Polish cuisine is known for its distinctive taste within the gastronomic world. Also, some of the unique Polish dishes are much less accessible once you leave the country. Everyone who has spent enough time in Poland to dive into the local food will surely miss them. Commonly Polish food universe is limited to dumplings, sausages and potatoes. That’s only not true but also harmful. Poland’s food scene has numerous regional cuisines with plenty oozing in flavour, proud representants. Buckle up and get ready to partake in our little odyssey through country’s most exquisite dishes, its origin and story behind it!
Warmia and Masuria, The Land of Thousands Lakes
In the north-east part of Poland, there is Warmia and Masuria region, where a unique fish soup is esteemed. You can taste plenty of meat dishes and various kinds of noodles. The most characteristic is a sausage cooked in beer. Additionally, it’s served with noodles. Another exciting recipe is a small potato chop stuffed with spicy meat or fish prepared with apples. Now that’s a real delicacy of Masurian area!
Podlaskie, a region of Eastern-Slavic influences
Podlaskie is embedded into deep east of Poland. Long-held cultural connections to Russia, Lithuania, Belorussia and western Ukrainian traditions, influenced the region’s unique menu. Over the centuries, have formed dishes such as hearty dumplings kopytka and a variety of worldwide famous pierogi. All that foodie can be topped with richly flavourful, paprika-packed goulash. Also, mushrooms, potatoes, healthy drinks and a lot of forest fruits accents are a strong characteristic of Podlaskie. Nonetheless, the most iconic food, which comes from the east, is the blood-red borscht. The presence of beetroot in that region’s cuisine can be traced from far Russia and the Slavic land.
The region around the Warsaw area is called Mazovia. Due to foreign influence since the 16th century, when the Polish capital was moved there, the kitchen becomes very modern. On the other hand, because the region is popular with tourists, within the capital area, you can find there a sample of every cuisine from Poland. It’s pretty impressive that in contrary to the region’s progress, its menu represents more old Polish food traditions. Plentifulness of forests and wilderness areas, explain the origin of cuisine based on fruit and meat. Most common is roasted lamb, veal and of course venison with juniper. A popular accompaniment to the meaty dishes is stewed beetroots and beetroot with horseradish (known as ćwikła). And then there are the lesser-known regional treats, like mushroom soup and the rose-tinted doughnuts.
Silesia, the most conspicuous of regional cuisines
Flavours of Silesia cuisine undoubtedly were influenced by Germany. That makes the menu of this region the most prominent among all Polish food traditions. Even the dumplings, which are practically the same all over Poland, are bit different, served with piles of mashed potato and an egg on the side. And there are excellent heavy rye soups called wodzionka and the zymlok sausage buns. Silesia is also the homeland of the most characteristic Polish soup – żurek. It has a silky texture and slightly sour taste. There are two ways of making this soup. First one is cooked in vegetable broth with potato and dried mushrooms. The second one has plenty of ham, carrots, white sausages and sour cream. Another iconic food of that region is called Silesian dumplings (kluski slaskie). Made from potato flour, usually, Silesian dumplings are eaten together with meat dishes, like goulash or salads.
Everyone should know that lesser Poland is home to some of the most iconic dishes in the country. Amazing Poppy cake (Makowiec) and the ubiquitous Polish sausage (Kiełbasa) are just beginning of the list of richly diversified menu. There are some seriously tasty reminders of the presence of Austrian heritage within Krakow and surroundings. Everyone should know that iconic and known for decades as kotlet schabowy comes from Viennese schnitzel. Just like the chewy obwarzanek pretzels present on every street corners of the Krakow’s Old Town. Other meaty suggestions are also worth mentioning. Famous Krakow duck is served with mushrooms and buckwheat, just like excellent tripe (flaczki). While you can, necessarily check out the in Krakow’s highly developed tradition of a bakery. Take a bite of juicy strudels, rolls stuffed with jam (called buchts) and Jewish bagels with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or salt (also known as precelki).
Podhale and Tatra Mountains – food traditions of Polish Highlanders
Southern-central part of Poland is a mountainous area, mostly belonging to the Tatra Mountains. If you are interested enough, you will find there a lot of regional specialities. Smoky and hearty meat with rich flavours tops the list of most common dishes. With an equal level of popularity and appreciation, are products made from sheep’s milk? You will notice probably everywhere sizzling sheep’s cheese called oscypek laying on the grills of Zakopane. Regularly it’s served with a side of sweet cranberry. Traditional recipes are being transmitted ‘from father to son’ for generations and Highlanders keep using the rennet from calf stomachs. Another well-known sheep cheese is Bundz, which requires a few days to ripen. This delicious mild cheese with a delicate nutty flavour is formed in a decorative wooden dish, soaked in cold salted water and then smoked.
In the north-western corner of Poland, there is a region of Pomerania. Historically flitted between Prussian, German and Polish rule, become a mixture of different customs. That’s why its cuisine reflects the kitchen of both eastern and central Europe. Influence of the sea is also distinctly perceptible. The best example of it is a famous regional tomato-infused fish pastes called Paprykarz Szczeciński. It’s a deep-fried yeast ball with tasty fillings of mushroom, meat and cabbage.
Influence of the sea is not ending only at the harbour cities. Up to kitchens of Kashubia, most popular Polish food is made from fish. Locals invented countless ways of preparing the Kashubian fish, both marine-freshwater and from Kashubian rivers and lakes. It could be fried, boiled and even pickled in vinegar. The most unique dish is Kashubian fish soup.
Located between Kashubia-Pomerania and Greater Poland, Kuyavia region is rich in having around 600 lakes and extensive forests. In the culinary tradition of Kuyavia, you can easily find plenty of influences of its neighbouring areas. The main characteristic feature of the Kuyavia cuisine is combining both fish and meat, together with fruits and nuts as additions to meals. The menu is filled with fish meals as well as various food made from mushrooms and berries. From a meaty perspective, there is a lot of baked, stewed, fried and cooked poultry – mainly ducks and geese. Another regional curiosity in Kuyavia is a soup made from goose blood, mixed with dried fruits.
On the central-western side of Poland, there is a region called Greater Poland. Probably everyone in Poland is linking that area with potatoes. One of the most recognizable is a potato dumpling stuffed with meat and serving with some sauce. It’s called Pyzy. Another well-known food from Wielkopolska is an onion soup, usually served with handmade noodles and some fried onions. Third most famous local speciality worth to recommend is a roast duck with apples and cumin. A good part of this is culinary identity is legendary St. Martin’s croissants. This horseshoe shape pastry contains a sweet mass of ground almonds, cream, dates, vanilla, white poppy seeds, sugar, raisins and butter.