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Traditions and Legends of Polish Flavours

A thousand years of history in tasty Polish dishes.

Polish cuisine is a magical mix of local traditions and culinary influences from nations once inhabiting historical Polish territories. Most importantly, though, it offers fantastic and unique flavours you can only experience in Poland.

Polish cuisine abounds in traditional and regional dishes. Some of them come with legends dating back hundreds of years. These are dishes that have been with the Poles for centuries of history.

Żurek

Sour rye soup – one of the most famous and unique Polish soups. The legend that goes with it even contains the first recipe. Once upon a time in a Polish village there lived a very stingy innkeeper. He was greedy and swindled his neighbours, who wanted to expel him and asked a famous glutton for help. This rich man bet the innkeeper that he would eat the worst soup the cook could make him. If he managed this feat, the innkeeper would leave the village; if not, he would get his guest’s entire wealth. Seeing easy money to be made, the cook took some old rye sourdough, threw in a handful of wilted vegetables, a piece of raw sausage, old mushrooms and a scrap of dried-out smoked bacon, seasoning the dish with garlic. The mystery guest ate the soup with gusto and its fame spread across the region.

Bigos

Hunter’s stew – a classic on Polish tables. Its history dates back to the 15th century, when a poor housewife needed a dinner idea to use up some leftovers. She took the scraps of meat, skin and fat, and simmered everything in one pot with sour seasoning. The recipe evolved over the years, and although originally there was no cabbage involved, today cabbage (especially sauerkraut) is one of the main ingredients – the result of Poland’s rich pickling tradition.

Pierogi

According to legend, these delicacies – probably Poland’s most famous – were brought here from Kiev by St. Hyacinth Odrowąż. The monk was amazed by their taste during his 13th-century mission to today’s Ukraine, then known as Ruthenia; hence one of the most famous pierogi varieties is called pierogi ruskie. The ingredients were different back then: potatoes were still unknown in Europe, so the filling was most likely cottage cheese and kasha. That’s not the end of the legend; pierogi also played a major role during the Tatar invasions. Apparently St. Hyacinth fed them to the starving populace, which earned him the byname “St. Hyacinth of pierogi”.

Cebularz

This traditional onion roll from the Lublin region even has its own museum. The legend dates back to King Casimir the Great, who loved hunting and good food. After hunting in the region one time, he stopped at the home of the lovely Esterka in Bochotnica. With nothing to serve the king, she quickly prepared a yeast roll to which she added onions and poppyseeds. King Casimir was delighted and quickly fell in love – with cebularz and with Esterka.

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