Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Post 3: Polish Foods

Everyone always seems fascinated with food, so I decided I'd dedicate a whole post to all things about Polish food. I usually hate food pictures and almost never take photos of my own food, but I made an exception just for this post and tried to take at least one photo of every type of food I tried while I was in Poland! (I failed miserably at that, but it was my intention to do so!)

Poles do like alcohol! But be sure to read the small print. ;o)
I won't talk much about beer or vodka or other alcoholic drinks since I don't
really like them and generally avoided it, but I still liked this sign.

So if you ask a random person on the street in America what kind of food is popular in Poland, you'll likely hear "I don't know." Ha-ha! That's a joke. =)

But seriously... if you manage to find someone who does know something about food in Poland, you'll likely hear perogi or kiełbasa. And it's true--you'll find these items on the menu pretty much everywhere in Poland!

But, somewhat ironically, I got absolutely no photos of either of them. I certainly ate them plenty of times, but maybe I had thought I already had a photo and figured I didn't need another one. *shrug*

Anyhow, perogi is basically ravioli. There are a wide variety of flavors you can get and I'd try to get something different every time I got them, but they're all basically ravioli. Delicious, though!

And kiełbasa is a sausage--or as Karolina liked to tell me, "the real Polish sausage, not like that fake crap from the United States." Okay, she maybe didn't say it in exactly those words, but something to that effect! =)

One of my first meals in Poland: zapiekanka. This is a fairly
standard one without a lot of extra toppings.
So let's move on to food I did get photos of.... From my very first day in Poland, I noticed immediately two types of food which seemed like everyone and their mother would be walking around with and eating. First up: zapiekanka. I thought it looked like a "pizza on a roll" when I saw it, and traditionally, there's some cheese and mushrooms on half of a baguette (or some sort of long roll of bread) topped with a line of ketchup.

That's the standard zapiekanka, but I didn't actually see too many of those. Usually people ordered them with all sorts of other toppings. It's the Polish idea of fast food. Created in moments, they're easy to walk around with and eat at the same time. It's cheap (maybe $3 or $4) and very filling. You could easily cut one of these monsters in two and have half for lunch and the other half for dinner.

I don't remember what crazy name they gave for this zapiekanka, but after I ate it, I wasn't hungry again for about 20 hours! It was absolutely delicious (much better than that one in the previous photo, which tasted like it looked--plain). All for maybe $4.
The other thing I had to try almost immediately was the gofry because I saw people eating those everywhere I went. Gotta try what the locals are eating! Gofry is a waffle, and you can order them plain with absolutely nothing on it, but I never saw one of those. Usually, it was piled with whip cream, fruits, chocolate syrup, and other toppings.

And strangely, I didn't get any photos of these either. *slapping self* Maybe I assumed I had gotten a photo of it at some point then didn't take any photos! I really should have a photo of it, though.

So I'll move on....

It's not a gofry, but it was a delicious desert that I consumed while waiting for a train once upon an afternoon.
Continuing on with Polish fast food.... Doner kebabs seemed fairly popular as well. Not as common as the ubiquitous zapiekanka, but you'd see a lot of places selling them. Although I'd seen them countless times, I'd never actually eaten one until my visit to Poland and I really liked it. Cheap, fast and filling. What else can I ask for?

A donor kebab with a Coke. Good times! =) Speaking of Coke, the vast majority of places serve colas in bottles. Very few places have fountain drinks, and only two I visited allowed bottomless cups of soda. (And one of those was an American chain!)

So, next up: the kotlet schabowy. Or, better known in English as the pork chop. You didn't see people walking around the streets eating these--they're more for sitting down at a table and using forks and knives.

Andreas--another student learning Polish at the school in Sopot--and I went out for lunch, and I ordered the kotlet schobowy. (Which came with a couple of sides. Hey! Is that a perogi that Andreas ordered? It kind of looks like perogi. Maybe I did get a perogi photo after all!)
Notice the napkins on the table? You'd see napkins set up like this all over Poland, and Andreas and I started playing a game of trying to get out one napkin and only one napkin without disturbing the others. It's hard! Which corner do you grab? =) It's a pretty way to display a bunch of napkins, though.
Next up is the placki ziemniaczane which translates into something like "potato flakes." Basically a potato pancake. I'd heard a lot about these but somehow didn't manage to order one until nearly the end of my trip. Agata (the girl in the background--you'll hear more about her in my Kraków posts) swears they're the best food in Poland, but the one I got here was.... well, underwhelming. Agata did say that food at this restaurant was not the best representation of Polish food, however, so maybe it does get better than this. (This was the first time she'd eaten here--she didn't know ahead of time that she'd be so disappointed with the food.) It was, unfortunately, to be my only experience with placki ziemniaczne during this trip and this one, at least, I'd give a thumbs down to.
Karolina wanted to make sure I tried a real, Polish "pancake." She was very excited during her trip to the US to try an "American pancake" and wanted to make sure I had a similar experience in Poland. These are called naleśniki, which translates into "pancake." I'm not sure why, though. They're nothing like real "American" pancakes and more resemble a crêpe than a pancake. I'd translate it into crêpe!

