Polish cuisine (Polish: kuchnia polska ['kuxɲa ˈpɔlska]) is a style of cooking and food preparation originating in or widely popular in Poland. Polish cuisine has evolved over the centuries to become very eclectic due to Poland's history. Polish cuisine shares many similarities with other Slavic countries, especially Czech, Slovak, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian cuisines. It has also been widely influenced by Central European cuisines, namely German, Austrian and Hungarian cuisines  as well as Jewish, French, Turkish and Italian culinary traditions. It is rich in meat, especially pork, chicken and beef (depending on the region), winter vegetables (cabbage in the dish bigos), and herbs. It is also characteristic in its use of various kinds of noodles the most notable of which are kluski as well as cereals such as kasha (from the Polish word kasza). Generally speaking, Polish cuisine is hearty and uses a lot of cream and eggs. The traditional dishes are often demanding in preparation. Many Poles allow themselves a generous amount of time to serve and enjoy their festive meals, especially Christmas eve dinner (Wigilia) or Easter breakfast which could take a number of days to prepare in their entirety.
The Polish national dishes are bigos [ˈbiɡɔs]; pierogi [pʲɛˈrɔɡʲi]; kiełbasa; kotlet schabowy [ˈkɔtlɛt sxaˈbɔvɨ] (type of breaded cutlet); gołąbki [ɡɔˈwɔ̃pkʲi] (type of cabbage roll); zrazy [ˈzrazɨ] (type of roulade); roast (Polish: pieczeń) [ˈpʲɛt͡ʂɛɲ]; sour cucumber soup (Polish: zupa ogórkowa) Polish pronunciation: [ˈzupa ɔɡurˈkɔva]; mushroom soup, (Polish: zupa grzybowa) [ˈzupa ɡʐɨˈbɔva] (quite different from the North American cream of mushroom); tomato soup (Polish: zupa pomidorowa) [ˈzupa pɔmidɔˈrɔva]; rosół [ˈrɔɕuw] (variety of meat broth); żurek [ˈʐurɛk] (sour rye soup); flaki [ˈflakʲi] (variety of tripe soup); and barszcz [barʂt͡ʂ] among others.
The main meal might be eaten about 2 p.m. or later. It is larger than the North American lunch. It might be composed of three courses especially among the traditionalists, starting with a soup like a popular rosół and tomato soup or more festive barszcz (beet borscht) or żurek (sour rye meal mash), followed perhaps in a restaurant by an appetizer such as herring (prepared in either cream, oil, or in aspic); or other cured meats and vegetable salads. The main course usually includes a serving of meat, such as roast or kotlet schabowy (breaded pork cutlet), or chicken. Vegetables, currently replaced by leafy green salads, were not very long ago most commonly served as surówka [suˈrufka] – shredded root vegetables with lemon and sugar (carrot, celeriac, seared beetroot) or sauerkraut (Polish: kapusta kiszona) [kaˈpusta kʲiˈʂɔna]. The side dishes are usually boiled potatoes, rice or more traditionally kasza (cereals). Meals often conclude with a dessert such as makowiec, a poppy seed pastry, or drożdżówka [drɔʐˈd͡ʐufka], a type of yeast cake. Other Polish specialities include chłodnik [ˈxwɔdɲik] (a chilled beet or fruit soup for hot days), golonka (pork knuckles cooked with vegetables), kołduny (meat dumplings), zrazy (stuffed slices of beef), salceson and flaki (tripe).
- 1 History
- 2 Modern era
- 3 Holiday meals
- 4 Regional cuisine
- 5 Soups
- 6 Main course
- 7 Side dishes and salads
- 8 Bread
- 9 Desserts & sweets
- 10 Beverages
- 11 Lists of common Polish dishes found on a national level
- 12 Selected ingredients
- 13 See also
- 14 Notes and references
- 15 External links
Polish cuisine in the Middle Ages was based on dishes made of agricultural produce and cereal crops (millet, rye, wheat), meats of wild and farm animals, fruits, forest berries and game, honey, herbs and local spices. It was known above all for abundant use of salt from Wieliczka and permanent presence of groats (kasza). A high calorific value of dishes and drinking beer or mead as a basic drink was typical of Middle Ages Polish cuisine.
