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Epitome of Polish Cuisine?

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I have to admit ignorance here as I am travelling off to Warsaw for a week. I really have zero knowledge on what typical Polish cuisine really is. What types of food are they known for in general?

Im sure there is something of a German and an Eastern European influence and I would guess that some kielbasa would come into play but I didnt know what things out there may be cant-miss that I need to be sure to try out.

Cheers.

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  1. Oooh, lucky you. Warsaw is a nice city, and you can eat very well there. But Polish food is a huge topic (have a look at the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_c..., which links to a bunch of more specific pages). You can get traditional food in all kinds of restaurants, from super-cheap cafeterias and "milk bars" to kitsch faux rustic log cabins (look for a restaurant called Chłopskie Jadło), or more stylish places like the restaurant in the modern art gallery. There are also plenty of other European and ethnic options in Warsaw if you feel like a change.

    Don't miss out on the soups and the pastries, especially. And pay a visit to the Wedel chocolate shop/café in the center of town.

    4 Replies
    1. re: DeppityDawg

      Thanks for the tips. I really have literally no idea what to expect but appreciate the suggestions. I definitely want to take in the culture on one of the free days Ill have and explore a bit and see what the street food is as well as a more authentic upscale experience if doable or recommended.

      As always for me, the beer of the land is critical so Im looking forward to what kind of finds I will be able to get in that route.

      The Chlopskie Jadlo website looks great, is that in Warsaw though?

      1. re: yankeefan

        It's a chain with locations in Warsaw. I've been to the one in Plac Konstytucji but there seems to be another closer to the Old Town that might be more convenient for you. You might also consider these restaurants that specialize in pierogi: Pierogarnia (ul. Bednarska) and Zapiecek (two locations downtown).

        You will find plenty of good beer (mostly pilsner-type, but not only), and it might be cool enough for some places to be serving mulled beer (grzane piwo) already. There are some Bräuhaus-like places that make their own beer and serve food (e.g. Piwna Kompania, near the Old Town). But also leave room for all the vodkas and miód pitny (mead).

        As for street food, you can get kebabs of course (there's a hole-in-the-wall that's always busy at the NE corner of Marszałkowska and Świętokrzyska), and in the underground passages around the main metro stations there are lots of snack bars and pastry shops for sandwiches, pizza, jelly donuts, etc.

        1. re: DeppityDawg

          Definately check out the places selling pierogi.

          You might also keep an eye out for menu items with mushrooms - fresh or dried. IMO, wild Polish mushrooms are the best in the world.

          1. re: rworange

            Im here now and I just read this. Made my way on my free day into the Old Town and absolutely enjoyed the pierogeria I went to. Unbelievable- we got meat pierogies, sauerkraut/mushroom, cottage cheese/potato, blueberry, and chantrelle with gorgonzola, tomato and horseradish sauce.

            Absolutely flat out awesome. Other items hav been good here but that was a true treat.

    2. SCHMALTZ. If you ask me.

      1. Off to Warsaw? Awesome, as I live in Warsaw!
        Pierogies, of course. However, in the States we're used to potato filled pierogi. In Poland, they're known as pierogi russkie. In Chłopskie Jadło (pronounced kwop-ski yad-wo , about as close as I can get using English sounds)., for example, you can get about 6 different kinds, filled with mushrooms, farmer cheese, pork, cabbage and various combinations.

        There's also smalecz (smal-etz) which is essentially bacon lard with some seasoning, used like butter (awesome stuff, btw).

        You'll also see lots of kebab shops (gyros), and zapiekanki shops (kinda like a french bread white pizza with mushrooms, or other toppings), and of course plenty of McD's, KFC, etc.

        If you were to go shopping at one of the local supermarkets, you'd see the large variety of kielbasi. Think like... 20 different kinds. Fish and lots of seafood, Poland is something like 85% Catholic and takes its Fridays seriously.

        Milk bars... there's eactly one milk bar left in Warsaw, and it's only there for the tourists. Most of the restaurants serve a typical European cuisine, much like you'd find in New York eateries.

        Where will you be staying? I can offer some more specific advice on where to eat and drink if I know what you'll be close to.

        22 Replies
        1. re: ThreeGigs

          is cream of pickle soup Polish? I had a bowl at a long closed cafe (in all of places San Diego!) that claimed to be authentic - it was really good and quite surprising.

          1. re: hill food

            Never had it, never saw it in Poland. Pickles in Poland are 'ogorki', and 'ogorki z smietanka'... nope. Beet juice, yeah. Beef tripe, also yeah. But never pickles in soup.