But I digress.... there are all sorts of flavors for naleśniki, but they generally fall into two broad categories: the sweet, desert-like ones and the more meaty, meal-like ones. We ordered one of each here, cut them in half and swapped halves so we could both have half a sweet one and half a meal one. (This photo is pre-cut, obviously, and the sweet one is the one by Karolina while the meat one is closer to me.) Both were delicious!

Some of the Polish sweets for sale. If you're curious about prices, during the time of my visit, one US dollar was equal to about 3.8 Polish złoty. So those sweets in the middle are about 75 US cents each. Those sweets in the lower right corner are sold by the kilogram and cost about $16 per kilogram (or 2.2 pounds, if you aren't sure how much a kilogram is--or about $7 per pound.)

The slice on the left is makowiec--or poppy seed cake. It's another popular sweet in Poland. The other two slices are some kind of cake, but alas, I've long since forgotten what those were called. Karolina might pipe up when she reads this, though. I did take the photo at the Easter breakfast/lunch at her mom's house, so she's certain to know!

A Karolina-family Easter breakfast. Hey! Is that kiełbasa in the back? Maybe I did manage to get a photo of one of those after all! I'm finding all sorts of stuff in my food photos that I didn't even realize I had. =)

I swore up and down that I would not eat at a McDonalds while I was in Poland--and I didn't. (Though Lord knows I had plenty of opportunities. I was quite surprised at how common they were! It seemed like there are more McDonalds in both Sopot and Kraków than there are in Seattle!) Anyhow, it wasn't hard for me to avoid McDonalds because I don't really like them much to begin with.

But, I have to admit, I have a weakness for Pizza Hut. It's not a total coincidence I used to work at one during my college years! And I kind of wanted to experience a Polish Pizza Hut experience, and this was what I wound up with. Absolutely delicious! It was also only one of two places I ever found in Poland that would fill up my soda as often as I wanted at no extra charge.

The other place with the bottomless cup was at this Mexican restaurant where I ordered spinach quesadillas. (The Coke is not pictured, but would be located just off frame on the right.) I'd already eaten more than half of the quesadillas when I remembered to take a photo of it! Sorry about that... My stomach got the better of me!

Soups are popular in Poland, and this was some sort of Mexican soup. (Not at the Mexican restaurant, however!) And this cola is--I think--local to Poland.

There is a restaurant in Sopot called Billy's American Restaurant which I was keen to try out. Was it really like the food in America? What makes a restaurant American? At least American by Polish standards....

The food was mostly typical, American foods. Hamburgers, pancakes (real American pancakes!), steaks, and they even had buffalo burgers on the menu! (There are buffalo running loose in the wild in eastern Poland, but I'm not sure where this restaurant source their buffalo meat.)

But I was really amused when they gave me this bucket of popcorn while waiting for my meal. I've never been to a restaurant in America where they gave me a bucket of popcorn to munch on while waiting for my food. Is that what they think we do in America, or is popcorn just an "American" food so they used it? I'm not sure....

I will say, however, if you ever find yourself in Sopot, I absolutely loved this restaurant. It had good food, it was clean, the staff was nice, but what really set it apart from everywhere else I ate was the wonderful, second-floor views though the window overlooking the Baltic Sea. Sit at the second-floor window table if you can. It can't be beat! The restaurant is a little on the expensive side by Polish standards, but a full meal that included a BBQ burger (what's more American than BBQ?), fries, Coke--and the popcorn (with a refill!) still only amounted to about 40 złoty--or barely $10 USD. In America, you'd never get such great food with such a beautiful view at those kind of prices. Food, as a whole, seemed like it cost half the amount for what I would expect to pay for something equivalent in the United States.
Just a fun photo--in case you wanted more salt on that popcorn. =)

I didn't think to get a photo of the hamburger I got at Billy's, but here's me eating another good hamburger in Sopot. I'll tell you, there were no shortage of places to get good hamburgers in Poland. Almost all of the hamburgers I'd had in Europe were huge disappointments--Portugal, Spain, England, France.... So I didn't have high expectations in Poland, but Poles know how to make a good hamburger! I'm sure there are some bad ones out there, but I couldn't find any!

Okay, you couldn't see the hamburger in that last photo very well, but here's another hamburger photo I got from a restaurant (Cafe Mini) while I was in Kraków.

Fun food story.... =) One of my first days in class, we were talking about food and there's a popular Polish food called kasza. It's basically like couscous, although I'm not sure how it would technically be translated. (Sorry, I didn't get a photo of kasza either!) Anyhow, my teacher was rather amusing when she emphasised that it was important to pronounce the word correctly as kasza and NOT Kasia, which is a girl's name. They sound very similar, but that the waiter might look at us oddly if we accidentally try to order a "kasia." And it could get really awkward if he brought out a girl from the back! "This is Kasia..."

I think my teacher was joking, but it was still kind of funny....