During the Middle Ages the cuisine of Poland was heavy and spicy. Two main ingredients were meat (both game and beef) and cereal. The latter consisted initially of proso millet, but later in the Middle Ages other types of cereal became widely used. Most commoners did not use bread and instead consumed cereals in the forms of kasza or various types of flatbread, some of which (for instance kołacz) are considered traditional recipes even in the 21st century. Apart from cereals, a large portion of the daily diet of mediaeval Poles consisted of beans, mostly broad beans and peas. As the territory of Poland was densely forested, usage of mushrooms, forest berries, nuts and wild honey was also widespread. Among the delicacies of the Polish nobility were honey-braised bear paws served with horseradish-flavoured salad (now species protected in Poland), smoked bear tongue and bear bacon.
Thanks to close trade relations with Turkey and the countries in the Caucasus, the price of spices (such as black pepper and nutmeg) was much lower in Poland than the rest of Europe, hence spicy sauces became popular. The usage of two basic sauces (the jucha czerwona and jucha szara, or red and gray blood in Old Polish) remained widespread at least until the 18th century.
The daily beverages included milk, whey, buttermilk and various herb infusions. The most popular alcoholic beverages were beer and mead; however in the 16th century upper classes began to import Hungarian and Silesian wines. Mead was so widespread that in the 13th century Prince Leszek I the White explained to the Pope that Polish knights could not participate in a crusade as there was no mead in the Holy Land. Also, vodka became popular, possibly among the lower classes first. There is written evidence suggesting that vodka originated in Poland. The word "vodka" was recorded for the first time ever in 1405 in Akta Grodzkie, the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. At that time, the word wódka (vodka) referred to chemical compounds such as medicines and cosmetic cleansers, while the popular beverage was called gorzałka [ɡɔˈʐawka] (from the Old Polish gorzeć).
Along with the Italian queen Bona Sforza (second wife of Sigismund I of Poland) many Italian cooks came to Poland after 1518. Although native vegetable foods were an ancient and intrinsic part of the cuisine, this began a period in which vegetables like lettuce, leeks, celeriac and cabbage were more widely used. Even today, some of those vegetables are referred to in Polish as włoszczyzna, a word derived from Włochy, the Polish name of Italy. During this period the use of spices, which arrived in Poland via Western Asian trade routes, was common among those who could afford them, and dishes considered elegant could be very spicy. However, the idea that Queen Bona was the first to introduce vegetables to Poland is false. While her southern cooks may have helped elevate and expand the role of various vegetables in royal Polish cuisine, records show that the court of King Jagiello (who died in 1434, over 80 years before her reign) enjoyed a variety of vegetables including lettuce, beets, cabbage, turnip, carrots, peas and cauliflower.
Polish-style pickled cucumber (ogórek kiszony) is a variety developed in the northern Europe. It has been exported worldwide and is found in the cuisines of many countries. It is sour but tends to be seasoned differently. It is usually preserved in wooden barrels. A cucumber only pickled for a few days is different in taste (less sour) than one pickled for a longer time and is called ogórek małosolny, which means "lightly salted cucumber". Another kind of pickled cucumber, popular in Poland, is ogórek konserwowy (preserved cucumber) which is rather sweet and vinegary in taste, due to different composition of the preserving solution and the fact that it's not fermented, just preserved. It is kept in wooden barrels.
The only indisputable fact is that the court of Queen Bona was fed in an Italian fashion, because she exclusively employed Italian cooks, some of whom were originally hired to prepare parties for aristocratic families but who were soon serving typical Italian dishes as part of the court's daily menus. Court records show that Queen Bona imported large volumes of southern European, American and Western Asian fruits (oranges, lemons, pomegranates, olives, figs, tomatoes), vegetables (potatoes and corn), nuts (chestnuts, raisins and almonds,including marzipan), along with grains (such as rice), cane sugar and Italian olive oil. The court also imported various herbs and spices including black pepper, fennel, saffron, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, .
Until the Partitions perpetrated by the neighboring empires, Poland was one of the largest countries in the world, and encompased many regions with their own, distinctive culinary traditions. Two consecutive Polish kings, Władysław IV and John II Casimir (Polish: Jan II Kazimierz Waza) married the same French Duchess, Marie Louise Gonzaga (Polish: Ludwika Maria), daughter of Charles I, Duke of Mantua; persecuted by King Louis XIII of France for her affiance to his opponent Gaston, Duke of Orléans. Marie Louise arrived in Warsaw in 1646, was widowed, and married again in 1649. Ludwika brought along with her a court full of Frenchmen including courtiers, secretaries, army officers, physicians, merchants, craftsmen, as well as many cooks.
