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Local Cuisine

Polish & Podlasian Cuisine
Polish cuisine has elements taken from the cooking traditions of the many national groups that lived in the country side by side for centuries, notably the Jews, Ukrainians, Belarussians and Lithuanians. There are also some Russian, German, Czech and Austrian influences as well as dishes from more distant regions: Italy, France and the Middle East.

One Polish speciality is a profusion of excellent smoked meats, especially sausage (kiełbasa), very popular throughout the world, made after traditional recipes and smoked over juniper or fruit-tree twigs. Try kiełbasa myśliwska with juniper berries and kiełbasa lisiecka with a number of spices including garlic. You'll be delighted by the cured and smoked hams, poultry, pork and beef fillets, and bacons. Equally delectable are Polish pâtés made from a variety of meats including game.

Poland is renowned for its multifarious types of delicious bread: white, brown, wholemeal, with raisins, prunes, sesame seeds, poppyseed...

An essential part of the main Polish meal of the day - which, incidentally, is eaten much earlier than in the West - is soup. One of the most popular soups in the country is barszcz (fermented beetroot soup), often served with beans or uszka, ravioli-type pastries stuffed with meat or mushrooms. Another tasty fermented soup is żurek - made of rye-flour and cooked with mushrooms, and served with potatoes, diced sausages and hard-boiled eggs. A true gourmet treat is wild mushroom soup thickened with sour cream and served with tiny uszka. Other popular soups are kapuśniak (made of brined cabbage), krupnik (barley soup on rich chicken stock with vegetables and chunks of meat), potato soup, and tomato soup. And there is also rosół - poultry or beef bouillon served with noodles and sprinkled liberally with parsley.

Meat is prepared in a variety of ways: roasted, stewed, fried, grilled. It's served both hot, with savoury gravies, and cold, accompanied by mustard, grated horseradish, pickled mushrooms or cucumbers.

Perhaps the best-known Polish culinary classic is kotlet schabowy - fried pork loin chop coated in breadcrumbs and served with potatoes and cabbage. Pieczony schab (roast pork loin) stuffed with prunes is simply mouthwatering. Other popular pork dishes include roasted or boiled golonka (pork knuckle) and kaszanka (a kind of black pudding), once staple peasant food, today served in the best restaurants. The same applies to smalec (dripping), melted with pork scratchings, chunks of meat and onion, seasoned with salt, pepper and often aromatic herbs.
One of the best beef dishes is zrazy zawijane - stewed rolls stuffed with a pickled cucumber, a piece of sausage and mushrooms, and served with buckwheat groats. Groats also go well with the stewed Cracow-style duck with mushrooms (kaczka po krakowsku). A relative rarity which you can try only on special occasions is a roast suckling pig stuffed with spicy buckwheat groats.

The Polish cuisine is noted for superb dumplings, especially pierogi, which are made from noodle dough, stuffed with minced meat, chopped brined cabbage mixed with mushrooms, cottage cheese, or fruit, and boiled. One favourite variety is pierogi ruskie, with a stuffing of cheese, potatoes and fried onion. Other popular vegetarian dishes include naleśniki (pancakes), pyzy (steamed dumplings made from potato flour) and knedle (dumplings stuffed with fruit).

The Polish national dish is bigos, made of brined cabbage with a variety of meats, smoked meats and mushrooms. Another speciality worth trying is gołąbki - cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice or groats, served with tomato or mushroom sauce.
Popular starters include herring prepared in a numbner of ways, for example with onions, apples and cream.

Pastries and cakes are a traditional type of dessert in Poland. Most often they are made from yeast dough (baba, drożdżowe) but there are also Swiss-roll types with poppyseed (makowiec), dried fruit and nut fillings (rolada), mazurek, apple Charlottes (szarlotka), cheesecakes (sernik) and gingerbreads (piernik). Doughnuts (pączki) with rose conserve are another favourite.
As for drinks, the Polish speciality is clear vodka, but there are also many popular flavoured brands. These include Żubrówka ("bison vodka") with a grass blade from the Białowieża Forest, and Goldwasser from Gdańsk, which contains specks of 22-carat gold. Beer lovers won't be disappointed either: Polish beer is as good as German or Czech, and many breweries, notably in Żywiec, Warka and Elbląg, have been well-known for centuries. On cold days, a drink of mulled beer or wine with honey and spices makes a popular pick-me-up. Stronger spirits worth recommending include a stunning number of fruit and herbal drinks consumed for their medical or warming-up properties, or simply because of their excellent taste. Try some Polish liqueurs: meads or sweet cremes made from alcohol, egg yolks, vanilla or chocolate and often used in desserts.


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