FOOD & DRINK IN POLAND
Soups: żurek - a sour rye soup with sausage, potatoes and egg, quite often served in a bread bowl; barszcz - a beetroot soup, may be served with potatoes and veggies tossed in, with a croquette or uszka (mini pierogi) floating in it, or simply as broth in a mug for drinking; flaki - a beef tripe soup with veggies, herbs and spices;
Pierogi: Doughy dumplings traditionally filled with potato and sweet cheese (ruskie), meat (z mięsem), mushrooms and cabbage (z kapustą i grzybami), strawberries (z truskawkami), spinach (ze szpinakiem) and many of other fillings;
Bigos: a stew made from fresh and pickled cabbage, leftover meat parts and sausage, onion, forest mushrooms. It is cooked over a long period of days for full flavour infusion. Traditional dish for Christmas. In Polish metaphorically bigosmeans to "big mess", or "trouble";
Śledzie (herrings): traditionally served with ice cold vodka, pickled in oil or vinegret;
Kiełbasa (sausage): in Poland there is a great variety of sausages, made from beef, pork, chicken, turkey, wild boar or bison. Krakowska is a must try - thick dry, seasoned with pepper and garlic; Kabanosy - a thin, dry sausage with different flavours; and for breaves Kaszanka- a blood sausage filled with groats and pig’s blood, somewhat like Scottish haggis but different;
Gołąbki (little pigeons): boiled cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, onion and rice before being baked and served in a tomato (traditional) or mushroom sauce;
Galareta pig trotters in gelly;
Golonka - a pork knuckle or hock, boiled, braised, or generally roasted. Served with horseradish or sauerkraut and a cold beer, to many this is a cuisine hit;
Tatar (tartare) - this is true Polish delicacy - raw beef meet served with onion, pickled mushrooms and cucumbers and row egg yolk;
Kotlet schabowy (pork chop) - probably the most popular dish in Poland; must to be in Polish restauransts' menus but also very common for family Sunday dinners, recipe very similar to Vienerschnitzel;
Smalec - (lard) animal fat spread full of fried lard chunks, very often served as starter with bread;
Sernik - Polish cheesecake - made with a sweet curd cheese (twaróg) and served cold, can be plain, or with dried tropical fruit or with chocolate cover. This dessert is a must on Easter table;
Szarlotka - Poland has the best apples in the world. Polish apple pie is a standard served almost everywhere. It's the most popular homemade cake. Can be served cold or warm with ice cream;
Makowiec - poppy seed cake, traditionally eaten at Christmas;
Kremówka - Polish Pope John Paul II favourite cake. A cream pie made of two thin layers of puff pastry filled with vanilla custard cream and often topped with powdered sugar;
Pierniki - gingerbread in many varieties, but the most famous is Toruński Piernik, (Toruń gingerbread) which has been produced for more than 700 years! Slightly soft, chewy and flavoured with honey, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, anise and lavender. Can be glazed with sugar, covered in chocolate or filled with marmalade.
Pączki - dense deep-fried doughnuts filled with rose jam, glazed with sugar and topped with candied orange peel. Very popular on Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday) – which falls on the last Thursday before the Lent.
In Poland, vodka (wódka) is not a cocktail mixer. Best served very cold; in glasses of 25 or 50 grammes (to be consumed in one go!) but a volume of 100 grammes is a challenge to expatriots. As they say, a half litre bottle for two is just the beginning...
Best Polish brands are: Polonez, Belvedere, Wyborowa or Żytnia. Polish vodka is usually made from potatoes and has a slightly sweet taste. These are the so called clear vodkas.
Flavoured vodkas – also a number one choice for Poles.
The most popular is Żubrówka (Bison vodka), with a stem of special grass from virgin forest of Białowieża in every bottle. A bit herby.
Another one is Pieprzówka, a strong peppery flavoured spirit which, some say, can fight colds and stomach upsets.
Another from the basic list is Pejsachówka, a 75% proof and is strongest on the market.
Liqueur (likier in Polish) – the best choice for many is Wiśniówka (cherry). There are many other and they are named after the fruit they are made from. Another sort of liqueur is “nalewka”, which is 40 or 45 percent strong (like most vodkas) but these are made by mixing vodka and herbs, leafs and fruit of black currant, juniper, ginger, green Persian walnut, cherries, wormwood, anise, apricots and many more.
A true nalewka should be aged at least a few months. Some recipes are a family secrets and are an alternative to vodka or liqueur.
Definitely a small glass after a dinner or supper is a great path to fine taste and smell can be a true experience.
Beer - piwo in Polish.
Beer is becoming one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Poland, unfortunately the most popular and cheapest brands have nothing to offer in terms of taste. In a supermarket or shops that sell beer you will find a variety (you might be surprised) to find local beers that are gaining popularity.
The most popular brands are Żywiec or Okocim, the local brands, provide an alternative to these. In restaurants or shops ask for “piwo lokalne” and you will definitely tell the difference. In shops it is also easy to find them – the labels on bottles will stand out from the rest. Say “piwo z maly browar") and you are on your way.
Wine - wino in Polish
There is a number of local vineyards (350 registered) but this business (or passion, some would say) is only in certain areas (south and south-west Poland). Some vineyards, however, are 30 years old (though wine was produced in Poland as early as 13th Century) and naturally, the Polish climate does not help in winemaking.
50 years ago the only local wine was made from apples or other fruit. Some vineyards offer a tour together with wine tasting.