            1. re: hill food

              I always pick up an assortment of soup mixes when I go to Poland. Once I tried this pickle soup (or something similar): http://www.winiary.pl/produkty_produk...
              But I don't remember making it as a soup — I probably used it to make a sauce for some (experimental) dish. But in general I have never met a Polish soup I didn't like!

              1. re: DeppityDawg

                Actually, I've made that. It's basically a chicken vegetable soup with potatoes and shredded, sauteed pickles (although they're not really pickles, but close enough). Pickles are hardly the main ingredient, though, and when I made it I used rice instead of potatoes. And yes, I said shredded, and then sauteed, pickles.

                Winiary is a good brand, too. Like Knorr, but a lot cheaper in Poland.

                1. re: ThreeGigs

                  I have had a delicious dill pickle soup in Poland... it was buttery and slightly sour. That was in Czestochowa.

                  1. re: sadiefox

                    good to hear, I thought it was a tart mushroom soup until the reveal.

            2. re: ThreeGigs

              Im staying at the Hilton and as my note above, I made my way to Old Town today and loved the pierogies. Best by far Ive ever eaten. I will try by the time I leave sunday to get some more authentic cuisine if I can avoid going to another pierogie house. They were unreal.

              Is there anything you would recommend that I can bring home? What would be the best one or two items that I can bring back to the states?

              Thank you all for suggestions- definitely some underrated stuff here- didnt know what to expect but have been impressed.

              1. re: yankeefan

                Bring home some dried mushrooms.

                Alsom, I hope you can find more dishes with mushrooms in them when eating out. Have you been to any bakeries?

                1. re: rworange

                  The mushrooms in the pierogies were great.
                  Any types you would recommend most? Or where can I best get them- will airport have reasonable ones or should I look around here at the hotel area?

                  1. re: yankeefan

                    My eyes kind of burn out with this new font, but IIRC, someone in this thread mentioned a market with a lot of varieties of kielbasa. I would ask at the hotel about a good deli or market, unless one of the people living in Poland has good suggestios. See if they allow you to smell the mushrooms. Get the ones that smell the best. If you smell two or three, you should have an idea of what smells the best. Probably anything at the airport will be about what you could pick up at a Polish deli back home ... I'm not basing that on experience, only the stuff that is usually at airport shops.

                    1. re: yankeefan

                      I see your hotel is on "ul. Grzybowska"… So you should have no problems (it means something like "mushroom street")! Seriously, there are plenty of supermarkets downtown (e.g., right next to the Palace of Culture, on its east side) and you will have a fun time looking at the big barrels of sauerkraut and the giant blocks of cheese.

                      They may have the mushrooms in bulk and there will be a big selection pre-packaged. "Borowiki" are ceps/boletes/porcini, but there are many similar (and usually cheaper) varieties.

                      I just saw on TV last night that a variety of mushrooms called "kołpaki" still contains unacceptably high levels of radioactive cesium from the Chernobyl accident (!!!) So don't buy that one! (I don't know how common it is.) The boletes and chanterelles all tested fine.

                      1. re: yankeefan

                        Forget buying stuff to bring home at the airport. The Warsaw airport really doesn't have much in the way of shopping. One thing I do in every country I visit is to go to a supermarket in that country. You get a really good idea of what the common foods are, and you may notice things that seem to be 'missing'. Like...bagels. You'll also notice all the different flavors of ketchup, 9 bazillion different grades of flour, live carp, 5 or 6 different grades of sour cream...etc.

                        You're fairly close to Zloty Terace (zwuhl-teh ter-ah-say) which is the newest mall in Warsaw. In there is a supermarket (I think it's an Alma). To get there, go east from your hotel until you get to Jana Pawla, turn right and keep walking. It's right next to Warszawa Cetralna, the main train station. If you go east from Zloty Terace, you'll get to Marszalkowska street and be right near Marc Pol, another supermarket. If you see Galeria Centrum across the street, you're in the right place. If you cross the street and go to the other side of the Galeria, you'll be on Chmielna. Keep walking down Chmielna, there are lots of places to eat and drink. Eventually, if you keep walking down Chmielna, you'll hit Nowy Swiat, which is the street that has some of the better shops and eateries. The whole street is somewhat of a tourist trap, like South Street in Philly, but worth exploring. A left on Nowy Swiat and a mile or so will take you to the Old Town (Stare Miasto).

