Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Aug 20, 2006 04:33 PM

Question on types of Polish food

We attended our local Polish festival yesterday and had a great time, as always. We decided to splurge and got our meal at the Polish Hall, as we wanted a nice variety. But all they served was pierogies, stuffed cabbage and keilbasa, with sauerkraut and rye bread on the side. I know mushrooms are a big thing for the few Polish descendants I'm acquainted with; my husband wants me to find out what else is eaten besides these things? PS he thought he hated stuffed cabbge, now he wants me to make some!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My DBF is half Polish and his father makes the best homemade peirogies. He makes thousands of them around the holidays and sells them. The only other dish I can think of is stuffed cabage. It's called golabki, or golumpki. Stuffed with meat and rice and simmered in tomato sauce. Yum!

    Stuffed peppers and stuffed tomatoes are also pretty typical Polish fare.

    1. Mashed potatoes with all of the above is pretty standard

      But the periogis have different fillings:
      -Cheese and mashed potatoes
      -Just mashed potatoes
      -Mashed potatoes with grilled oinons
      -Sauerkraut (kapusta) {usu made with the dried mushrooms as well as bacon and onions fried in bacon grease}
      -and for dessert: prune filling

      Rye, pumpernickle, marble bread.

      My mother-in-law (Finnish) would make the galabki (there is a thingy under the letter "L" and its pronounced "ga-woomp-key")and brush honey on the cabbage (no tomato sauce) and bake them in the oven...crispy, sweet cabage...same filling...

      The one common Polish dessert I grew up with is Angel Wings (krustchiki): sour cream based dough cut into rectangles, one rectangle sliced in the center and another rectangle inserted into it, then they join together (sort of a figure 8) and then its fried and topped with powdered sugar.

      1. Both sets of my grandparents were from Poland. My mom’s dad was from Warsaw while the rest were from small farms, and I just realized I have no clue what part of Poland they are located in. I have the names of the towns, but never bothered to look them up. I was just so grateful they left and my parents and I grew up in the US.

        Anyway, like anywhere, in addition to regional variations in cuisine there are class variations. So the cuisine I know is of dirt-poor peasants who later worked in the US in restaurants and factories. My family wasn’t eating the Polish equivalent of fois-gras, if you get my drift. So that is the context of my experience

        Here’s a link to wikipedia on Polish cuisine with some regional variations.

        Some of the food mentioned I’ve never heard of. I first learned of quark a few years ago at the upscale Ferry Plaza farmers market. That’s more German. I still don’t see it in any of the local strictly Polish markets.

        Some other things mentioned in the wiki article that were NOT from my family’s neck of the Polish woods: Goulash, cold soups, tripe soup (give me a break), that ragout dish. We didn’t eat the crepes or dumplings either, but that is kind of common.

        Most of the regional stuff in the wiki article I’ve never heard of or even seen in any of my many Polish cookbooks. Let me tell you now, no one I knew was chowing down on cannabis soup at Christmas. And the beverages mentioned ... no.

        In my family dairy, pork, cabbage, beets, mushrooms, cucumbers and potatoes were big.

        Soups included:

        - hot beet soup with greens and a dollop of sour cream

        - Kapusta (sp?) which was cabbage soup with a head of cabbage, a can of sour kraut, spare ribs or some other porky part. A slice of good light rye bread went with this ... not the stale awful stuff so many Euro-markets sell. You could dip the rye bread in the soup. Kapusta was also served with fried onions and potatoes. Sometimes they were fried in butter, sometimes salt pork. When the soup part was eaten, you could mix the potatoes in with the cabbage and sauerkraut.

        - Saurkraut and dried mushroom soup. Yeah, I don’t really have the recipe to this one. It was only served Christmas eve. The relatives would send over dried mushrooms from Poland. My impression was that it was rinsed sauerkraut a stick of butter and the dried mushrooms. Served with fried potatoes too.

        - Duck blood soup. I lucked out and never got to eat this. My dad, a usually great guy, would tell me stories of having to cut the neck of a duck and draining the blood. I just had a break thru. This might be why I didn’t ever eat duck till late in life. Had nothing to do with Donald Duck, but those soup stories.

        My family didn’t do Hunter’s stew which I think is also called bigos. That seemed more of an upper class type of dish. However, I also find references to bigos meaning sauerkraut and pork soup, so maybe I was eating bigos all along. We just never called it that.

        We never did the pickle soup or fruit soups either, though I hear that is popular.

        They mention sorrel soup, and though I don't remember this, I know we used sorrel, not sure how except as a decoration around the Easter ham. The sourish taste of sorrel is familiar but I just can't recall the details.

        Vegetables and condiments

        Of course, beets ... hot or home-canned.

        Pickles, natch. Fresh cucumbers were thinly sliced and combined with dill, sour cream and onions. No one ever made this as good as my grandmother.

