dimanche 31 mars 2013

Learning about Polish food

Boy, do they like their mayo! Author of photo: Den Nation.

So how can you find out more about what people eat when visiting a country?

The obvious answer, of course, is asking the locals, or better yet, eat out with a local or at their house. The second thing you should do is visit a local market. The third thing to do is to visit a supermarket in the country you are visiting. Eat out at restaurants and in cafeterias. Cafeterias and canteens are a good way to see how the local people eat, and to observe how they speak and interact with one another, as there are few businesspeople and tourists eating in cafeterias. Sure, the food isn't the best quality, but if you can eat in a cafeteria (of course some are closed to the general public), you will experience the local culture.

Before visiting Poland last week, Polish food was a mystery to me. I had all these ideas based on my experiences in the Czech Republic, but Poland is still an entirely different country despite its proximity to the Czech Republic.

So what did I learn?

Bread at an outdoor market. Author of photo: Den Nation.
Bread is a serious affair in Poland. A lot of their bread is really dense, like in the picture above. Neighbouring countries like Germany and the Czech Republic have similar bread. Does anyone actually know the name of this type of bread? If you press firmly on a slice of this bread and release the pressure, it will spring back into its original form.

Real hot chocolate in a Polish café. Author of photo: Den Nation.
I can never go back to the fake hot chocolate made from powder now that I have been acquainted with this treat. Other countries like France, Italy and Spain offer real hot chocolate, but Denmark, oh Denmark, where is your real hot chocolate?

My first meal in Poland. Author of photo: Den Nation.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Polish people like to eat red cabbage. I quite liked it because it tasted less sour than white cabbage. What I liked the most about this dish was the jam-filled apple and the potato dumplings. Devine!

Vodka selection in a Polish supermarket. Author of photo: Den Nation.

Yes, they like their vodka. I thought this was mainly a Russian obsession, but the Poles like drinking vodka as well. The night before we left Poland my husband's colleague announced that we could not leave Poland without drinking vodka with him. We went to the "Communist Café", which had an enormous bust of Lenin in the front window and Lenin paraphenalia, to drink shots of vodka. "What would you like, I'll treat you to any vodka you like," announced our proud Polish friend. I'm not a vodka lover, but I enjoyed this blast-from-the-past café.

Cabbage in a Polish supermarket. Author of photo: Den Nation.

Oh yes, they love cabbage. They use it to make a popular Polish dish called Gołąbki - rolled cabbage leaves wrapped around meat, onions and rice cooked in a tomato sauce.

Instant soup in a Polish supermarket. Author of photo: Den Nation.
I don't quite understand the obsession with instant soup. I think most of them are terrible, but the Poles seem to like them. 

Zurek soup in a restaurant. Author of photo: Den Nation.

Polish homemade soups are excellent, however. We loved the Zurek soup, or sour rye soup. It's made with soured rye flour, potatoes and sausage.

Their cheesecake is incredible. I think it's the best I have ever had. As you can tell, it is quite different from the North American cheesecake. I do love fruit toppings, but often the cheesecake fruit toppings in North America come from a can and are filled with preservatives. I loved that they served this cheesecake with real fruit. And while I love the North American cookie/butter base, I mostly enjoy the middle of the cheesecake.  This one was slightly-crumbly, not to sweet, and the best part was that the filling was essentially the cake itself.

Pierogis in a restaurant. Author of photo: Den Nation.
Do they ever love pierogis! They are nothing like the ones in North America, which are filled with processed cheese (don't worry, I like them anyway!). They are normally boiled, but the oven-baked ones are delicious. There are so many fillings to choose from, it's incredible!

Cured sausages at an outdoor market. Author of photo: Den Nation.

There is no shortage of cured meats, cured fish and pork products in Poland. These cured sausages were everywhere. Even the breakfast at our hotel had hotdogs for breakfast!

Boiled pierogis in a restaurant. Author of photo: Den Nation.
I hope you've enjoyed discovering Poland's cuisine.

Bon appétit!

11 commentaires:

  1. Most of the food looks amazing... I must say I don't know anything about Polish food and kind of pictured more meat and cold cuts, and less stuff I like (i.e. soup, bread, cake, veggies).

    I love visiting supermarket in foreign countries! In Canada, I was surprised by the lack of a booze section (that was before I discovered LCBO and the restrictions around alcohol) and the huge aisle of frozen food, including ready-to-microwave meals. French love their dairy products with a huge selection of yogourts and crèmes.

  2. I was pleasantly surprised with the food I ate in Poland.

    Maybe I toned down their love of meat, but they eat a lot of meat, especially sausages. I noticed that they eat salads with their main dish when I ate at a cafeteria, but that they don't actually eat a lot of vegetables besides cabbage. Their love of soup, bread and cakes is very true, however.

    I usually spend hours touring around supermarkets, looking into restaurants, studying menus, stalking markets and talking about food with the locals.

    My husband was also surprised to see that there is no alcohol sold in supermarkets in Ontario. He was shocked by all the microwave food and the lack of selection (of plain yogourt) in the yogourt aisle. My family was surprised to see that he wouldn't touch the yogourts they bought(Canadians love fruit bottom yogourts), but would add honey to plain yogourt.

  3. I can't speak for all Polish people but I can tell you what foods my family has kept alive since immigrating to the US. Lots of cabbage. Cabbage rolls like you mentioned. We also have a really nice cabbage soup. Though the recipe is modified to use US ingredients.

    But number one to me are the pierogis. Making the pierogis is always a big deal. It takes awhile and often involves many people. I grew up on homemade pierogis and just can't eat the store bought ones.

    I've learned from some Polish friends that sausage was a big thing in their families. They will do all day sausage making.

    1. I wish I had had the chance to eat real pierogis when I was growing up in Canada. I hesitated to try pierogis in Poland because I had all these memories of the processed-cheese pierogis I grew up with. What a difference!

      There sure are a lot of sausages in Poland!

  4. This post made me hungry! There is a Polish restaurant in Paris and I definitely want to go there now.

    1. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par l'auteur.

    2. That's the beauty of Paris; it seems that there is a restaurant representing every country! When I am Bordeaux I mostly only eat French food because there are not that many restaurants on offer that specialise in non-French food. Of course there are the sushi restaurants (and they are actually more expensive and of lesser quality than in Paris!) and the Italian restaurants, but other than that, there is that not much selection in world cuisine.

  5. Oh my goodness - the pierogis, soup in bread and cheesecake look amazing. I would fit right in with the mayo consumption - we put mayo in everything! Great, fun post - a real insight!

    1. I'm glad you liked it.

      Polish food was so much more than I ever expected it to be. That was my goal with this post, that somebody reading this post, who doesn't know much about food in Poland, would see just how rich the food actually is.

  6. Really interesting! I think the only Polish food I've ever eaten is pierogis (and vodka, but that's not really a food, is it...). My Mom loves cabbage rolls, and my Dad is a fan of kielbassa (is that Polish? It sounds Polish).

    I'm still drooling over that cheesecake!!

    1. Oh yes Kielbasa is very polish. I forgot to mention it in my comment. No family get together is complete without a tub of kielbasa in sauerkraut.