Records show that her visiting guests were entertained with the following fowl: waxwings, fieldfares, snow bunting, hazel grouse, partridges, black grouse, capercaillies and the forest game: loach, trouts, grayling, salmon fresh and smoked, flounders, salted herring, lampreys in vinegar, oysters, snails, and Genoese pâté, not to mention fresh fruit and chestnuts. French and Italian wines were served, as well as mead and local beers. The dishes were made only according to French recipes. The royal court with all its innovations exerted a broad influence over the rest of aristocratic residences and noble palaces across Poland. French cuisine was in fashion and many families willingly employed French cooks and pâté makers. In the mid-18th century on Polish tables appeared the French champagne. Also, among the most influential in that period were Lithuanian, Jewish, German and Hungarian cuisine, not to mention Armenian, which arrived in Poland before the 17th century along with many settlers especially in the south-eastern part of the Commonwealth. Signature dishes of the Western Asia reached Polish tables thanks to the Armenian trade and cultural exchange with Poland's neighbor - the Ottoman Empire. Rare delicacies were brought to royal court as gifts from sultans and royal envoys. The strongest influences were noted in the cities of Lwów, Kraków, Kamieniec Podolski and Zamość due to many Armenians living there permanently. Also, because of the close contact with the Ottoman Empire, coffee (kawa) and boza became popular.
With the subsequent decline of Poland, and the grain production crisis that followed The Deluge, potatoes began to replace the traditional use of cereal. The oldest surviving Polish cook-book, Compendium Ferculorum albo zebranie potraw ("Collection of Dishes") by Stanisław Czerniecki was published in Kraków in 1682. Under the partitions, the cuisine of Poland became heavily influenced by cuisines of the surrounding empires. This included Russian and German cuisines, but also the culinary traditions of most nations of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The 19th century also saw the creation of many Polish cookbooks, by Jan Szyttler, Anna Ciundziewicka, Wincenta Zawadzka, Lucyna Ćwierczakiewiczowa and others.
After World War II
After the end of World War II, Poland fell under Soviet / Communist occupation. Some restaurants were nationalized. The communists envisioned a net of lunch rooms called "bufet" for the workers at various companies, and milk bars for the public. The majority of restaurants that survived the 1940s and 1950s were state-owned. Workplace lunch rooms promoted mostly inexpensive meals, including soups of all kinds, meatballs and pork chops, and staples such as placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes), placki z jablkami (apple pancakes), kopytka (potato gnocchi), leniwe (farmer's cheese gnocchi served sweet) and pierogi. A typical second course consisted of meat cutlet served with potatoes or buckwheat and "surówka" (raw, julienned vegetables). The popular Polish kotlet schabowy is a breaded cutlet similar to the Austrian Wiener schnitzel and the Italian and Spanish Milanesa.
With time, the shortage economy led to scarcity of meat, coffee, tea and other ingredients of daily use. Many products like chocolate, sugar and meat were rationed, with a specific limit depending on social class and health requirements. Physical workers and pregnant women were generally entitled to more food products. Imports were restricted, so much of the food supply was domestic. Tropical fruits (citrus, banana, pineapple, etc.) were available during holidays and local fruits and vegetables were mostly seasonal but were available at private stands. For most of the year the Poles had to get by with only domestic winter fruit and vegetables: apples, plums, currants, onions, potatoes, cabbage, root vegetables and frozen products. Other food products (of foreign origins) were available at markets at high prices.
This situation led in turn to gradual replacement of traditional Polish cuisine with food prepared from anything available at the moment. Among the popular dishes introduced by the public restaurants was "kotlet mielony" meatball, a sort of a hamburger often served with beet puree and fresh carrots . The traditional recipes were mostly preserved during the Wigilia feast (Christmas Eve), for which many families tried to prepare 12 traditional courses.
With the end of communism in Poland in 1989, an avalanche of new restaurants started to open and the basic foodstuffs were once again easily obtainable. This led to a gradual return of rich traditional Polish cuisine, both in home cooking and in restaurants. At the same time, restaurants and supermarkets promoted the use of ingredients typical of other cuisines of the world. Among the most notable foods that started to become common in Poland were cucurbits, zucchini and all kinds of fish. During communist times, these were available fresh mostly in the seaside regions.
