Pierogi is to Poland what sushi is to Japan or pizza to Italy. Simply put, pierogi is Poland’s national dish and can be found in restaurants, cafés and the famous Bar Mlecznys (Milk Bars) all over the country. One pierog (pierogi is plural) is a small semi-circular ‘dumpling’ made of dough and filled with a range of delicious ingredients. As a newcomer to Poland, this should be the first food you experience. Try not to fall in love with this extremely delicious delicacy, and work your way through these varieties of Poland’s proud pierogi. As the Polish say, ‘Smacznego!’
Let’s start with the most obvious and traditional pierogi of all – pierogi Ruskie. Try not to be fooled by its name – this is Polish pierogi, of course, not Russian. So why the “Ruskie” part of the name? This is because the origins began in the Ruthenia region, which is partly where modern-day Poland and Ukraine sit, and has also been known as Red Russia and Eastern Galicia in the past. These are the most popular pierogi in Poland – the dough is filled with cottage cheese, potato and onion. It often comes with smietana (sour cream) on the side and pork crackling on top. It can be found all over Poland, especially in the traditional Bar Mlecznys (Milk Bars).
The only fish option on this list is the pierog z łososiem. These are the finest seafood-based pierogi around, jammed with fresh salmon, caught straight from the Maszury Lakes or the gorgeous Polish north coast on the Baltic Sea. Ideal places to try this type are in the seaside resorts of Gdynia or Sopot, where other varieties of seafood-based pierogi also exist.
Pierogi z serem means the dumplings are filled with cream cheese or cottage cheese. This is the one to try for those who want a light snack and love a bit of hot cheese. This type of pierogi is also available in most Polish supermarkets and food stores.
Now for the meat-lover’s option. Pierogi z mięsem are packed with well-cooked Polish meat. The meat is normally pork or beef, or sometimes mixed. Inside the dumpling, a range of ingredients are added to accompany the meat, depending on the chef – this can include salt and pepper, garlic or onion.
The healthy option and popular amongst Polish vegetarians are the pierogi z szpinakiem, which are filled with fried spinach. You can tell from the outside, as the green colour will be visible. These spinach-filled dumplings are good with smietana (sour cream), herbs or spices sprinkled on top.
Hailing from the glorious eastern city of Lublin, the Lubelskie-style pierogi are a big surprise for those who give them a try. It is filled with buckwheat, mint, bacon and onion, which makes for a peculiar yet mouthwatering mix. To try it in the place it was invented, head to the Lubelskie Province and wash it down with a local Perła beer.
A fabulous, fruity kind of pierogi perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth is the pierog fantazyjne, translating as simply ‘fantasy dumpling’. This is not an easy one to find, and indeed is specially crafted in one of the finest pierogi restaurants in the historic city of Gdańsk. Head to Beer Street (Ulica Piwna) and to the speciality Pierogarnia u Dzika restaurant and order this gem, which comes with almonds and an orange slice.
For a real regional delight, get your lips feasting on pierogi Kaszubskie. Kaszuby (in English – Kashubia) is a unique region in northwestern Poland with its own culture, language, identity and flag. The speciality pierogi here have goose inside them and well worth a dip for an extraordinary flavour. They can be found in some regional Pierogarnias in Gdansk, Gdynia, Kościerzyna or Kartuzy, all of which have some living Kashubians.
So you’re aware there are sweet pierogi, boiled pierogi and fried pierogi, but did you believe in chocolate pierogi? You better be ready for this sweet offering, which is absolutely superb as a dessert, accompanied with ice cream, whipped cream and a coffee or digestif on the side.
Kaszanka is a spiced pork Polish blood dish similar to black pudding in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The Polish version has a rich flavour and thick texture and makes for an interesting alternative pierogi filling. Please note this one can also be difficult to find, so ask around to ensure you find the best pierogi z Kaszanką.
To finish things off elegantly and with an unexpected sensation, try the pierogi jagodowe. These little dumplings are filled with the finest blueberries and topped up with cream, with option of fruit and chocolate sauce to accompany them.