Flavours of Poland in Delhi
Among the most peaceful countries in the world, Poland has abundance of apples, rye, potatoes and fruits. We got a taste of popular Polish dishes at a dinner hosted by Małgorzata Tańska, Director, Polish Institute New Delhi.
Cream, eggs and meats — Polish cuisine is rich. Among the well-known dishes are Pierogi, Kluski, Zurek. While the fillings vary from region to region, the main ingredients and style remains the same. Of course, we got a lot more than these. The menu curated by Joanna Agnieszka, a Polish national who now lives in Delhi, comprised dishes that are often found in Polish homes. The cuisine has many similarities with other Central European cuisines, more so with German and Austrian, Jewish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian, French and Italian traditions.
We discovered a bit Poland at Delhi’s plush Public Affair restaurant — colourful cushions and glasses, crochet table cloths, Polish music and servers dressed in Polish costumes. The décor was inspired by folk tales and very vibrant.
Poland delights in soups. Zurek, the sour rye soup, is served in edible bread. Laden with bacon, eggs and potatoes, this is a meal in itself. Some regions add mushrooms too. The soup is also called żurek starowiejski, meaning old village. While I avoided any cream, some people do like sour cream in this.
While tea and coffee are common in the country, preferred alcoholic beverages are beer, wine and vodka. In fact, the first written mention of vodka has been found in Polish works. But a sip of Wilanów was more flavourful. Warm apple juice with spices, this was perfect for a winter night. Wilanów is a district in Warsaw and home to historic Wilanów Palace, also known as ‘Polish Versailles’ and second home to Polish kings.
Vegetarian dishes are not commonly eaten in Poland but for India, where vegetarians are in a large number, there is a separate menu. For the starters, there were Spinach and Potato Croquettes in cherry tomato reduction. And the main course was the popular Pierogi or dumplings with potatoes and cottage cheese and caramalised onions. There is no consensus on the origins of pierogi. Some say it came from China via Italy during Marco Polo’s expeditions, others claim that Saint Hyacinth of Poland, brought them from Kiev, Ukraine.
But I would say the umissable was Kotlety Mielone with dill cabbage. Popularly known as Polish burgers, these are minced lamb meat cutlets with dill cabbage salad and mashed potatoes. And I have never been a lamb meat fan, but this soft mixture warmed my heart.
Among the starters, Kluski śląskie was a good opener to the meal. Kluski means dumplings. These are made from mashed potatoes, potato flour and eggs. The distinctive feature is a small hole or dimple in the middle, and they are usually served with gravy. The ones we ate are popular in Silesia in Poland and stuffed with hand-pounded chicken and crispy shallots.
Between gossip, laughter and bites, the meal lasted a long time and ended on a sweet note. Polish apple cake with whipped cream and Paczki which is doughnuts dusted with cinnamon sugar and red pumpkin jam. For India, red pumpkin is normally a veggie dish and to eat a jam made from this was quite an experience.
Crafted with care, for Joanna spent a good many hours training the chefs at the restaurant, every Thursday at the restaurant is dedicated to Poland. There are around 16–17 dishes on offer.
Some national dishes: bigos, pierogi, kielbasa, kotlet schabowy, gołąbki, zrazy, pieczeń, sour cucumber soup (zupa ogórkowa), mushroom soup (zupa grzybowa), zupa pomidorowa tomato soup, rosół, żurek, flaki, barszcz, chłodnik.