Recent years have seen the advent of a slow food movement, and a number of TV programmes devoted to other cuisine and as well as traditional Polish cuisine have gained popularity. In 2011 a nostalgic cookbook (written in English) combining a child's memories growing up in the Gierek era with traditional Polish recipes was published in London.
American food in Poland, most commonly McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, are declining in popularity as Polish people prefer their own cuisine. Meanwhile, Doner kebabs are starting to gain popularity. Nonetheless, in most of Poland one can still get traditional and very popular Polish fast-food such as zapiekanka (baguette with cheese, mushrooms, onion or peppers, sometimes meat and ketchup), kebab, hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage. There are also many small-scale, quick-service restaurants which usually serve items such as zapiekanka.
Christmas dishes in Poland
Traditional Christmas Eve supper called Wigilia is meatless, usually consists of barszcz (borscht) with uszka (small dumplings) – a classic Polish Christmas Eve starter, followed by fried carp, carp fillet or cod with apple & leeks fresh salad, carp in aspic etc. traditionally carp (fried or Jewish style) provides a main component of the Christmas Eve meal across Poland. Other popular dishes, for the next day, include pickled matjas herring, rollmops, pierogi with sauerkraut and forest mushrooms, fish soup, kiełbasa, hams and bigos (savory stew of cabbage and meat) and vegetable salads. Among popular desserts are gingerbread, cheesecake, various fruits like oranges among others, poppy seed cake makowiec (makówki in Silesia), fruit kompot, kluski with poppyseed, kutia sweet grain pudding in the eastern regions, like (Białystok) and ginger bread. Regional dishes include żurek, siemieniotka (in Silesia), and kołduny - mushrooms or meat stuffed dumplings in the eastern regions.
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Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday) is a Catholic feast celebrated on the last Thursday before Lent, which is also the last day of carnival. Traditionally it is an occasion to enjoy fair amounts of sweets and cakes which afterwards are not allowed by the Church until Easter. Tłusty Czwartek belongs to movable feasts, as it is connected with the date of Easter and beginning of the Lent. The next Thursday falls already after Ash Wednesday that is the period of the Lent when the Catholics should refrain from overeating.
The most popular sweets during Fat Thursday are pączki (Polish donuts) or faworki called also in some regions of Poland "chrust". The traditional donuts are filled with rose petal jam (plum jam or apple) and covered with thin layer of icing or powdered sugar, sprinkled with orange peel. Fat Thursday used to mark the beginning of a Fat Week, the period of great gluttony during which Polish ancestors consumed dishes served with smalec (lard), bacon and all kinds of meat. Nowadays Fat Thursday is associated particularly with donuts, therefore on that day confectioneries are besieged by Poles who wish to purchase pączki to celebrate. Donuts baked in Poland are smaller in size than their North American counterparts and they taste more like apple fritters.
The first donuts popular until the 16th century were made of the same dough as bread, filled with pork and fried on smalec. Only later they were made sweet. Every respectful cake shop makes pączki the night before the Poles hit the shops to buy them. Polish pączki are made of yeast, flour and eggs, and fried in oil or smalec only briefly, until they rise up, so that the fat would not soak inside. Some people fill a few of them with almond or nut instead of marmalade; a chance encounter is supposed to bring good luck. Even though during Easter many housewives make pączki and faworki at home, one can see crowds of people at confectioneries buying this Fat Thursday’s specialty.
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A typical Easter breakfast often consists of cold-cuts served with horseradish sauce and beet salads, breads, bigos, żurek, kiełbasa, smoked salmon or herring, marinated vegetable salads, Easter salad (chopped boiled eggs, green peas, cwikła, carrot, apple, potato, parsley and mayonnaise) coffee, tea and cakes, i.e. chocolate cake, makowiec, mazurek, sernik, etc.
Poland has a number of unique regional cuisines with regional differences in preparations and ingredients. For an extensive list of the dishes typical to Galicia, Kresy, Podlaskie, Masovia (including Warsaw), Masuria, Pomerania, Silesia, Lesser Poland, the Tatra mountains and Greater Poland (see List of Polish cuisine dishes).
- Zupa pomidorowa - Tomato soup usually served with pasta or rice.
- Kartoflanka - Potato soup.
