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Polish cuisine (Polish: kuchnia polska) is a style of cooking and food preparation originating in or widely popular in Poland. Due to Poland's history, Polish cuisine has evolved over the centuries to be very eclectic, and it shares many similarities with other regional cuisines. Polish-styled cooking in other cultures is often referred to as à la polonaise.
Polish cuisine is rich in meat, especially pork, chicken and game, in addition to a wide range of vegetables, spices, mushrooms, and herbs. It is also characteristic in its use of various kinds of noodles, cereals, and grains. In general, Polish cuisine is hearty and heavy in its use of butter, cream, eggs, and extensive seasoning. 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 supper (Wigilia) on December 24, or Easter breakfast, both of which could take a number of days to prepare in their entirety.
Among the well-known Polish national dishes are bigos [ˈbiɡɔs], pierogi [pʲɛˈrɔɡʲi], kiełbasa, kotlet schabowy [ˈkɔtlɛt sxaˈbɔvɨ] (pork loin breaded cutlet), gołąbki [ɡɔˈwɔ̃pkʲi] (cabbage roll), zrazy [ˈzrazɨ] (roulade), zupa ogórkowa [ˈzupa ɔɡurˈkɔva] (sour cucumber soup), zupa grzybowa [ˈzupa ɡʐɨˈbɔva] (mushroom soup), zupa pomidorowa [ˈzupa pɔmidɔˈrɔva] (tomato soup), rosół [ˈrɔsuw] (meat broth), żurek [ˈʐurɛk] (sour rye soup), flaki [ˈflakʲi] (tripe soup), and red beetroot barszcz [barʂt͡ʂ].
A traditional Polish dinner is composed of three courses, beginning with a soup like the popular rosół broth and tomato soup. At restaurants, the soups are followed 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, breaded pork cutlet, or chicken, with a coleslaw-like surówka ([suˈrufka]), shredded root vegetables with lemon and sugar (carrot, celeriac, seared beetroot), sauerkraut, or mizeria salad. The side dishes are usually boiled potatoes, kasza, or less commonly, rice. Meals often conclude with a dessert including makowiec, a poppy seed pastry, napoleonka cream pie, or sernik (cheesecake).
Internationally, if a Polish culinary tradition is used in other cuisines, it is referred to as à la polonaise, from French meaning 'Polish-style.' In French cooking, this term is used for techniques like using butter instead of cooking oil; frying vegetables with buttered breadcrumbs; using minced parsley and boiled eggs (Polonaise garnish); and adding horseradish, lemon juice, or sour cream to sauces like velouté.
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 eat 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, smoked bear tongue, and bear bacon (bears are now protected in Poland).
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 czerwoná and jucha szará (meaning "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 Polish 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 Jogaila (Polish: Władysław II Jagiełło, 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 part of Central Europe. It has been exported worldwide and is found in the cuisines of many countries. 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 (lit. 'lightly salted cucumber'). Another kind of pickled cucumber popular in Poland is ogórek konserwowy (lit. 'preserved cucumber'), which is preserved with vinegar rather than pickled and uses different spices creating a sweet and sour taste.
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 encompassed many regions with its 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; she was 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.[relevant?] 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 forest game, fowl (waxwings, fieldfares, snow bunting, hazel grouse, partridges, black grouse, capercaillies), fish and mollusks (loach, various trout, grayling, fresh and smoked salmon, flounder, 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, French champagne appeared on Polish tables.
Among the most influential cuisines under the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth were Lithuanian, Jewish, German, and Hungarian cuisine, as well as Armenian cuisine, 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 cookbook, 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 the end of World War II, Poland became a communist country which joined the Warsaw Pact. 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 many soups, meatballs and pork chops, and staples such as placki ziemniaczane / kartoflane (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 basic ingredients. 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. Cuisine became homogeneous, to be a chef was no longer a prestigious profession, and for decades the country became basically disconnected from any foreign cuisine. Tropical fruits (such as citrus, banana, and pineapple) were available during holidays, while local fruits and vegetables were mostly seasonal but were available at private stands. For most of the year, people 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.
A popular form of fish dish was, and still is, the paprikash (paprykarz szczeciński) from the port city of Szczecin, usually added to sandwiches as a spread.
With the fall of communism in Poland in 1989, a wave of new restaurants opened, 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 many kinds of fish. During communist times, fresh fish was available essentially only in the seaside regions.
Recent years have seen the advent of a slow food movement, and a number of TV programs devoted to cuisine, both traditional and otherwise, 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, including fast food. Meanwhile, doner kebabs are gaining popularity. Nonetheless, in most of Poland one can still get traditional and very popular Polish street food such as the zapiekanka, a pizza-like baguette with cheese, mushrooms, onion, ketchup, and sometimes meat. There are also many small-scale, quick-service restaurants which serve kebabs, hamburgers, hot dogs, and Polish kiełbasa (sausage). In the southern mountainous region, oscypek served with cranberry jam is a popular street food.
