Top 10 Foods You Must Eat in Poland
Love food tours? Our trip to Poland quickly turned into a big food tour (and most of our trips if I can help it). With Polish food being one of my favorite cuisines, I was in paradise! If you are visiting Poland, put these on your list. I'm just getting more hungry writing this. We were in Poznan and Krakow for New Years feasting on these delicious dishes.
My personal favorite and probably the most well known Polish dish are the famous pierogi. While in Poznan, Poland, we found a new favorite restaurant Wiejskie Jadlo (translation: “country food”) and tried goose pierogi with a side of jam. I can't get enough of pierogi, even though we get treated to home made pierogi from time to time. Some phrases I heard frequently on the trip were “wystarcy pierogow!” and “enough food!” but I don't care…she knows the drill by now.
I just love trying all different types of pierogi. It is possible that we had them almost every day for about a week. Last year a big hit was the wild board pierogi at Ratuszowa, a restaurant in Poznan which is usually near the top of Trip Advisor's restaurant list.
Pierogi come in so many different varieties with some of the most typical being potato/cheese, meat, sauerkraut/mushroom. Boiled and fried are the two ways they are usually prepared.
2) Kiełbaski z niebieskiej Nyski
Kiełbasa, is often the second and last Polish dish that people have heard of. Please do not call it “
Kabassy“. While in Poznan, we heard about these delicious kielbasas! I highly recommend it!
Kielbaski z niebieskiej Nyski is a food truck selling kielbasas on a roll (“bułka”). We figured it would be too long as the line was ~20 people deep. Due to the freezing temperatures, we took turns waiting in the car to warm up. I learned that these guys started selling Kielbasa over 26 years ago at the same location serving the same food late into the night from their old blue Nyska.
What's a Nyska? It's that old blue soviet model van behind them. Police used to drive these vans during communist times. You knew you better start running if you saw one of these coming. These kielbaski are locally made and grilled to perfection over wood about 5 at a time. So, while the line didn't seem that long, it was still about 30 minutes because each set of 5 need some time to cook. Your kielbasa will be served on a roll (this is not a crappy hot dog bun!), mustard, ketchup, and a couple drinks.
3) Zurek in bread (white borscht)
This zurek was friggin awesome! I've tried it in many places and the zurek from Wiejskie Jadlo (the same place that served the pierogi above) was one of the best I had! This soup is a white borscht with, guess… yes, kielbasa. It's a perfect food on a freezing night in December (or pretty much anytime for that matter). The dish is popular in the East of Poland and mostly around Easter time. Located right in the center of town, this restaurant which I've now mentioned twice, has a perfect, easy to get to location. We will be there again soon.
4) Smalec on country bread
Ok. I admit at first glance this may not sound so appetizing, but stay with me. Smalec is rendered and flavored pork fat which you spread on bread like butter. As I kid, I would stay far away from this. As a health conscious adult, I would generally not eat this. But…I tried it and I cannot believe I have been missing out on this!
Later when we were in Krakow on New Year's Eve, a street vendor “Pajda” was serving giant country bread (named after the dish “pajda”) with a variety of toppings. My choice – smalec and kielbasa. It was freezing, about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and when I was done eating this, the grease that had been running down my hands had frozen as well. All this deliciousness for ~$2 USD. I can't wait to go back for more!
5) Placki Ziemniaczane (Potato Pancakes)
Placki ziemnaiaczane, aka potato pancakes, aka latkes, is another dish I just crave! My photo didn't come out well, but these potato pancakes came smothered (perhaps a bit too much) in sour cream. I will be on a mission to find some more placki when I return to Poland! These are fairly simple to make and on the top of my list when I'm asked, “Should I make something?”… almost an automatic response “placki prosze”.
On to desserts! I don't have such a sweet tooth and I was not very familiar with Polish sweet specialties, except of course krowki. I was surprised with some really fantastic desserts!
6) Papieskie Kremowki (cream cake) and 7) Ptys (cream puff)
My wife was convinced that one cannot visit Krakow and not to try papieskie kremowki from Wadowice (papal cream cake). I was worried we would not have time to take a side trip out of Krakow to try the kremowki since that's where the best ones were made. Fortunately for us, the bakery Cukiernia Wadowice had opened two locations right in Krakow!
We got a huuuge ptys (puff) and I of course tried the famous kremowka (I had just found out they were famous during this trip). My wife… well, in heaven. Her ptys was filled with gigantic pink fluff but the cream was really light between steamed dough. For me, however, this giant pink ptys is too much cream and too much sugar. Meanwhile, at least for me, the kremowka was a perfect balance of everything and the clear winner! How did these kremowki get their name? Pope John Paul II loved to visit the bakery where these are made…hence the name “papieskie kremowki”.
So what's in a kremowka? Here's a diagram which explains it all. It starts with a puff pastry on the bottom, with a thick layer of fluffy vanilla cream, topped with another puff pastry with powdered sugar.
8) Paczki (donuts)
Krakow is also known for paczki (a donut with various fillings). Until this trip, I had only tried paczki make in Polish bakeries in the US and was never fond of them. In fact, I hated them. This is completely something different. The online reviews all say Gorące Pączki makes the best paczki and I made it a goal to try some. Unfortunately, for 3 days in a row, their shop was closed!
Fortunately, we found this other shop which started selling them right from the front window late after midnight on New Year's Eve (our last night). Freshly made and still warm…pyszne! (that means delicious!) Nevertheless, my wife was still unsatisfied – her grandma used to make them for Fat Tuesday. It will be hard to compete with that.
I had my sights set on Gorace Paczki. Unfortunately, we ended up buying some paczki at a chain bakery on the way to the hotel since the store was closed. This bakery did not prepare them fresh and warm, and quite frankly, didn't do it justice. My advice is to avoid any that are not made fresh.
9) Oscypek (smoked sheep cheese)
Trying oscypek was a bit of a pleasant surprise. I last tried this as a kid but didn't remember it until my first bite (and I only had it cold). What is it? Oscypek is a firm, salty, and smoked sheep cheese. When you are in southern parts of Poland, you must try the oscypek. They are very popular in the the Zakopane region but you can probably find them anywhere around the Tatras mountain.
We were hoping to buy oscypek locally from the people living in the mountains (“baca”). Then afterwards, we'd eat them in some small rural place, in a cabin, snow outside, fire place running and some grzaniec (polish mulled wine) in hand. Krakow's old market had to be enough for now.
We bought grilled Oscypek with a side of preserves. What a delicious warm salty smokey flavor! I bought a couple more small pieces from other vendors because one was simply not enough. Looking back at the picture below, I regret not trying the bacon wrapped version but I already had enough cheese.
Krowki are a popular snack. The name translates to “little cows” and it's hard to have just one. The traditional ones come in a yellow package with a picture of a cow. What is it? Cream fudge. I was excited to grab a bunch on an earlier trip from the Warsaw Airport business lounge. In the Krakow market, you'll find a large variety of krowki. Flavors included coconut, mulled wine, sesame, vanilla, cherry, chocolate, plum and many more. I still love the original.
and one drink…
We were freezing so we ducked into a hip little cafe to warm up with some hot drinks. Polish Mulled is not very different than mulled wine in other countries. Nevertheless, it really hit the spot and helped thaw my frozen hands.