- Barszcz - Its strictly vegetarian version is the first course during the Christmas Eve feast, served with dumplings called "uszka" ("small ears" dumplings) with mushroom filling (sauerkraut can be used as well). It is made out of beetroot.
- Chłodnik - Cold beet soup made of soured milk, young beet leaves, beets, cucumbers and chopped fresh dill.
- Zupa buraczkowa - Red beetroot soup with potatoes. Similar to traditional Barszcz although different recipe. However both use beetroot.
- Zupa szczawiowa - Sorrel soup made of sorrel leaves, served with hard boiled egg.
- Flaki or Flaczki - Beef or pork tripe stew with marjoram. Common ingredients include beef tripe, beef, bay leaf, parsley, carrot, beef broth, and spices to taste, including salt, black pepper, nutmeg, sweet paprika, and marjoram.
- Rosół - Clear chicken soup served with noodles.
- Zupa grzybowa/pieczarkowa - Mushroom soup made of various species of mushroom.
- Zupa ogórkowa - Dill pickle soup of sour, salted cucumbers, often with pork.
- Żur or Żurek - Żur with potatoes, Polish sausage (kielbasa), and egg (jajko). Depending on the part of Poland it came from it may contain mushrooms as well. This dish is also called żurek starowiejski (old style countryside rye soup).
- Grochówka - Pea soup, with potato, carrot, kielbasa.
- Kapuśniak - Cabbage soup with chicken, carrot.
- Zupa jarzynowa - Chicken with vegetables bouillon base vegetable soup.
- Zupa owocowa - fruit soup, served cold with different fruits during hot summer.
- Pierogi - dumplings, usually filled with sauerkraut, mushrooms, meat, potato, savory cheese, sweet curd cheese with a touch of vanilla, or blueberries or other fruits, such as cherries or strawberries, and sometimes even apples—optionally topped with sour cream, and sugar for the sweet versions.
- Bigos - stew of sauerkraut and meat, mainly kielbasa. It is known as "hunter's stew" due to the number of wild meats it can be prepared with, such as venison, rabbit and pork. However almost any leftover ingredients can be used.
- Kotlet schabowy - Polish variety of pork cutlet coated with breadcrumbs made of pork tenderloin (with the bone or without), or with pork chop. Kotlet z kury is a Polish variety of chicken cutlet coated with breadcrumbs. Kotlet z indyka turkey cutlet coated with breadcrumbs.
- Golonka - stewed pork knuckle or hock
- Gołąbki - cabbage leaves stuffed with spiced minced meat and rice or with mushrooms and rice served with sour cream or tomato sauce.
- Kiełbasa - sausage is a staple of Polish cuisine and comes in dozens of varieties, smoked or fresh, made with pork, beef, turkey, lamb, veal with every region having its own specialty.
- Gulasz - stew of meat, noodles and vegetables (especially potato), seasoned with paprika and other spices usually eaten with buckwheat kasza.
- Zrazy - twisted shape thin slices of chopped beef, which is flavored with salt and pepper and stuffed with vegetables, mushrooms, eggs, and potato.
- Kurczak pieczony po wiejsku - Polish village style roasted chicken with onion, garlic and smoked bacon.
- Pieczeń cielęca - roast veal, marinated in an aromatic marinade.
- Rolada z mięsa mielonego z pieczarkami - ground meat roulade stuffed with mushrooms
- Pieczeń wieprzowa z winem - pork roast with wine
- Pyzy - potato dumplings served by themselves or stuffed with minced meat or cottage cheese
- Kotlet mielony - minced meat with eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, and salt and pepper rolled into a ball and fried on onion butter.
- Baranina - roasted or grilled lamb.
- Bitki wołowe z pieczarkami/grzybami - beef cutlets with mushrooms.
- Bitki wieprzowe w sosie własnym - pork cutlets in gravy sauce.
- Filet z dorsza - cod fillet in beer batter served with mash potatoes.
- Karkówka - tenderloin, usually roasted
- Śledzie - Herring in oil with onions.
- Łosoś - salmon, often baked or boiled in a dill sauce.
- Pulpety or Klopsiki w sosie pomidorowym - meatloaf Polish style meatballs often in tomato or mushroom sauce.
- Kotlet Mielony Wieprzowy - Thick juicy cutlets made with freshly ground pork, bread crumbs, and spices. Often topped with mushrooms, gravy, cooked onions, or fried egg.
