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Podlaskie is tucked into the deep east of Poland, where it’s had long-held cultural connections to Russia and the Baltic States it borders, helping to forge the region’s unique cuisine. Over the centuries, that’s given rise to dishes like the hearty kopytka dumplings; a variety of the famous pierogi that comes topped with flavourful, paprika-packed goulash. However, perhaps the most glaring addition from the east comes in the form of the blood-red borscht of Podlaskie. The beetroot concoction can trace its roots far into Russia and the Slavic land.
Although officially a part of the Lesser Poland region (more on that later), the Tatra Mountains of the deep south have their own distinct, home-grown culinary tradition. Smoky, strong flavours and hearty meat and veg dishes tend to be at the fore; the perfect fare for feeding the traditional gorale folk of these rugged climes. In the winter, you’ll notice sizzling oscypek sheep’s cheese on the grills of Zakopane, typically served up with a side of sweet cranberry. Then there’s the potent sliwowica łącka – a plum spirit that it’s wise not to mess with!
With Warsaw at its centre, there’s no denying that Masovia has one of the most-sampled cuisines in Poland. Everywhere in the capital, travellers can indulge in filling platters of the iconic pierogi dumpling (a sort of potato pasty packed with cheese and topped with fried onions). And then there are the lesser-known regional treats, like the rose-tinted doughnuts and the mushroom stew that replaces sausages in hotdog buns.
Of all the regional cuisines in Poland, it’s the flavours of Silesia that are surely the ones that draw most influence from Germany. Even the dumplings here (which are largely the same across Poland) are different, coming with piles of mashed potato and an egg on the side. Then there’s the overload of bread, coming with the heavy rye soups (wodzionka) and the zymlok sausage buns.
Lesser Poland, location of the culture-rich second city of Krakow, is home to some of the most iconic dishes in the country. Aside from the tasty makowiec (poppy cake) and the ubiquitous Polish blood sausage (the kiełbasa), there are also some seriously tasty reminders of the presence of Austrian heritage in these parts. Just check out the juicy strudels sold in the bakeries in Krakow, or look to the chewy obwarzanek pretzels that are touted each morning on the street corners of the city’s Old Town – they look unusually like their German counterparts!
Tucked up into the extreme north-western edge of Poland, the region of Pomerania has historically flitted between Prussian, German and Polish rule. That’s imbued it with a cuisine that reflects the kitchen of both eastern and central Europe. And then there’s the influence of the sea, which runs all the way from the Szczecin Lagoon to the tri-city of Gdansk. Yep, dishes in this Baltic-sprayed, Germanised area come in the form of tomato-infused fish pastes (apparently coming from an old West African recipe that was brought back by Polish sailors) and the famous pasztecik szczeciński (a deep-fried yeast ball with tasty fillings of mushroom, cabbage and meat).