Then later, I found "kasia" in the supermarket--as a butter! Or margarine. I'm not really sure which it is, but after that lesson, I had to get a photo of "kasia." Sexy, isn't she? =)

Another somewhat funny food story from class.... we were told about gołąbki--another popular Polish dish. (Sorry, no photos. I only ate it once and didn't think to get photos at the time. I'd give it two thumbs up, though!) Anyhow, I happened to know that gołąbki is Polish for pigeons, so I asked--in English--"Pigeons? Polish people eat pigeons?!" Not being judgemental, mind you--just surprised. If a culture wants to eat pigeons, I have no problem with that!

My teacher laughed--probably surprised that I knew the word for pigeon in Polish. (It's not a normal word a beginning Polish student is likely to know--except as a food!) But she said no, it's not made out of actual pigeons. It's a Polish stuffed cabbage made with pork or beef or something. But my teacher added, "But we certainly wouldn't run out of pigeons if we started eating them!" And I'd agree--there are a heck of a lot of pigeons in Poland! At least in Sopot and Kraków there are.

When I moved to Kraków, I noticed a few new kinds of food that I hadn't seen (or maybe I hadn't noticed) while I was in Sopot. This massive baked potato (and you really can't appreciate how massive this thing is in the photo--I really should have put something next to it for size) is called a kumpir, and I saw them all over Kraków. Never really noticed them in Sopot, though. A regional difference?
Another thing I didn't really notice until I got to Kraków--these are chimney cakes. (No translation needed--they were actually called "chimney cakes" on the food truck where I bought it from.) Usually they aren't sold with ice cream, but I splurged this day and got the peanut butter cup ice cream chimney cake and OMG--heaven on Earth. Messy, though. Eat fast if it's a hot day like the day I got it! =)

If messy, melting ice cream is a problem, they also have warm ice cream cones. It looks like an ice cream cone, but it's not ice cream in any sense of the word. It's not even cold. And it tastes like cardboard. But it was cheap, and I was fascinated by it. I'd never seen fake ice cream like this before--and it looked so real! The cone is a regular old ice cream cone but to be clear, this is NOT ice cream in any sense of the word but merely looks like it. It could be a prop for a movie, but it is edible. Tastes horrible, but technically is edible.
And that ends my Polish food adventures. I make no claims that this is a complete listing of commonly found foods in Poland. There's a lot of foods that didn't make the cut (for instance, I don't like fish so there's no seafood photos--but you can find it in Poland. Especially Sopot with the town being next to the Baltic Sea. It's less common in Kraków.) And there were some foods I had but didn't think to get a photo at the time.

But at least you can get a sense of some of the foods you might come across if you ever find yourself exploring Poland. All-in-all, I considered the food most excellent! I never had any trouble finding stuff I wanted to eat and actually gained about 10 pounds during my two-and-a-half month visit! =)


Grrly Girl said...

The zapiekanka with the corn and other delectables made my mouth water.
Got to remember this one.

Karolina, if you're reading this, your Mom's deviled eggs on the duck platter at the Easter breakfast, look tantalizingly good.

Mary said...

Americans eat pigeons - they're called squab in the expensive restaurants.

I was just in Turkey and saw people eating ice cream cones in the hot and humid weather and there was no melting due to the use of gum mastic in their ice cream. I really wanted to try the ice cream but we didn't have any Turkish lira. Later, I was glad we hadn't had any ice cream! We were given mastic pudding for dessert and it was horrible! The Turks love it! Later, in Athens, we were given a gum mastic drink after dinner as a digestive. It smelled and tasted like kerosene or gasoline. When I told our Greek waiter about the mastic ice cream and pudding in Turkey, he was shocked. Of course he thought the gum mastic was a Greek thing! We were told - in Turkey - it was a Turkish thing!

Back in the late 1970s, we had a local restaurant in Torrance, CA that had fabulous burgers and had a barbershop quartet on Sunday afternoons so I liked to go there then and we were served popcorn prior to our lunch arriving! That was my one and only popcorn in a restaurant.

Grrly Girl said...

The 99 Restaurant, chain restaurant, serves popcorn while you wait for your meal.

Karolina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karolina said...

Some comments from my side:

1. The spelling is 'pierogi' not 'perogi.

2. Too bad the placki ziemniaczane you had with Agata weren't good... They can be really tasty!

3. The Easter cakes next to the poppyseed cake are:
- Polish cheesecake (sernik)
- Babka, which is a type of yeast cake. The one we eat at my home for Easter is lemon-flavored (babka cytrynowa).

4. No kumpir is Sopot. It is a regional dish.

5. When I was little my parents would always buy me warm ice-cream cones instead of regular ones. I remember liking them back then. Haven't had one in a very long time, thoug. I am wondering whether I'd still like them.
Warm'ice-cream' is in fact an invention of commuunism, next to the imitations of chocolate (compound chocolate: and Coca-Cola (known in the People's Republic of Poland as Polo-Cockta). Back in those days many delicacies weren't available to people in the Eastern Block, so they had to be creative making (cheap) substitutes.

@Grlly Girl: my mom's deviled eggs not only look good, they taste good, too! ;-)