- Kotlet Mielony Drobiowy - Freshly ground chicken, bread crumbs, and spices combine in a fried cutlet. Often topped with mushrooms, gravy, cooked onions, or fried egg.
- Polędwiczki wołowe - beef sirloin, often with rare mushroom sauce.
- Zrazy zawijane - beef rolls stuffed with bacon, gherkin and onion.
- Żeberka wędzone - smoked, roasted or grilled Ribs.
- Kurczak Pieczony - Roasted chicken.
- Wołowina Pieczona - Roast beef.
- Ryba Smażona - Fried breaded fish fillet.
- Schab Faszerowany - Stuffed pork loin.
Side dishes and salads
- Ziemniaki Gotowane - Simple boiled potatoes sparkled with parsley or dill.
- Kopytka - Hoof-shaped potato dumplings.
- Kasza gryczana - Cooked buckwheat groats.
- Tłuczone Ziemniaki - Mashed potatoes.
- Mizeria - Mizeria is traditional Polish salad made from cucumbers in sour cream with dill.
- Surówka z Białej Kapusty - Cole Slaw blend of freshly shredded cabbage, carrots, mayonnaise and spices.
- Sałatka Warzywna or Jarzynowa - Polish Vegetable Salad is a traditional Polish side dish with cooked root vegetables, tomato, potato, carrot, parsley root, celery root, combined with cucumbers in brine and hard-cooked eggs in mayonnaise and mustard sauce.
- Kapusta Zasmażana - Sauerkraut pan-fried with fried onions, cooked pork, whole pepper, and rich spices makes for a truly hearty side dish.
- Surówka - Raw sauerkraut, apple, carrot, onion salad.
- Sałatka - Original Polish salad lettuce, tomato, cucumber or pickled cucumber/preserved cucumber, optional is a small amount of white vinegar, as dressing heavy cream, mayonnaise or other dressings.
- Sałatka Burakowa/Buraczki - Finely chopped warm beet root salad.
- Fasolka z Migdałami - Fresh slender snipped green beans steamed and topped with butter, bread crumbs, and toasted almond slices.
- Ogórek Kiszony - Polish pickled cucumber.
- Ogórek Konserwowy - Preserved cucumber which is rather sweet and vinegary in taste.
- Pieczarki Marynowane - Marinated mushrooms.
- Sałatka Ogórkowa - Pickled cucumber, Preserved cucumber, copped red peppers, onions salad.
- Sałatka z Krewetek - Polish shrimp salad finely chopped hard-cooked eggs, cooked carrots, celery, onion and diced pickle along with the tiny shrimp.
- Sałatka z Boczkiem - Polish wilted lettuce salad is made with romaine or iceberg lettuce, chopped hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped onion, vinegar, bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces, water, sugar, salt and pepper.
- Sałatka Wiosenna - Polish spring salad chopped finely, radishes, green onions, pencil-thin asparagus, peas, hard-cooked eggs or cubed yellow cheese, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, sweet paprika for color.
- Sałatka z Kartofli or Sałatka Ziemniaczana - Polish potato salad made with red or white potatoes cooked in their jackets, cooled, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice, carrots, celery, onion, dill pickles, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and pepper.
- Surówka z Marchewki - Polish carrot salad made with 5 peeled and coarsely grated large carrots, 1 peeled, cored and coarsely grated large granny smith apple, juice of 1/2 lemon, sunflower or vegetable oil, salt, sugar.
Bread (Chleb) and bread rolls (Bułka) makes the Polish cuisine and tradition complete. It has been an essential part of them both for centuries. Today bread remains one of the most important foods in the Polish cuisine. The main ingredient for Polish bread is rye or wheat, Traditional bread has a crunchy crust, is soft but not too soft inside, and has unforgettable aroma. Such bread is made on sourdough which lends it a distinctive taste. It can be stored for a week or so without getting too hard and is not crumbly when cut.
In Poland, welcoming with bread and salt ("chlebem i solą") is often associated with the traditional hospitality ("staropolska gościnność") of the Polish nobility (szlachta), who prided themselves on their hospitality. A 17th-century Polish poet, Wespazjan Kochowski, wrote in 1674: "O good bread, when it is given to guests with salt and good will!" Another poet who mentioned the custom was Wacław Potocki. The custom was, however, not limited to the nobility, as Polish people of all classes observed this tradition, reflected in old Polish proverbs.  Nowadays, the tradition is mainly observed on wedding days, when newlyweds are greeted with bread and salt by their parents on returning from the church wedding.
