My Favourite Polish Cuisine

Thanks to Milk Bar (Bar mleczny), it’s easy to get Polish food with a very reasonable price. The term milk bar (different from Australian term) was created in 1896 in Warsaw, because the place offered milk-based food. However, the role of milk bar carried through World War II. Poland became a communist state and a part of the Soviet Union after the fall of German Nazi. The population was too poor to even eat by the time. Most restaurants were nationalized and closed by the communists and milk bars became the essential place to eat for the common folks. In the mid-1960, milk bars offered cheap meals to working class people.

The hard days are over, or getting better at least, but several milk bars are going strong, still beloved by the local people. Some of them even continued their business changing to more modern style to attract more customers. You can feel the daily life of Polish people in milk bars, and you get to have the home cooked meal with a very good price. What not to like?

 

Pierogi

How can I not mention pierogi, when talking about Polish cuisine? Pierogi is a type of dumpling, similar as Korean mandoo, jiaozi in China, Turkish manti, Uzbek manti, and Italian ravioli. Great minds think alike, indeed. Polish pierogi are made with grounded meat, potato, vegetables, and cheese. They are boiled first and fried with lard or oil and served with fried onions and bacon.

Pierogi
Pierogi

 

Kielbasa

Kielbasa is a staple food of Poland and comes with various varieties as every regional has their specialties. Originally Kielbasa was made at home in rural areas with their family recipe. Kielbasa is served in many different forms. It is cooked with soup like zurek, eaten as cold appetizer, cooked with sauerkraut, and grilled.

Polish sausage
Polish kielbasa
Grilled Kielbasa
This is how kielbasa should be served!

 

Cutlet (Kotlet schabowy)

My favourite dish to eat in milk bars, Kotlet schabowy, is a pork-breaded cutlet similar to schnitzel. And schnitzel was my favourite cuisine in Germany. I see the pattern here. It is served with mash potatoes, home fries, sauerkraut, coleslaw and/ or beet salad. The history of schabowy dates back to the 19th century. The collection of different recipes for cutlets is featured in 1860’s cook books.

Cutlet at Milkbar
Cutlet with home potatoes and coleslaw at Milk bar

 

Gołąbki (Golumpki)

A cabbage roll is another hearty Polish treat. Made from lightly boiled cabbage warpped around minced meat, vegetables and barley and baked in tomato sauce. This dish is called holubky in Slovakia.

Gołąbki at Milk bar
Gołąbki at Milk bar

 

Soup

Zurek (sour rye soup): love it or hate it. It is made of sour rye flour (sourdough) and meat (kielbasa, ham or pork) but recipe varies from region to region. The strong sour taste hit me strong at first, but soon after I could appreciate the taste. It is popular year round to Pols. Zurek sometimes is served in an eatable bread bowl in restaurants.

Tomato soup (Zupa pomidorowa) and red beet soup (Zupa buraczkowa) are also common.

Zurek
Zurek
Beat soup at Milk bar
Beat soup (Zupa buraczkowa)
tomato soup
Tomato soup (Zupa pomidorowa)

 

Microbrew Beer and lard sandwich

In bars, you’ll be served a couple of sandwiches or bread with a bowl of spread along side of beer. The spread taste very greasy, but it is fulfilling. It is lard spread. Lard is used not only for cooking, but also widely eaten as a snack  in Poland and neighbouring countries like Slovakia and Hungary. Usually prepared with fried onions and chunk of fried pork.

Beer at Spiz with lard sandwich
Microbrew-beer with lard sandwich

 

Zapiekanki

essentially Polish-style French-bread pizzas with a variety of toppings—the obwarzanki of Kraków, which are like bagels (only with bigger holes); and precle (or pretzels). The most common street food in Poland, however, seems to be lody, or ice cream. Long lines outside ice cream shops, and scores of pedestrians toting cones, are a regular fixture of Polish streetscapes.

Zapiekanki
Zapiekanki

 

Sauerkraut

Saurkraut, directly means sour cabbage, is finely cut fermented cabbage. It is going through a similar process as Korean kimchi. Even though it is mostly eaten with German cuisine, sauerkraut is not originated from Germany. Saurkraut is widely spread in Eastern Europe and Germany ever since it was introduced in Europe from China. It is common to pan-fry sauerkraut in Poland.

Milk bar lunch cutlet plate
Milk bar lunch cutlet plate with saurkraut

 

Do you like Polish cuisine? Am I missing anything?

 

26 thoughts on “Introducing Polish Food”

  1. I love the post! And I’m even happier that you like Polish food. I believe that people in Poland tend to underestimate our cuisine, thinking it’s too simple and not fancy enough for other nations to appreciate. My Portuguese boyfriend, who is a foodie (I mean you almost are obliged to love food when being from a Mediterranean country) loves it (almost) all- zurek, pierogi, big schabowy. He is fan of bigos, which can be quite ugly as a dish that is just delicious. The only thing he can’t eat is barszcz- beat soup.

    1. Glad you liked it Aga! I agree it’s simple cuisine, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not any good. I liked going milk bars, I don’t know if young Pols are still going. Home made zurek was the best. My friend from Myslowice cooked for us!

  2. Lovely post Juno! I absolutely love Polish food, when I was there my friend had all the food home made, which I think made it even more tasty. I had mizeria (cucumber with cream), it was really good. Then I was also given persil and lemon juice – don’t know if this is Polish or just a family tradition but boy was it delicious!

  3. I love Polish food, partially because I just love it, but also because it has a lot of memories for me. A lot of Eastern European food has made its way into the Jewish food category, so i grew up eating pirogis, blintzes and kreplach. I didn’t even realize they were originally Polish until years later when we found an amazing Polish restaurant named Teresa’s in Brooklyn.

    There’s not much variety of food where I live in Salta, so we tend to make a lot of foods on our own. We even started a tradition of monthly dinners of foods from another country. I think you may have just inspired our next international dinner.

    1. Really interesting to hear that Leigh. I think it’s a good idea; international monthly dinners. Zurek was quite complicated to make, if I remember correctly, but the others were pretty simple. But I’m sure there’s know-how behind of it. Another interesting food was plum dumpling. It’s almost same as pierogi but just whole plum was the filling. It was sweet! And delicious.

      1. Plum dumpling sounds good. Did you make them yourself? I’m wondering if we can use tapas de empanadas for blintzes and pirogis. We’ve used them for so many other things.

  4. Thanks for bringing back the good memories. I love Polish food–so much home cooking and comfort foods. And the milk bars are great to eat at for travelers.

  5. Yummy!

    My roommates and I do a night of cooking each week and tomorrow it’s my Polish roommate’s turn. She’s making pierogies and I’m super excited!

  6. I have “tested” all 3 Bar mleczny while I was in Warsaw. Polish food ( almost all the food might contain potato) is very consistent and delicious. I am looking at your photos and I feel like going again there to try the foods again!

  7. Hi Juno,

    This is a fantastic post. All the photos and descriptions look so appetising that it made my mouth watering. I must admit you haven’t missed any of the signature Polish dishes that I always introduce my friends from abroad to! How did you find out the secret spot for Zapiekanka in Krakow? haha I so enjoyed finding out the names for pierogi brothers in different cuisines! Thanks again

  8. polish food is so delicious and underappreciated! i need to go back to visit and eat my way across the country. i like pierogi so much that one time last year I spent 2 days hand-making almost 200 so my freezer would be fully stocked for a long time. (making pierogi is a real pain, so if you are going to do it may as way make a ton right?) Also, a Polish friend recommended that I try bigos, which is a hunter’s stew and like all other Polish food…. it was amazing.

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