THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE CUISINE
After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, tourism began to boom in Poland, where a rich heritage and wonderful cuisine are especially attractive to travelers interested in exploring their passions and enriching their life with new experiences.
The people of Poland enjoy a relaxed lifestyle, focused on the pleasures of family, friends, and fantastic meals, especially in small towns and villages. They take time to socialize with newcomers and are especially welcoming to travelers who truly want to learn about the land and people they are visiting.
Throughout the nation, agrotourism is thriving in rural communities where organic and eco-friendly farming and sustainable harvesting are simply a cultural way of life. Rich, unspoiled agrarian lands abundantly yield the fresh, quality ingredients that go into the traditional meals made in Polish homes every day.
The Poles are famous for their delicious meat entrées, wild game dishes, and remarkable variety of sausages. Recipes that have been passed down through the generations are as dear to each family as the stories and sense of identity that the food represents. While vacationing in Poland you’ll also discover and come to love a diverse array of whole-grain breads, savory soups, delectable appetizers, recipes including wild mushrooms and berries, fresh salads, and fabulous desserts.
From the Baltic coast in the northwest to the mountainous southern regions, traditional dishes have evolved based on the availability of specific produce, fish, and wild game. Regional variations have also been influenced by Poland’s diverse history of culinary influences from Czech, German, Italian, French, Lithuanian, Russian, and Jewish cultures.
The Sudety Mountains along the southwest border and the Karpaty Mountains to the southeast, Silesia and Lesser Poland, are known for a mix of highland culture and agrarian valleys. Near the river valleys of southern Poland, the climate is perfect for growing hops. Pierogi, stuffed dumplings and potato pancakes abound along with locally brewed beers.
In Lesser Poland, oscypek, a mountain smoked sheep cheese, potatoes, eggs, sausages, rye, and finely milled buckwheat groats are the staples. Zurek, the fermented rye soup now cooked throughout Poland, comes from Silesia region. Also, well-loved in Silesia, are kotlety mielone, ground meat patties, cooked red cabbage with bacon and kluski slaskie, the Silesian dumplings often served with meat sauces, known for their round shape and small dimple in the middle.
The lands of Greater Poland, Mazovia, Podlassia and Mazuria sweep from the fertile agricultural regions of west central Poland to the less arable regions to the east and then upward into the forests and lakes of the northeast.
Greater Poland is famous for being “the land of the potatoes” or pyry. German-influenced cuisine is common throughout this area, and one of the regional specialties is metka, or kielbasa tatarowa, a soft sausage spread.
Poland’s capital, Warsaw, is in the Mazovia region. This area is best known for several fantastic stews including the great comfort food, bigos, or Hunter’s Stew, and Mazovian-style potato pancakes with sour cream. While less suited for farming, Podlassia’s forests yield a wealth of berries, honey, and wild mushrooms. The rare European bison also roam here. In Mazuria, forest fare is complemented by a variety of fish from the lakes and rivers.
To the northwest, Pomerania runs along the shore of the Baltic Sea. Inland regions yield crops of rye and wheat, potatoes, sugar beets, and vegetables as well as domestic livestock such as pork, beef, goose, and duck. The coast offers a variety of fish and seafood. Many of the delicious herring and other fish recipes come from the Pomerania region.
Throughout Poland, local breweries make fine beers. Honey meads are specialties of the forested regions. Poland is also known as the birthplace of vodka, with the drink appearing in manuscripts written as early as 1405. One of the most unique variations is the Zubrowka Polish vodka, flavored with an aromatic grass from the forests of Podlassia.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Poland keeps a List of Regional and Traditional Products made in Poland. This rapidly-growing list now contains over 1000 unique products.
DISHES YOU MIGHT SAMPLE DURING YOUR POLAND CULINARY VACATION
Zurek soup, fermented rye soup with sausage and egg
Barszcz czerwony, red beetroot soup or borscht
Golabki, stuffed cabbage rolls
Bigos, Hunter’s Stew with Polish kielbasa, pork and beef meats
Pierogi, stuffed dumplings
Zrazy, pork rolls with pickles and bacon
Kaczka pieczona z jablkami, baked duck with apples
Szczęśliwej Podróży i Smacznego! - Happy Travels & Bon Appétit!