One of the best parts of studying abroad was trying lots of different cuisines. I love trying new food, so I was very excited to try lots of Polish dishes when I arrived in Warsaw, and they didn’t disappoint! Below are some of the things you should try if you end up studying in Poland or have the chance to visit.
Pierogi are filled dumplings that come sweet or savoury. I had these on my first day in Poland and they quickly became a favourite. They are super hearty and filling. The most popular fillings are meat, sauerkraut with mushrooms, spinach, buckwheat, potatoes with fried onions, sweet cottage cheese with raisins and seasonal fruit. You can get them either boiled, baked, or fried, but traditionally in Poland you eat them boiled with butter and onions on top.
2. Placki Ziemniaczane – Potato Pancakes
The authentic Polish potato pancakes are a traditional comfort food eaten all over the country. The base is always potatoes, grated onions, eggs, and flour, flattened and fried into savoury pancakes. I very clearly remember having this after I had spent the day hiking in Zakopane. I was so exhausted and went to a traditional milk bar for some food to rejuvenate me. These pancakes served with stew, sour cream and cheese and a side of Rosół (Chicken noodle Soup) which really hit the spot.
If you’re in Poland and you want to have traditional food for a good price, avoid tourist restaurants and head to a milk bar. Milk bars are a type of Polish cafeteria which during the Communist era provided government-subsidized traditional Polish cuisine at low cost and they’re just as popular today!
3. Żurek soup
This unique and humble soup is popular in many West Slavic states, but the Polish version is traditionally eaten around Easter time. It’s known as the Polish Ryemeal Soup and is made by fermenting the cereal (Rye) and cooking it with sausage, bacon, or ham. It’s creamy, smoky, cooked with lots of garlic and is not as sour as fermenting suggests, it’s more a rich savoury sour taste. I made everyone who came to visit me try it and they were all just as impressed as me. Sometimes it comes served in a bread bowl which is the most warming meal on a cold winter’s day.
4. Oscypek & Bryndza Cheeses
Who doesn’t love a good traditional cheese? Traditional Polish cheeses like Oscypek and Bryndza are made with sheep’s milk from the mountain meadows of south Poland, the Tatra Mountains. They’re made by smoking in a wooden oven or hut called a Bacowska. The process is so well known that to preserve the tradition and methods, the production is given an EU subsidy which allows the shepherds and cheesemakers to continue the processes.
I had this for the first time at a Christmas market in Wroclaw, wrapped in bacon and served with a cranberry sauce and it blew my mind!
These Polish doughnuts are dusted with sugar or bits of dried orange zest and filled with a sweet filling like a jelly or jam. The flat I lived in in Warsaw was on the same street as the oldest most traditional donut shop in Warsaw and I quickly became a regular there. There were queues down the street every day and you had to be there early before they sold out. They were wrapped up in paper, tied with string and had a stamp of authenticity.
6. St. Martin’s croissant – rogal święto Marciński
This is a croissant with white poppy-seed filling traditionally prepared in Poznań and some parts of Greater Poland region on St. Martin’s Day. I used to have these for breakfast on my way into uni a lot!
Me and my friend took a trip to Poznan took part in a St Martin’s croissant cookery class. It was a lot of fun to be hands on and make them ourselves and we learnt a lot about Poznan’s history.