See also: Wigilia
Traditional Christmas Eve supper called Wigilia is meatless (except for fish) and usually consists of barszcz (borscht) with uszka (small dumplings)—a classic Polish Christmas Eve starter—followed by dishes such as fried carp, carp or cod with apple and leeks, fresh salad, or carp in aspic. Traditionally, carp (fried or Jewish style) provides a main component of the Christmas Eve meal across Poland. Other popular dishes, eaten the next day, include pickled matjas herring, rollmops, pierogi with sauerkraut and forest mushrooms, fish soup, kielbasa, hams, bigos (savory stew of cabbage and meat), and vegetable salads. Among popular desserts are gingerbread, cheesecake, various fruits such as oranges, poppy seed cake, makowiec (makówki in Silesia), fruit kompot, and kluski with poppyseed and gingerbread. Regional dishes include żurek, siemieniotka (in Silesia), and kołduny, stuffed dumplings with mushrooms or meat from the eastern regions.
Tłusty Czwartek, or "Fat Thursday", is a Polish culinary custom on the last Thursday before Lent, equivalent to Pancake Day. Traditionally, it is an occasion to enjoy sweets and cakes before the forty days of abstinence expected of Catholics until Easter Day.
The most popular sweetmeats on Fat Thursday are pączki, Polish doughnuts, and faworki (sometimes called chrust), equivalent to the French beignet. Traditional Polish doughnuts are filled with rose petal jam, plum jam, or apple and covered with icing with orange peel or powdered with icing sugar. Fat Thursday used to mark the beginning of a "Fat Week", a period of great gluttony during which Polish ancestors consumed dishes served with smalec (lard), bacon, and all kinds of meat.
The original doughnuts, popular until the 16th century, were made of the same dough as bread, would be filled with pork and fried on smalec. Only later were they made as patisserie.
See also: Święconka
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, ćwikła, carrot, apple, potato, parsley, and mayonnaise), coffee, tea and cakes (such as chocolate cake), makowiec, mazurek, and sernik.
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, Podlachia, Masovia (including Warsaw), Masuria, Pomerania, Silesia, Lesser Poland, the Tatra mountains, and Greater Poland, see the List of Polish cuisine dishes.
Typical for Greater Poland are various dishes from potatoes – especially pyry z gzikiem (potatoes with quark cheese mixed with sour cream, onions and chieves). Popular are also poultry dishes like kaczka po poznańsku (duck meat with red cabbage and steam-cooked dumplings), czernina (duck blood soup) and goose meat eaten on the on the Saint Martin’s Day.
Other famous products include also rogale świętomarcińskie (croissants filled with white poppy seeds), fried cheese and a beer Grodziskie/Grätzer (made from oak-smoked wheat malt and with a low alcohol content).
The city of Kraków is famous for its sausage kiełbasa krakowska and meat sandwich maczanka krakowska. Typical are also some Austrian influences due to the fact, that the city belonged in the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century to Austria-Hungary. They include Pischinger cake and pork cutlet kotlet schabowy (today popular in the whole Poland). Popular street foods are bagels obwarzanki and baked sandwiches zapiekanki sold on the Plac Nowy square.
The area near Nowy Sącz and Limanowa is rich in quality plums; popular are dried ones called suska sechlońska and plum brandy slivovitz.
The mountain areas of Lesser Poland, especially Podhale, are famous for its sheep milk cheeses like bundz, creamy bryndza or smoked oscypek. Other popular dishes include a milk drink żętyca, a sauerkraut soup kwaśnica, placek po zbójnicku (potato pancakes with goulash on top) and a góral tea (tea with alcohol).
Many dishes in Lublin cuisine have Jewish roots, like cebularz (flatbread topped with onion and poppy seads) and forszmak (soup with various types of meat).
Important local ingredient is groat – typical dish consisting of it is a pie called pieróg biłgorajski.
Because of the proximity to the sea, typical for the region are various forms of fish dishes like śledź po kaszubsku (herring in tomato marinade with onion) and fried cod or flounder.
Other famous products include kashubian strawberry (kaszëbskô malëna), gingerbreads from Toruń and alcohol beverages from Gdańsk: Goldwasser (herbal liqueur with flakes of gold leaf) and machandel (juniper vodka).
In Szczecin, typical regional products are paszteciki (pastries with meat or vegetarian filling) and fish spread paprykarz szczeciński.
Modern Warsaw, as a capital, has a very cosmopolitan cuisine combining various international foods. However, there are also some typical traditional dishes like Warsaw tripe, pyzy z mięsem (potato dumpling with meat) and pork knuckles in jelly (popular as a vodka chaser).
Famous are many desserts of Warsaw origin, like chocolate cream cake wuzetka (probably named after the Warsaw W-Z Route), ptasie mleczko (chocolate covered marshmallows) and pańska skórka (candies sold traditionally at cemeteries during the All Saints' Day).
Out of Warsaw, typical regional products include apples from Grójec and piwo kozicowe from Kurpie region (low-alcohol juniper beverage).
