Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…Polishing off his plate

Before heading to Poland I was slightly wary of what I’ve be eating there. As a vegetarian I feared going to restaurant after restaurant that served little but huge chunks of meat, strange sounding sausages and very little in the way of a token veggie option. Aside from Zakopane, where this was pretty much the case, I was pleasantly surprised by the local food on offer. The beer on the other hand was quite a let down.

meat

Polish food

The best thing I discovered was oscypek, smoked cheese that was then grilled and normally served with a cranberry sauce/jam type thing. I first found it just when I had a double-take at what a guy was selling by the water in Gdansk, and would later find it almost everywhere I went. As it was a traditional dish, Zakopane was happy to at least serve this, although often stalls would sell it uncooked so you could do it at home — tricky when you don’t have one. For lack of other options, the markets here sold little but cheese although this wasn’t rare — in Warsaw there was a bigger market that pretty much sold only cheese and bread. Amazing.

zakopane-cheese-market

Another great find was pierogi — close to Chinese dumplings or Russian pelmeni. The most popular filling, that I could have, was a potato and cream cheese offering (which had a name hinting it had come across the Russian border) and most places served them with fried onion which was a nice touch, although one specialist shop in Gdansk gave a choice of different sauces and somewhere in Zakopane, of course, felt the need to throw bacon bits on top.

Gofry, which doesn’t seem much of a Polish thing considering everyone seems to boast of the quality of their Belgian waffles, but nonetheless it’s everywhere and it’s amazing — basically waffles with lots of cream/ice cream and a topping of your choice.

Zapiekanka and placki ziemniaczane are other quick options I could regularly find. Zapiekanaka is essentially an open faced baguette pizza, but instead of tomato sauce they use a mushroom spread. The placki ziemniaczane are potato pancakes served with something like creamy mushroom sauce or goulash or something.

I tried some of the local beetroot soup too, but wasn’t totally amazed by that.

Sadly, there’s not much to wash the food down with. Out of all the beers I tried, the only I really liked was Zubr, which had a nice hairy bison on its label. In Australia there weren’t many local beers I liked, but Fat Yak, which also had a big hairy mammal on the label, was one of the best. Probably Tatra and Warka were the worst. Zywiec, Tyskie and Lomak were not much better; Okicem probably being the most drinkable local lager.

zubr beerfat yak

Vodka (or wodka, to use the local term) is more of a speciality, with the bison grass one of the best. Early on I was introduced to a specific brand of honey vodka which I regularly searched for on my travels, only to be constantly disappointed. Most shops/bars tended to serve that company’s other offerings (not nearly as nice) or other manufacturers’ honey vodka (not nearly as nice).

A Szarlotka, or tatanka apparently, is another nice option — a mix of the Zubrowka bison grass vodka with apple juice. Sounds very simple but tastes very nice.

Overall, for a country that doesn’t have much of a reputation for its cuisine, especially for vegetarians, Poland fed me very well.

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