We have told about a certain canon of Polish bread. It would be wrong however to conclude that there's only one type of it which is worth mentioning. Each good bakery makes its bread slightly differently. Breads are made of various cereals (not just wheat or rye), whole grain breads abound and sometimes some traditional extra ingredients are used (e.g. onion, sunflower seed or lard). And, taking a broader view, the variety of bakery products in Poland is truly magnificent.
Desserts & sweets
- Makowiec - Sweet poppy-seed swirl cake, with raisins and walnuts.
- Racuchy - Small pancakes often stuffed with apples and served with powdered sugar.
- Pączek - Closed donut filled with rose petal jam or other fruit conserves.
- Pierniki - Soft gingerbread shapes iced or filled with marmalade of different fruit flavours and sometimes covered with chocolate.
- Sernik - Sernik (cheesecake) is one of the most popular desserts in Poland. It is a cake made primarily of twaróg, a type of fresh cheese, eggs, vanilla, raisins and orange peel, served cold.
- Mazurek - cake baked in Poland, particularly at Christmas Eve and Easter, but also at other winter holidays, there are variations with different fillings, fruit and walnut paste or chocolate.
- Chałka - Sweet white wheat bread of Jewish origin.
- Krówki - Polish fudge, soft milk toffee candies.
- Kremówka - Polish type of cream pie made of two layers of puff pastry, filled with cream, usually sprinkled with powdered sugar.otherwise known a"Napoleonka",close relative of French "Millefeuille"
- Ptasie mleczko - chocolate-covered candy filled with soft meringue (or milk soufflé).
- Kisiel - Clear, jelly-like sweet fruit liquid, red currant is popular one.
- Budyń - Pudding, usually comes in many different flavors, such as sweet cream, chocolate, and even cherry.
- Faworki - Light fried pastry covered with powdered sugar.
- Pańska Skórka, Miodek - Kind of hard Taffy sold at cemeteries during Zaduszki and at Stare Miasto (Old city) in Warsaw.
- Kutia - A small square pasta with wheat, poppy seeds, nuts, raisins and honey. Typically served during Christmas in the eastern regions (Białystok).
- Prince Polo - A Polish chocolate bar.
- Mieszanka Wedlowska - Assorted chocolate covered candy.
- Torcik Wedlowski - A large, circular, chocolate covered wafer with hand-made decorations.
- Pawełek - Chocolate bar with a flavored filling that contains a small amount of alcohol.
- Sliwka w czekoladzie - Chocolate-covered prune
Traditional Polish alcoholic beverages include mead, beer and vodka (old Polish names: okowita, gorzałka). In recent decades beer has become very common, while wine is less frequently drunk, though in recent years the trend for its consumption is rising. Among the alcoholic beverages, Polish vodka is traditionally prepared from grain or potatoes – it essentially displaced the formerly widespread mead.
Some sources suggest that the first production of vodka took place in Poland as early as the 8th century, becoming more widespread in the 11th century. The world's first written mention of the drink and of the word "vodka" was in 1405 from Akta Grodzkie recorder of deeds, the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland.
Vodka production on a much larger scale began in Poland at the end of the 16th century. By the 17th and 18th centuries, Polish vodka was known in the Netherlands, Denmark, England, Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria and the Black Sea basin. Vodka was the most popular alcoholic drink in Poland until 1998, when it was surpassed by beer.
Historically the most widespread non-alcoholic beverage among the peasantry was kvass, adopted later by Polish nobility also, mainly due to its supposed healing qualities. In contemporary times, tea is perhaps the most popular, drunk sometimes with a slice of lemon and sweetened with sugar. Tea came into Poland from England shortly after its appearance in Western Europe, mainly due to the Dutch merchants. However its prevalence is attributed to the Russian invaders in the 19th century – at this time samovars imported from Russia become commonplace in Polish homes. Coffee is also widely drunk in Poland since the 18th century. Frequently consumed beverages also include: buttermilk, kefir, soured milk, instant coffee, various mineral waters and juices. Following the fall of communism in 1989, numerous brands of soft drink have also become popular.
