Morgan’s Must-Eats: Poland

Welcome to Morgan’s Must-Eats. A destination based written ode to all the wonderful foods I’ve tried throughout my travels.

 


 

Grandma and Papa being cute.
Grandma and Papa being cute.

My mom is 100% Polish, so I grew up with my grandparents making traditional Polish food regularly. From creamy soups with dumplings to handmade pierogies at Christmas time, we really know how to eat. Before going to Poland, I was determined to try all the foods I know and love from my childhood, while maintaining the stance that none of it would be as good as my Grandma’s. If you ever have the pleasure of traveling to Poland, here are the foods you need to try. I’ve taken the liberty of rating each on a 1 to 5 pierogi scale of how it compares to my Grandma’s recipes.

(Disclaimer: Polish food isn’t the most photogenic, so bear with me on the selected images)

 

 


Golabki

Golabki, AKA pigs in a blanket, are baked cabbage rolls with meat, rice and onions in the middle toppedshutterstock_327361055 with tomato sauce. These babies are the ultimate Polish comfort food and are a staple in my Grandma’s kitchen. She swears that her special pressure cooker from the 1950’s is the secret behind why they’re so good.

I had been on the lookout for a good place to try traditional Golabki starting my first day in Krakow, but to no avail. It wasn’t until we made it to Warsaw a few days later that I hit the jackpot. In the Old Town, there is a quaint square with tons of outdoor restaurants. My friend and I meticulously perused each menu with our eye on the prize. Once the venue was established and the golabkis were ordered, the rest is culinary history.   

Overall, they were great. The cabbage was a little thinner than what I’m used to, but the filling was on point and I really liked the chunky tomato sauce the restaurant used. Not too shabby, Poland, not too shabby.

Pierogi Scale of Excellence: 3 of 5 pierogies

 

Pierogies

shutterstock_44921830Pierogies are likely the most familiar Polish food and can even be found in the frozen food section of your local grocery store. A pierogi is a dumpling stuffed with a variety of tasty fillings, and while the frozen variety pales in comparison to the real deal, they’re at least recognizable. Whether you’re a sweet or savory fan there is a little Polish dumpling with your name on it.

I was only in Poland for 5 days, but I can say rather shamelessly that I ate pierogies at least once a day, every day. My favorites came from a small outdoor market in Krakow where you had the following choices of stuffings: spinach, cheese, cheese & potato, mushrooms, meat and fruit-filled. What did I sample? One (maybe two) of each. The vendor had a giant wok-like pan of sauteed onions that he, so lovingly, slathered all over the top. My God, was it delicious.

Pierogi Scale of Excellence: 4 of 5 pierogies

 

Polish Sausage & Sauerkraut

shutterstock_284843150Sausage & sauerkraut is literally EVERYWHERE in Eastern Europe and also a common addition to our family Easter dinner. The sausage is less spicy than the Italian variety and blends well with the tart sauerkraut and potato mixture it’s served with. Every Easter since I can remember, my Papa drives to the same Polish deli in the Chicago suburb he grew up in to pick up sausage. Your average grocery store variety just won’t do for this guy. Though it may be a bit of a trek just for sausage, it is SO worth it.

To be completely candid, sausage is not my favorite food, so I’m a little partial to the other edibles in this list. However, when in Warsaw, eat as the Polish eat. Though the flavors are consistent among the legit Polish plate and Grandma’s, the sausage I had in Warsaw was HUGE. The value of what I paid (almost nothing) for the portion of food I received made this dish a winner in my book.

Pierogi Scale of Excellence: 4 of 5 pierogies

 

Paprikash

image 1At home, our typical paprikash is a sour cream-based, creamy dumpling and chicken soup. This has been one of my favorite dishes since I could chew solid foods and, at the ripe old age of 26, my Grandma still makes it for me whenever I go home. I was elated to see this on the menu at a restaurant in Budapest (I know, not Poland, but work with me here). I ordered it and to my surprise, the dish was entirely different, but still incredible.

Paprikash is actually a traditional Hungarian dish characterized by flour dumplings and chicken in a red, spicy (flavorful – not hot) paprika-based sauce with a drizzle of sour cream over the top. It isn’t the soup I grew up on, but damn was it good. It had elements of my Grandma’s recipe and the sour cream complimented the boldness of the paprika and dulled the powerful flavor. Though it wasn’t what I initially expected, I was happy with this choice.

Pierogi Scale of Excellence: 4 of 5 pierogies

If you weren’t keeping track, nothing received a 5/5 on my pierogi scale because my Grandmother is an absolute boss in the kitchen, but everything I had in the motherland was absolutely delicious, and strongly recommended to all my foodies out there in the blog-o-sphere.


Get to Poland with EF College Break on Highlights of Eastern Europe.