“Guest at home, God at home” – this old saying is still very true and tells you a lot about Polish hospitality. Even if fewer Poles believe in God, we still love the big feasts, having guests and meeting with friends. And when it comes to feeding people, we are not stingy.
You were just supposed to “stop by?” You can be sure your Polish host will have prepared at least some snacks. Or soup. Looking at the Polish food scene in Vienna, you could be forgiven for assuming Poles spend their days doing nothing but making (and eating!) pierogi and sausage. This is not strictly true. We spend our days making lots of other yummy things too, like bigos and kanapki – an entire array of comestibles worth discovering. So here’s a little glossary of some of our favorites that you should definitely try when you get the chance. Smacznego! Mahlzeit!
Known in Austria as Krapfen. While both Austrians and Poles expect similar things from the dough, there is a big difference when it comes to the filling. For most of us, a rose marmalade is THE filling for doughnuts and that’s what we want to eat on Fat Thursday.
Soup made of soured rye flour (akin to sourdough) and meat (boiled pork sausage or pieces of smoked sausage, bacon or ham). It is served with potatoes and bread or sometimes in a bowl made of bread. It is rich and very flavorful, and even though it is “just” a soup, it will leave you full for hours. Its bizarre name is, admittedly, not particularly appealing, but believe me: Nothing will revive a mob of inebriated partiers as well as this dish. In Poland, this is traditionally eaten for Easter or during weddings, usually after midnight to restore the revelers for the final furlong.
THE dish for the wintertime. If you want to learn how to make one dish in your life, and forever impress your guests, choose bigos. This slow-cooked concoction of meat, sauerkraut, cabbage, sausage, mushrooms and prunes seasoned with bay leaves, pepper and caraway will melt even the coldest heart. You never make small portions of bigos as it is best cooked over a couple of days. It is gluten free and it can even be made vegan, so everyone can be happy. Also, it is one of the dishes you can cook and get yourself pleasantly tipsy, as it is common to add red wine or some vodka to it during cooking.
When you think of a sandwich, do you picture it with one or two slices of bread? In Poland it is always one, unless you have to take it on the go. We love open-face sandwiches and can layer them with a lot of things. The most traditional Polish breakfast option is probably bread, cheese and tomato or cucumber, with a thick layer of mayo. But our favorite concoctions also include pate with pickled cucumbers, white cheese with honey and tomatoes with chives.
This is comfort food best eaten when absolutely plastered. It is not exactly haute cuisine, quite the opposite. You usually get a zapiekanka from a food stand while stumbling through the city at far too late an hour to be called decent. It is a halved baguette (the whitest kind, we are not pretending there is anything healthy about it), filled with cheap mushrooms, covered with shredded cheese and topped with cheap ketchup. If you’re feeling fancy, you can sprinkle some chives or roasted onions on top.
We love all things fermented, gherkins, cabbage, radishes. Fermented cucumbers, however, are the star of another delicious soup. Sounds improbable? Then check out dill pickle soup. The taste is strong and quite particular, not for the faint of heart. This is one of the things where Polish and Austrian cuisine mix – you usually can get them at Würstelstände. Also available in Polish stores like Bedronka or Multipoll.
A fruit dish, popular as a dessert and as a drink. Made of sweetened fruit juice, thickened with cornstarch or potato starch. Similar to German Rote Grütze. There is always a big debate whether it should be eaten warm or cold. I think the latter is an abomination.
Find more information about Polish and Austrian food on my blog: wienweinwunderbar.com
Polish Places To Discover
15.,Bacówka, Berghütte, Märzstraße 86 (bigos, pierogi)
6., Pierogi Bitte, Schadekgasse 3, (pierogi)
1., Piotrowski, Schwertgasse 2 (sandwiches, pierogi)
2., Tachles, Karmeliterpl. 1 (red borscht, pierogi)
9., Fanaberia, Garnisongasse 5 (pierogi)
4., 15 Süsse Minuten, Favoritenstraße 45 (pączki, pierogi, cold cucumber soup)
8., Cafe Bistro Zakopane, Lerchenfelder Str. 138 (pierogi, red borscht, zapiekanki, bigos, sauerkraut soup)
4., Café Vitrine, Johann-Strauß- Gasse 10–14/1 (pierogi)