More than just pierogi and pork chops

Traditional dishes are trending, and Poland is yet another country that is going back to its culinary roots. But what exactly does a traditional Polish kitchen bring to the table? Gourmet chef Bogdan Gałązka gives METRO a taste of Poland’s historic dining culture and explains why traditional dishes are so popular.

Gourmet Chef Bogdan Galazka in front of Café Stolica

Green rye pesto from a 400-year-old recipe is one of Bogdan Gałązka’s signature dishes. For thirteen years, the master chef was co-owner of the Gothic Café and Restaurant in Marienburg in Malbork, the largest Medieval castle in the world. There, he reconstructed the historic cuisine of the Middle Ages and Late Renaissance. Gałązka knows why traditional dishes are trending in more places than just Poland: ‘I believe that people are missing their roots and are now returning to nature. In Eastern Europe especially, we’ve given no thought to our traditions for a long time now; we’ve even disowned them a little.’ One example in Poland is the sushi bars that have sprung up everywhere ‘like mushrooms after the rain’, says the gourmet chef. ‘But thanks to a new generation of chefs, we’re making a comeback and are no longer ashamed of our cuisine.’ Environmental awareness is also becoming increasingly apparent on the plate. Regional products rate highly here, thanks to short transportation routes and very high quality.

Seasonal and in touch with nature

When you think of Polish cuisine, the first things that come to mind are pierogi and pork chops. Gałązka thinks this is a stereotype: ‘It’s comfort food, if you like. Many restaurants run by Polish people abroad serve these dishes because they’re tasty and simple.’ But traditional Polish cuisine has a lot more to offer, he says. ‘We’re a nation that loves rich soups and steamed buns, and loves to cook whatever is in season. For example, vegetables are pickled in the autumn, but are consumed fresh in the spring.’ Many Polish people also gather wild berries, mushrooms and wild plants for home cooking. ‘Acacia and elderflowers are delicious cooked in tempura,’ says the restaurateur. His personal favourites are a soup made from pickled cabbage and young cabbage with dill, and potato pancakes. ‘I eat these mainly in autumn and spring because there are new potatoes then.’ For dessert, there are yeast buns with saffron, ring-shaped cakes made from sweet yeast dough.

Reinterpreting the old

According to Gałązka, many other Polish gourmet chefs are reviving recipes from days gone by, using historic books as sources of inspiration. ‘The recipes I use date back even as far as the late fourteenth century,’ explains the gourmet chef. Even if they’re not 100% accurate, his guests are delighted. ‘We’ve not only served up a dish but also a little taste of history.’ He recommends taking inspiration from the traditional but modernizing the cooking so that dishes are tasty for guests and are not too much of an acquired taste. ‘These days, we have access to many more products and new culinary techniques,’ he says, describing the difference between historic and modern Polish cuisine.

Keeping an eye on the trends

Today, Gałązka is co-owner of the Café Stolica in the Mokotów Cinema’s historic building in Warsaw. Together with his business partner Piotr Wierzbowski, he has created a meeting point here for fans of cuisine and cinema. He thinks it’s important for restaurateurs to keep a close eye on developing trends and to react to them. Gałązka himself is a member of a discussion group for table culture and knows that collaboration between restaurateurs and historians is sometimes not so easy when specialist terminology is added into the mix.

 
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Experience Poland’s traditions with MAKRO

Initiated in 2018, MAKRO’s education programme ‘Polish Culinary Treasures’ aims to raise Polish awareness of Poland’s culinary traditions. Alongside vital information about dishes and flavours, culinary fans can use a digital map with 15 different routes to discover local restaurants and learn a little about Polish culinary history and regional cult dishes.  Over 300 restaurants participate in the culinary routes, consumers assess them in the Best Restaurant plebiscite. This year for the first time at the gala event held in Srebrna Góra Vineyard the best restaurant owners and chefs will be recognized. Additionally HoReca journalists choose the Polish cuisine ambassadors by recognizing them with the Golden Crown title. The gala event is going to be held on 15th May. The consumers are going to celebrate the Polish cuisine together with HoReCa in November within the Week of Polish Cuisine, held on the occasion of Poland’s Independence Day.

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