pick from an endless variety of toppings. If you have the chance, try zapiekanka with mountain cheese and spring onions.

10. Szarlotka

This Polish take on apple pie is rich and sweet, and it’s one of the go-to desserts at home. The pie is made from grated apples mixed with sugar and cinnamon, topped with meringue with crumbs and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It’s best consumed warm accompanied by a scoop of ice cream.

11. Pączki

Polish doughnuts are the favorite sweet snack on the go. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, pączki make a very filling snack worth the calories. Traditionally, they’re topped with powdered sugar and filled with rose jam, though nowadays there’s a variety of flavors. On Fat Thursday, the Polish consume more than 100 million on average — that’s 2.5 per person.

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