        Potatoes ... fried, baked, boiled, salad, pancakes

        Mushrooms fried with onions and sour cream.

        Cabbage ... coleslaw or boiled


        Horseradish – white or red (mixed with beets ... my favorite


        Kielbasa & sausages

        For my family that just meant the standard widely-known Polish kielbasa. On a first trip to Chicago about a decade back, I almost passed out in a meat store in the Polish section of town ... amazed at the dazzling varieties of kielbasa. I never knew so many varieties existed.

        And, really, until this year I never knew that kielbasa is just the Polish word for sausage and can mean anything. And, uh, I never knew a white, fresh variety was popular. We have a lot of recent Polish immigrants in this area, and when you go to a real Polish meat store and say kielbasa that’s what they assume rather than the smoked variety.

        I just learned from searching that the most familiar kielbasa is called a ‘country sausage’ or "Kielbasa Starowiejska" a wiejska type of sausage (see wiki link for more). My search also turned up that there is a Polish rap group called Kielbasa. I guess that is the next generation’s version of Weird Al Yankovitz.

        The only other sausage variety my family dealt with was kiska, a blood sausage which thankfully my family was over by time I came along. I also heard the gruesome stories (to me) of making this. No thank you.

        Here’s a report I did about a local Polish butcher that describes about eight different types of kielbasa. I really like the one with the juniper berries:

        Here’s a list of some types of kielbasa from a recent sausage link I’ve found (scroll down to the Polish section):

        My link mentions Polish cold cuts. My family pretty much stuck to ham, liverwurst and headcheese. There was a jellied headcheese type of dish my mother served at Easter which was pigs feet left to boil with some spices until the meat fell off the bone. Bones were removed from the liquid and meat, spices and liquid were left to gel. This was cut in squares and served with vinegar. Excellent.

        Meats & fish:

        Ham and fresh pork were big. Ham was part of Christmas and Easter. Sometimes at Easter we’d have baked leg of lamb too. Lots of pork chops in my early life. Sort of surprised when I found out breaded pork chops or cutlets were Polish. Since my mom often used Progresso Italian bread crumbs, I thought we were eating Italian.

        At this point, my family was moving up the socio-economic ladder and the less choice cuts of meat were not often eaten. However occasionally we’d have hot pigs feet with sauerkraut. This is very good. Lots of pork roasts too.

        As mentioned, stuffed cabbage is really popular. The Polish is not sweet like the Russian version and has tomato sauce and a filling of ground meat and rice. We didn’t use dill either.

        Nothing too special fish-wise. Smoked white-fish is a must during Christmas as is canned herring, usually in sour cream.

        My family was big on sardines ... hmmmm ... that might explain this (currently on can 47) ...
        but don’t know if that is particularly Polish though Bumble Bee has sardine factories in Poland. Usually the sardines were for a sandwich and on rye bread spread with butter. Hated those sandwiches since I went to an Irish-Catholic school and was the only kid with sardine sandwiches.

        I heard a lot about carp, but by time I was born I don’t ever remember it being served ... just lovingly and deliciously mentioned.


        I’m putting pierogi in this category. We were mainly a cheese pierogi group. Sometimes potato and maybe once I had a fruit pierogi.

        Most of the bakery items we got from Stanley’s Polish bakery, Polish cheese cake that is a dry cheesecake unlike NY. Lots of breads and rolls with poppyseeds. Cheese buns filled with sweet farmers cheese or similar sweet buns with prune filling. There was babka, of course. Rye bread (dark & light), pumpernickel, and Challah.

        At home, my mom made fried dough called chrusciki. She did a different version that looked like a rosebud rather than the twists that are usual. Tracking this version down a little it seems to have a gypsy origin ... and no one ever believed my grandfather that his mother was gypsy ... there you go. Here’s her recipe:

        Other than that, I find that cherry jam is supposed to be big, but cherry trees don’t do so well in cold Connecticut. Since my grandparents grew everything they ate, as did their neighbors, I didn’t learn about this till later. Being New England and all, we used lots of apples. I remember pretty pink crab apple jelly.

        They were more of a beer rather than a vodka group and made their own beer, otherwise it was plain old Ballentine.

        Hmmm ... I know more about regional Mexican cuisine than I do about Polish ... heck, I know more about regional Portuguese food.

        In this area of the country though, with a small Polish population, there's not a lot of exploring to do. If I ever spend any time in Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo or even Poland, I'll have to check it out in more detail.

        12 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          That was a fabulous post. Did non-Jewish Poles eat challah?

          1. re: myra

            Yeah, but I think it is slightly different than the Jewish version. I may be wrong, but isn't the Jewish version without eggs? I remember being surprised the first time someone thought I was Jewish because I was Polish. Most of the population at one time was Catholic, but we share some dishes.

