“Why does everyone think we eat pierogi all the time? We eat them maybe twice a year”, states my driver with a slightly annoyed tone.
We’re talking about Warsaw, Poland, and food, and I’ve asked him what Polish dish he thinks every visitor should try during their time in Poland. As you can probably guess, pierogi seems the be the number one choice for many travellers, and who can blame them?! Pierogi are delightful. Mashed potato mixed with cheese, bacon, or onion, wrapped in a dumpling like dough, boiled or fried, and served with sour cream, fried bacon and onion. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! And while we can buy pierogi in the frozen food section of the grocery store, or buy fresh ones from a Polish or Ukrainian (There is a debate as to who invented the pierogi, Poland or Ukraine) shop, there is a part of us that want to eat pierogi in the country that made them famous.
Eating pierogi in Poland should definitely be on the top of every foodie’s Poland Bucket List – there is no shortage of fillings: blueberry, sauerkraut, spinach, meat, ruskie (Russian: potato and cheese). But let’s not stop at pierogi. There are plenty of traditional Polish dishes to add to your list.
This delightful side dish consists of pan-fried sauerkraut and onions, sausage, spices. Sauerkraut has never been a favourite with myself, but I loved this dish as it wasn’t too sour (I tend to squinch my face when I eat sour foods), and the onion was not too strong. This goes well with crusty country bread.
Kotlet z piersi Kurczaka, Surówka z białej kapusty, Sałatka burakowa
One of my first Polish meals was Kotlet z piersi Kurczaka (breaded chicken cutlet) with Surówka z białej kapusty (coleslaw) and Sałatka burakowa (warm beetroot salad). The chicken was moist and not over cooked, the beetroot salad was… well it was beets, and the coleslaw was everything coleslaw should be, tasty and not too juicy. I couldn’t help thinking: “Is this what all Polish food if like? I could get used to this!”.
After my driver shared his disdain for foreigner’s obsession with pierogi I asked him what Polish dishes Polish people eat the most, his answer was soup. And I believed him. From the moment I arrived in Poland, I have had soup as a course at lunch and dinner. One of the first soups I tried was Żurek, sour rye soup with sausage and bacon. It was good, but a little salty and fatty for my tastes. My favourite Polish soup was Grzybowa which is a mushroom soup with homemade noodles. So yummy!
My very first dish in Poland was Placki Kartoflane: potato pancakes with a Chantrelle mushroom cream sauce. While I found the pancakes to be a little dense (I remember having traditional ones as a little girl, which were made by a friend’s grandmother), they were fairly tasty. I especially loved the creamy Chantrelle mushroom sauce. Placki is served with a variety of sides, from spinach to mushrooms, and even stew.
I started this article talking about pierogi, but I have to chat a little about it one more time. While this peasant dish is traditionally made twice a year for Christmas and Easter, finding pierogi in Polish restaurants in quite easy. Heck, you can even find restaurants that sell only pierogi. While many of us are more familiar with Pierogi Ruskie (potato and cheese), there are much more to discover: blueberry, apple, chicken, spinach, sauerkraut – just to name a few. Although they are generally boiled, it is possible to find deep-fried pierogi as well.
Traditional Polish Restaurants
Eating traditional Polish food in a hotel restaurant is one thing, but going out to dine in a restaurant that specialises in traditional Polish food is the way to go. During my time in Poznan, we dined at three traditional Polish restaurants. These are the two that I recommend:
Powder blue walls with painted flowers along the top of the windows, large white paper lamps, country wood tables and benches, straw wreaths accented with red ribbon. Located at Stary Rynek 77 in the old town, Wiejskie Jadło is by far my favourite of the three restaurants we visited. I loved the country vibe of the restaurant, and the food was absolutely delicious.
Located at Kantaka 8/9, Chłopskie Jadło is still inside the city centre, but outside the old town. The restaurant is quite a bit larger than Wiejskie Jadło, but the decor is very similar – country wood tables, white or powder blue walls, hand-painted flowers around the windows. While the food was just as delicious as at Wiejskie Jadło, I loved the family style dining, and the addition of sausage, kebab withs chunks of vegetables and thick bacon pieces, and blood sausage.
Conclusion? Traditional Polish food (although a little salty and fatty at times) is really good. Poznan is a city of 500,000 people, and while I enjoyed the food I cannot help but wonder how the dishes might change it I was to travel to the country and eat at a restaurant in a small village. Definitely, something to consider for my next trip to Poland.