From steaming piles of cream-cheese dough packets dressed in oil (ruski perogi) and deep bowls of blood-red burak soup (barszcz czerwony), to salty herring dolloped with sour cream and herbs, white soup swimming with sausage and egg (Żurek), and schnitzel style cutlets with salty potatoes (kotlet schabowy), Polish cuisine can really pack a punch when it comes to the variety field. But it doesn’t stop there.
While not quite the sprawling street food, hawker markets of Southeast Asia, Polish street food is still very much alive, (and tasty). A stroll through Krakow’s Rynek Główny (Market Square), or the stary miasto (old town) in Warsaw will invariably reveal Polish street food in all its glory, from the hand held, blood red kiełbasa sausage to the pizza style, half baguette, zapiekanki, and a myriad of different soups.
Ordering Your Street Food
Hopefully after that introduction to Polish street food your taste buds are sufficiently excited, and you’re dying to get your hands on the goods. Let’s take a look at all the vocabulary you will need to order, pay and enjoy.
Dzień dobry, chciałbym... (Hello, I’d like a ....)
Dzień dobry, poprosze... (Hello, I’d like a ....)
Ile to kosztuje? (How much does that cost?)
Co podać? (What would you like?)
Czy mógłbym dostać dodatkowy majonez? (Can I have extra mayonnaise?)
Co by mi pan/pani polecił(a)? (What do you recommend?) – Use pan if you’re addressing a man, pani if it’s a woman and add the ending -a to polecił if you’re a female speaker.
Jestem wegeterianinem (I am a vegetarian.)
Bez sera prosze (Without cheese please.)
Nie jem ryb. (I don’t eat fish.)
Dzięki [bardzo] (Thanks [a lot].)
Street Food You Must Try and Extra Vocabulary
Zapiekanki - This is an entire baguette cut in half and topped with a variety of vegetables, most commonly mushrooms and onions, and served with any sauce you like.
Kiełbasa - Poland’s famous sausage comes in a real array of different shapes, sizes colours, and flavours; from the dry, seeded kabanosy made of pork, to the blood red kaszanka, or the spicy, garlic krakowska sausage so popular in the same city that gave it its name, these are a must for any visitor and a favourite of the native Poles.
The obwarzanek was invented in Kraków and is still really popular in the city. It’s a filling bread, often cooked into donut shape, and sold by polite but stern-faced ladies in and around the old town.
I remember emerging from a particularly bad dentist appointment in Kraków, two teeth down and desperate for some post-pain sustenance. At the advice of the doctor I headed straight for Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter, and ordered one of the many soups on offer from the stalls on Plac Nowy. I particularly recommend the żurek (especially if you find it hard to chew on the more demanding Polish delicacies), a white soup with a strong flavour often served with boiled egg.
Polish street food is extremely varied, admittedly not terribly healthy, but fantastically tasty, and cheap! There are vendors everywhere, and you can get most of these dishes cooked up in minutes in most Polish cities or towns. So, put your Polish and your taste buds to the test and experiment with your orders.