            I forgot about Kaiser rolls too. And donuts ... Pazki, pronounced punch-key.

            1. re: rworange

              The Jewish version has eggs. We always had at least 3 dozen (eggs) in the fridge at all times. I thought that was normal for everyone. Guess not.

              1. re: rworange

                Oh wow, forgot all about Detroit, the day before Lent (Mardi Gras for the rest of the world) is panczki day and all the bakeries sell jelly donuts...the big feast before...mostly all they sell for the 40 days of Lent are hot cross buns....

                and also added above: kielbasa and duck blood sausage....I pretty much skipped meats..

                My mom makes a hot beet soup with pork ribs in it...calls it Jewish friends laugh at borscht with pork in it...

                and we always had cabbage soup...

                but I also think part of their American ways of cooking Polish stuff had to do with the made from what you had.

            2. re: rworange

              Wow guys, thanks for all the info. I went from knowing almost nothing to feeling like an expert! Next up, I'm making stuffed cabbage, I mean golabki.

              1. re: rworange

                What a great, thorough post!

                My dad likes fresh kielbasa -- I always thought it looked gross, all white like that. Everyone else in the family prefers smoked.

                My dad's cousin would always sing this crusty old polka, "Who stole the kiszka, who stole the kiszka, who stole the kiszka, from the cookie jar?" One would wonder, is a cookie jar the ideal medium for kiszka storage? :-P

                1. re: rworange

                  Rworange, this is one helluva post!

                  You can find quark/farmer's cheese (Polish name "twarog) in Delikateski in Concord. They also have more spreadable Russian version. While there, buy also some garlic sausage (kielbasa swojska), Bobak's brand - good stuff!

                  I am familiar with cabbage soup (kapusniak) and dried mushroom soup (grzybowa) separately, but never combined as one dish. Curious to know which taste prevails... And speaking of soups, if you recall sourish taste of sorrel, it almost had to be in a soup, because that's pretty much the only thing sorrel was used for - served with a quartered hard boiled egg on a bottom of a plate and croutons. For a bit of nostalgia, sorrel soup in jars is also available in Delikateski.

                  As for the carp dishes, they show up mostly on Christmas Eve tables. In some regions it's fried carp in others served cold in aspic (karp w galarecie). You didn't miss much - I will take tripe soup (flaczki) over carp any day :)

                  Again, awesome post. If you happen to recall more of your childhood culinary memories, please add it here. In meantime I plan to make a trip to Concord this weekend, spend idiotic amount of money on waaaay too much food and it's all your fault :)))

                  1. re: Bigos

                    Bigos (cool name and so appropriate for this thread),

                    Interesting about the quark. You COULD ask at Delicatessi if they have panzki. One manager swears they fly them in on Saturdays from Chicago, while the staff says they never have them. I'm with the staff as the two Saturdays I went, no donuts.

                    The wonderful dried mushroom flavor dominates in the saurkraut/dried mushroom soup.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I have never seen paczki there on Saturdays, not even on weekends preceding major holidays. I plan on going there in the next few days, conduct my own investigation and report back on this board. Hmmm, Chowhound, Snoop Doggy Dog, it all makes sense now...

                  2. re: rworange

                    Yum! What a wonderful list of dishes and memories!

                    But I hope others don't turn away from duck's blood soup if they find it (although I can understand being turned off by watching the ingredients being "collected"!).

                    The Orbit Restaurant in Chicago used to make a soup called (I think) Czarniki, which contained broth, dark cherries, beef, and a touch of duck's blood for richness. It was fabulous, and everyone I was with loved it - even after learning what was in it.

                    If anyone reading this is in Chicago, and if the Orbit is still around, and if they still make the soup - please go there and have a bowl of soup for me!


                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      The duck's blood soup is called "czernina" in Polish, so I'm guessing that's the one you remember.

                      1. re: Bigos

                        Yup, that's it - thanks, Bigos! I highly recommend czernina to anyone who sees it on a menu - especially in Chicago or any other Polish stronghold.

                        Ah, such yummy memories...


                  3. My uncle's mother grew up in Poland so I've had some things: stuffed cabbage, sorrel soup, homemade kielbasa, kryschicki's (sp?), perogies, I think they had beet soup also. My uncle told me about duck blood soup and I have had this in a restaurant, retelling the story much to his delight.

                    1. Povatica

                      I thought this layered ground walnut bread was Polish because it was served at my Polish immigrant grandfather's funeral, and 40 some years later I remember how delicious it was. But online it is described as Croation, Slovenian, or Russian, so I don't know. I suspect the Poles may have their own version, which may be what we had. Link to recipe, and some sources for the bread, which I have not tried & cannot vouch for, but they are both in Kansas City, where he lived. The kind we had was the walnut. My cousin sent me another recipe from K.C., but it is so labor intensive I haven't tried it yet.