To my surprise, many visitors to Poland were amazed that Poles eat kanapki for breakfast. Foreigners find these open-faced sandwiches strange due to their ‘uncovered’ top. As a native Pole, however living abroad most of my teenage and adult life, I’ve never thought about how strange kanapki might seem to other people. Anyway, kanapki made me wonder what other Polish dishes might seem strange to both Poles and foreigners and this is why I decided write about them.
Weird Polish Dishes
Kaszanka is a type of sausage filled with buckwheat mixed with pig blood and offal. It might sound a bit gross, but it’s actually quite tasty and similar to Scottish haggis. It’s usually fried with onions and served with a bit of horseradish. Another variant of kaszanka is kiszka which is filled with groat instead of buckwheat.
2. Nóżki w galarecie
Literally ‘little feet’, these are jellied pig or cow feet. The cooked meat is simmered in a greyish gelatin with some herbs and usually carrots and peas. It’s also usually served with horseradish. Another variant of nóżki is jellied fish, usually carp. Although this dish was originally a Jewish tradition, nowadays it’s commonly served at Christmas.
Flaki is actually a very famous soup in various Eastern European countries, due to – as some may say – its miraculous function as a hangover remedy. It’s often served during Polish weddings for breakfast. I haven’t tried it and I don’t think I’m going to – the smell always scares me away.
Smalec is very common on Polish tables. I remember my mom preparing it when I was a kid and I couldn’t believe that someone could consume it. I gave it a go last year and it’s still a no-no for me. Smalec is basically pig fat melted on a pan with onion and sometimes pieces of bacon. In English it’s commonly referred to as lard.
Czernina is another Polish dish containing blood, however it might sound a bit more scary than kaszanka. It’s a goose blood soup that was considered a symbol of Polish culture in the 19th century. It was commonly served to men whose marriage proposal was rejected by their girlfriend’s parents.
6. Fruit soup
Fruit soup was my nightmare in kindergarten when I was simply refusing to eat it every time until the teachers accepted that there is no way in this world to convince me to eat it. I was a stubborn child after all. A fruit soup contains overcooked cherries or strawberries and often a bit of milk and some pasta.
7. Milk soup
Poles love soups. However, I guess I’m not your typical Pole. Along with the fruit soup, another childhood nightmare for me was milk soup. When thinking of milk soup, the first thing that comes to mind are corn flakes. However, in Poland people love to eat cooked pasta or rice with warm milk
8. Zsiadłe mleko & kefir
Zsiadłe mleko is soured milk that for some might seem like it’ s bad. Due to the bacterial fermentation it’s quite thick. It’s often eaten on young potatoes with dill. Kefir is also a fermented milk with kefir grains. It’s a bit less thick than zsiadłe mleko.
9. Kiszone ogórki & kiszona kapusta
Poles love to pickle food. The Polish pickled cucumber is a bit different than the traditional gherkin you might be used to – it’s a bit sour, with a lot of dill, similar to kosher style pickles. However, cucumbers only pickled for a few days have a different, less sour taste than those pickled for longer. They’re known as ogórek małosolny, which literally means ‘low-salt cucumber’. There is also kiszona kapusta, literally sauerkraut, which might appear strange, due to the method of preparation. Like wine, one has to keep on stepping on it in a barrel…
10. Kwas chlebowy
Kwas chlebowy is a non-alcoholic drink made of fermented yeast and rye bread. Writing this I actually realized that Polish food contains a lot of fermented products. Don’t worry though, it’s all good!
Bigos is a traditional Christmas dish in Eastern Europe. Funnily enough, its name means mess or confusion in Polish. Bigos often reminds people of a stew. It’s made with cabbage, kielbasa and often mushrooms. It got introduced into Polish cuisine by the Polish-Lithuanian King Wladyslaw Jagiełło who loved hunting. Because of this, he decided to put some of the venison from the deer he killed into the stew.
12. Wild mushrooms
Wandering in the forest for hours while picking mushrooms is extremely popular in Poland. Although it’s a traditional Polish past-time, mushroom picking is often met with uneasiness from American tourists. Questions like ‘How do I know it’s not poisonous?’ and ‘Are wild mushrooms even good?’ often arise when it comes to mushrooming. However, wild mushrooms are incredibly tasty and I have to admit that I eat them every day when I’m in Poland.