                        If you're in the mood for hanging out with expats (and hearing more English than Polish), ask someone at your hotel for directions to Jimmy Bradleys (closest to your hotel), Bar Below or The Tortilla Factory (or just take a cab). Tortilla Factory is a good place for a drink, and you'll get to see self-serve beer taps *in the middle of your table* if you manage to get there when a booth is free.

                        Also, while you're there, hit a bakery and buy some fresh breads. Yes, plural. Bread is cheap, and you'll find lots of breads with various seeds and nuts, plus you'll get to experience European style bread, which is a lot denser than American bread.

                        What to bring back... look for a vodka called Zubrowka (zoo-broov-ka). Buffalo grass vodka. Don't bother bringing Wedel chocolate back, just eat it there. Dried mushrooms *if* you can find them, most will be fresh. Some Krakus kabanosy to snack on on the plane (if you eat meat, that is). There's a Polish Pottery shop on Marszalkowska if you're into that. Maybe some odd soup mixes as suggested, or a jar of flazki. Other than that, there really isn't much in Poland that you can't get in the US.

                    2. re: yankeefan

                      Dried mushrooms are a great idea, and the soup mixes I mentioned above. Kasza! I also buy lots of chocolates and candies, in particular krówki (chunks of creamy caramel wrapped in paper) and śliwki w czekoladzie (chocolate covered stuffed prunes).

                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                        Ooooh, but caution: US customs won't allow dried mushrooms through. I've had the heartbreak of confiscation coming back from Warsaw a few times (even when they were in a pre-packaged / sealed bag). Ditto for sausage, cheese, preserves, etc... my custom checkers have had fantastic lunches...!

                        1. re: Starka

                          OK, the rules change all the time, and government websites are not always the easiest to navigate, but this page from Customs and Border Protection says pretty clearly that mushrooms are OK for import. Of course, you should still declare all food at the airport. And forget the sausages (or eat them on the plane, as Three Gigs suggested!)
                          http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/cle...

                          1. re: Starka

                            oh for a standard and consistent policy. not something that changes daily and from airport to airport.

                            in the meantime put what you can into the checked luggage - not contraband and not hazardous.

                            1. re: Starka

                              I smuggled back some smoked cheese from Zakopane in my purse ;)

                              1. re: sadiefox

                                I don't think you have to smuggle smoked cheeses! (I assume you're talking about entering the USA here.) And they really don't like it when you say you don't have food, and they find food, even if it's not prohibited. I tend to play by the rules in airports these days…

                                1. re: DeppityDawg

                                  They were unwrapped, so yes I did have to smuggle them :)

                                  This was a few years ago, when security was tight, but before the liquid/gel bans... so not quite as bad as it is now.

                                2. re: sadiefox

                                  Oscypek is the name of the smoked cheese. Around Zakopane you could see the small huts with smoke pouring out of them from time to time. It is usually a sheep's milk cheese sold in small formed shapes that often look like a braided challah. My single favorite thing I ate in Poland was at a fair where someone was grilling them over a flame.

                          2. re: ThreeGigs

                            Schmaltz, my grandmother used to make that. Only daddy used to sometime call it griebenschmaltz.I guess both germans and poles make it.Yeah, the only pierogis i can get around here are the frozen potato ones. Those others sound great.
                            San Antonio used to have a Polish restaurant, but i think it's closed.

                            1. re: HollyDolly

                              schade.

                          3. Chlopskie Jadlo is a rustic themed restaurant that serves food that's pretty lousy at a higher price compared to what you really get in the countryside. It's a good old fashioned tourist trap.

                            1. Try the traditional Polish cuisine - it's often sumptious, sometimes heavy or stogy, but always tasty.
                              My favourites are bigos (cabbage dish), and the sour soup żurek - see the recipe here: http://thepolskiblog.co.uk/2008/10/po...

                              Enjoy!

                              1. Definitely look for nalesniki (hope I am spelling that right) -- there are restaurants that specialize in them. They are basically like crepes, filled with either sweet (fruit and cheese) or savory (cheese, chicken, pork, sauerkraut) fillings. Mmmm!

                                Look for the Zubrowka vodka. It has a delicious herbal flavor. You can get in in the US but I don't think it is the same. It makes a tasty cocktail mixed with apple juice.

                                Most beer will be either pilsner, or "strong" pilsner.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sadiefox

                                  Oh, yes, Zubrovka, aka the Bison Vodka (with a leaf of grass inside). My favourite....

                                2. Kielbasa and Golabki, cabbage stuffed with meat and rice, local vodka, then some pork and cabbage pierogi... and look out!