Podlachian cuisine has many Lithuanian, Belarussian and Tatar influences. Popular dishes, also known from the aforementioned cuisines, include kartacze (potato dumplings with meat), babka ziemniaczana (potato pie) and pierekaczewnik (meat pie).
Besides, famous are cold beet or cucumber soup chłodnik, cheese koryciński and desserts: sękacz (spit cake) and marcinek (layer cake with cream).
Podlasie is also known from high-quality alcoholic beverages like vodka with bison grass żubrówka and home-made strong vodka duch puszczy.
Silesian cuisine combines Polish, German, Czech and Austrian influences. The most iconic dish is rolada – rolled beef patty usually served with silesian dumplings and red cabbage. Other popular foods are sourdough soup żur śląski, meatballs karminadle and blood sausage krupniok.
Typical desserts are cake kołocz śląski, candies kopalnioki and wafers oblaty śląskie.
Traditional dishes from Lower Silesia include śląskie niebo (pork with dried fruits and spices), herbal liquer Echt Stonsdorfer (today produced in Germany, but similar product known as Likier Karkonoski is produced in Poland) and modern fast-food from Wrocław – knysza.
Cuisine of Warmia–Masuria connects German and Eastern influences (especially from the former Eastern Borderlands; thus it has some similarities to the Podlachian cuisine). Due to many lakes and forests, it is also rich in fishes, mushrooms, and honey. Typical traditional dishes include kartacze (potato dumplings with meat), dzyndzałki (dumplings filled with buckwheat groats), klopsy królewieckie (metaballs with caper sauce), sękacz (spit cake) and a honey liqueur niedźwiedziówka.
All soups have fresh stock—made from chicken, beef, pork ribs, vegetables, or a combination of several—combined with root vegetables. Meat is either chopped and eaten with soup, used to make the next dish, or eaten alone with bread. It is common to eat two dishes during dinner: (1) a soup, and (2) a starch (potato, rice, groats, pasta) with meat, stews, or sweet dishes. Although cream or purée soups are not common or traditional in Poland, they are still prepared because of the influence of other countries' cuisine. Often soups are whitened by adding a splash of sour or double cream.
Bread (chleb) and bread rolls (bułka (bread roll), bajgiel, rogal, bułka paryska) have been an essential part of Polish cuisine and tradition 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, a soft interior, and an unforgettable aroma. Such bread is made with 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, Wacław Potocki, mentioned this custom. 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.
Main article: List of Polish desserts
See also: Beer in Poland and Polmos
Traditional Polish alcoholic beverages include mead, beer, vodka (Old Polish: okowita, gorzała), and to a lesser extent, wine. In recent decades, beer has become very common, while wine is less frequently drunk; however, in recent years, the consumption of wine has risen along with increasing production of local grape wines in small vineyards in Lesser Poland, Subcarpathia, Silesia, and West Pomerania regions. Among alcoholic beverages, Polish vodka—traditionally prepared from grain or potatoes—has 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,[clarification needed] 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.
Besides clear vodkas, flavoured vodka (known as nalewka) and liqueurs are also popular. The most important are Żubrówka (vodka with bison grass from Podlasie), herbal Żołądkowa Gorzka, aged starka, plum brandy śliwowica (especially from Łącko), honey liqueur krupnik, as well as Goldwasser (herbal liqueur with flakes of gold leaf) and juniper vodka machandel, both originating from Gdańsk.
See also: Kvass § Poland, and Kefir
Traditionally, kvass (kwas chlebowy) was a fermented beverage first popular among the peasantry, but it later spread to the szlachta and become a universal Polish drink by the 14th-15th centuries. It is typically made from rye bread, usually known as black bread, and is not classified as an alcoholic beverage in Poland, as its alcohol content usually ranges from 0% to 2%. There are many commercial and family variations of the beverage; however, traditional Polish recipes still exist. Despite its production on an industrial scale in Poland during the interbellum, it began to lose popularity to mass-produced soft drinks and carbonated water in the 20th century. It remained known primarily in rural areas of eastern Poland. However, kvass started making a comeback in the 21st century, with many new Polish brands being started.
In contemporary times, tea is perhaps the most popular drink, usually served with a slice of lemon and sweetened with either sugar or honey. Tea came to Poland from England shortly after its appearance in Western Europe, mainly due to the Dutch merchants. However, its prevalence is attributed to the Russians in the 19th century – at this time samovars imported from Russia become commonplace in Polish homes. Tea with milk is called bawarka (lit. 'Bavarian style').
Coffee has been widely drunk since the 18th century, when Poland bordered the Ottoman Empire.
Other frequently consumed beverages also include: buttermilk, kefir, soured milk, instant coffee, various mineral waters, juices, and numerous brands of soft drink. A considerable number of Poles enjoy carbonated water, and customers in restaurants are always offered both still and sparkling (carbonated) water to drink.
W wieku XX kwas został zapomniany, wyparty przez wody gazowane i inne słodkie napoje.