Let nobody say that Poland is a vegetarians’ paradise. While vegetables are on tap, the cuisine is heavy, rich with meat, and often laden with sauces. But what else are vacations for? Herewith is a selection of the things I ate in Poland after I left Dobrzyn (pictures of the markets will be posted separately).
The national dish is pierogi: filled dumplings that are either boiled or fried. They come with a gazillion kinds of fillings, and I haven’t had a bad one.
After my talk in Warsaw, we all repaired to a restaurant famous for pierogi (click all photos to enlarge):
The Polish menu (enlarge it) shows all the varieties on the left, while the health benefits (LOL) of each type is on the right. For each pierogi order, you can have it slathered with either butter, sour cream, or a type of gravy:
The English translation. These are fancy pierogi; my favorite was the one filled with “forest mushrooms”, topped with sour cream. (A zloty is about one-third of a US dollar):
My selection: I had five varieties, two of each:
My neighbor preferred his pierogi fried after being boiled, and topped with bacon bits as well (I told you this wasn’t healthy food!):
Potato pancakes (Jews call them latkes) are one of my favorite foods; my mother used to make them when I was young). They are time-consuming to prepare properly, but a superb dish when served with either sour cream or applesauce (I prefer to alternate in a single meal). They are sold in many places; here’s a potato pancake stand in Cracow, with an order costing 3 zl, or about a US dollar:
Placki are sometimes served covered with goulash, and I had this in a milk bar in Warsaw. Now this is a hearty meal! The drink on the side is kompott, the watered-down exudate made from boiling fruit with sugar:
One of my companions at the milk bar had cheese-filled savory pancakes (I don’t know the Polish name), topped with a bit of grated cheese. These pancakes are an alternative to pierogi, and often offered with the same fillings:
A meal in a restaurant in Cracow’s Jewish Quarter. (There aren’t many Jews left, of course, but the old Jewish area is remarkably well preserved since it wasn’t destroyed by the Nazis as was Warsaw’s ghetto. Much of the movie Schindler’s List was filmed in this area). We had potato kugel with a savory relish, and goulash, all washed down with a beer (Polish beer can be good, especially if you get the one with the bison on the bottle):
On our way out, I saw a plate of hamentashen, a filled, three-cornered pastry usually made only on Purim, a special Jewish holiday. The shape is a mystery, and has been variously said to resemble the ears or the hat of Haman, the villian of the story. Hamentashen are often filled with prune jam, but this one contained a sweetened poppy-seed paste:
Here’s an incredibly cheap meal at a local place in Cracow. The total bill for everything, including two beers, was about $14:
A Lithuanian (or so I’m told) rye-bread-based soup with egg. It was yummy!
My dinner: pork sausages with onions, cabbage, and mustard. The veggies are an afterthought:
There was also a huge plate of another famous Polish dish: bigos (“hunter’s stew”), made with cabbage, various meats, and spices. This was also excellent:
One of my favorite Polish treats was paczki, or jam-filled “donuts”. They differ from American donuts because the dough is much richer, made with eggs. The fillings vary, and they’re often topped with powdered sugar or, on the fancy kinds, bits of preserved orange peel:
Finally, I’d be remiss if I omitted the wonderful Polish breads, often studded with different types of grains and nuts. Here’s a bakery (mostly sold out since this was late in the day), but I’ll show more scenes from the market in a later post: