Literally translated to “cucumber soup“, this bubbling broth isn’t the sort of watery kitchen mishap you’d expect. The strong, salty and distinct flavour derives from the fact that it’s made with pickled cucumbers (a real Polish favourite). Often, the soup is padded out with a medley of potatoes and dill, boiled eggs and chopped carrot, which all seem to go perfectly with the main ingredient.
Although golabki actually means “pigeon” in Polish, no bird has ever come near this festive dish. Taking the leaves of a humble cabbage, lightly steamed and softened, the chef uses the greens like a wrap, enfolding a mixture of fried pork and onions inside. The result is a cabbage roll that’s packed with hearty, homey flavours. The whole thing is finally served with a tomato dressing drizzled over the top. Expect to see golabki at Christmas time and during family get-togethers.
Packed with everything from slow-cooked pork to chopped carrots and sautéed onions, the hunter’s stew known as bigos hardly needs any extra ingredients. But then come the shredded white and red cabbage additions, which pack in some earthy flavour and texture, taking the whole thing to the next level. Bigos is traditionally eaten by the rustic communities of eastern Poland, but the dish is now available in local taverns and milk bars right across the country.
Even the famed pierogi dumpling – Poland’s most recognisable national dish – does its bit to elevate the humble cabbage in these parts. Shun the popular ruskie (cream cheese and potato) flavour in favour of those with kapusta i grzybami (cabbage and mushroom), and you’re in for a salty, sour, earthy treat that goes perfectly with a frothy Slavic lager.
Simple and healthy, the mizeria is a Polish salad that’s made from a fusion of sour cream, dill and cucumber. It’s traditionally prepared to go alongside meat dishes, like schnitzel or pork knuckle, but also tastes great with just a bit of crunchy bread. Unlike many other Polish cucumber dishes, this one’s a little different in that it’s packed with fresh veg, not pickled veg, which is precisely why it’s such an unassuming side that pretty much matches with anything.
You won’t have to look far or hard to find the ubiquitous ogorki kiszone in Poland. These treats are sold everywhere, from supermarkets to Polish restaurants to beer bars as snacks. They are amongst the simplest renditions of the humble cucumber, which is the focus of the dish after having been pickled in salty brine for some months. By adding garlic cloves and horseradish, dill and rosemary, it’s possible to infuse the veg with other tastes, while some folk will even mix the pickling liquid with vodka for a strong tipple afterwards!
Okay, so while the pickled piles of tasty red cabbage might not be the focus of this elaborate Polish country dish, they still prove one of the finest accompaniments you could imagine for the whole thing. And what is the whole thing? Well, it’s only roast duck with a strong mushroom sauce and steamed rolls dressed in breadcrumbs on the side. No stomach’s going to be rumbling after that!
The second of the tasty Polish soups to make this list comes in the form of sour borscht served cold. Known as chlodnik, the broth is blood red, and is often packed with hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, dill and sour cream. In the summertime, Poles go wild for this refreshing and healthy concoction, and often devour it drizzled over freshly chopped cucumber and radish.