Lists of common Polish dishes found on a national level
- List of common Polish soups
- Common main courses
- Common desserts
- Common beverages
- Common folk medicine
- kapusta kiszona - sauerkraut
- ogórek kiszony - salted sour cucumber, a pickle prepared in a similar way to sauerkraut
- kiełbasa - Polish sausage, comes in a wide variety of versions
- śmietana - sour cream
Notes and references
- Nigel Roberts (Apr 12, 2011), The Bradt Travel Guide 2, Belarus, page 81, (2nd), ISBN 1841623407. "Like Ukrainians, Russians and Poles, Belarusians are still fond of borscht with a very large dollop of sour cream (smyetana) and it is particularly warming and nourishing in the depths of winter."
- Melvil Dewey, Richard Rogers Bowker, L. Pylodet, Library Journal, Volume 110, 1985; "Poland's cuisine, influenced by its German, Austrian, Hungarian, Russian, and other conquerors over the centuries."[page needed]
See also: Eve Zibart, The Ethnic Food Lover's Companion, p. 114. "Polish cuisine displays its German-Austrian history in its sausages, particularly the garlicky kielbasa (or kolbasz), and its smoked meats." (p. 108.)
- Jerzy Pasikowski (2011). "Wpływy kuchni innych narodów na kształt kuchni polskiej (Influences of cuisines of other nations in Polish cuisine)". Portal Gastronomiczny NewsGastro. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
- Polish Meals – Polish Food – Polish Cuisine. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
- Kasha, extended definition by Webster's Online Dictionary. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
- "Always home-made, tomato soup is one of the first things a Polish cook learns to prepare." [in:] Marc E. Heine. Poland. 1987
- "Tu się w lasy schroniły wygnane ze zbytkowych stołów, narodowe potrawy, Barszcz, Bigos, Zrazy, Pirogi i Pieczeń" [in:] Jan N. de Bobrowicz. Maxymilian arcyksiąże Austryacki obrany Król polski. 1848. s. 74; "barszcz, rosół, sztuka mięsa, pieczenie huzarskie, bigos, pierogi, kiełbasa z kapustą, przede wszystkim zaś rozmaite kasze" Zbigniew Kuchowicz Obyczaje staropolskie XVII-XVIII wieku. 1975; "pieczeń cielęca pieczona (panierowana), pieczeń cielęca zapiekana w sosie beszamelowym, pieczeń huzarska (=pieczeń wołowa przekładana farszem), pieczeń rzymska (klops), pieczeń rzymska (klops z cielęciny) w sosie śmietanowym, pieczeń rzymska z królika " [in:] Stanisław Berger. Kuchnia polska. 1974.; Polish Holiday Cookery by Robert Strybel.  2003
- Robert Strybel, Maria Strybel. Polish Heritage Cookery (Wildfowl and Game). Hippocrene Books. 2005. p. 350.
- Maria Dembińska, William Woys Weaver. Food and Drink in Medieval Poland: Rediscovering a Cuisine of the Past. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1999 p. 95.
- Wojciech Staszewski (August 2006). "Bycze jądra z grilla". Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). Retrieved 2006-08-25.
- History of Mead, a favored drink among the Polish-Lithuanian szlachta. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
- "History of vodka production, at the official page of Polish Spirit Industry Association (KRPS), 2007". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
- Robert Strybel, Maria Strybel. Polish Heritage Cookery. Hippocrene Books. 2005. p. 13.
- Jarosław Dumanowski: "Staropolskie książki kucharskie". Mówią Wieki, 12/09 (December 2009), pp. 36–40. ISSN 12304018.
- "Jako zakonnik Święty Jacek działał w Polsce i na Rusi, był także przeorem w Kijowie, a stamtąd właśnie przyszły do nas wigilijne pierogi, knysze, kulebiaki. ..." [in:] Helena Szymanderska. Polska wigilia. 2000
- Rose Petal Jam - Recipes and Stories from a Summer in Poland, by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target, published by Tabula Books 2011
- Rzeczpospolita http://www.rp.pl/artykul/636290.html
- "How To Make Pierogi And Pierogi Recipes". Tasting Poland. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Conditions of alcoholic beverages consumption among Polish consumers
- Origins & Development of Vodka. The Gin and Vodka Association. ginvodka.org
- Leszek Wiwała (2010). Od gorzałki do wódki – zarys historii polskiej wódki (History of Polish vodka). Wydawnictwo Leon. ISBN 8392886100.
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