What’s your favorite polish food? Pierogi? Zurek? Oscypek? If you don’t know what those are, you’ll need to do the Krakow food tour.
Polish cuisine is one of my favorites. The dishes share more similarities to Ukranian food than to other neighboring countries like Germany and the Czech Republic. On my recent visit to the country, I did the Krakow food tour with Secret Food Tours to visit some really impressive restaurants and try more of the delicious local food. It was my third time in Poland, but I just can’t get enough of the meals there.
Eastern Europe is famous for its range of soups. This is readily apparent in Krakow where you will find a dozen great soups and stews available. The last time I was in Krakow, I fell in love with zurek, a sour rye soup with hardboiled eggs. On the Krakow food tour, our first meal was bigos, also known as hunter’s stew. This dish is a mainstay of the cuisine as it’s easy and cheap to make, hearty throughout the bitterly cold months, and preserves well. Locals will eat it for all three meals. We certainly weren’t fussed for having it as our first meal of the day. I was surprised at how sour it was – similar to zurek. The Polish have been preserving their meat with lemon and sauerkraut for centuries, and it gives the stew a delicious flavor.
Oscypek and Moskole Potato Dumplings
Our next stop was also in Krakow’s Old Town but looked like a 19th-century hunter’s lodge. We were directed down into the bottom floor which had some amazing medieval decorations, a stone fishpond, and years worth of candle wax. Our meal here started with oscypek, a sheep cheese found only in the south of Poland. What’s unique about this cheese is that it only lasts for a day or two. It’s also unique in that it’s cooked over an open flame which makes it a bit tougher. It’s got a rubbery texture and often squeaks as you bite into it. We had ours topped with cranberries. Not everyone enjoyed theirs, which meant I had several extra portions.
Nearly every country in Europe has its own version of potato pancakes. Moskole is really interesting as it’s basically made with mashed potatoes. It’s almost like biting into a flat potato with the skin still on, except that the inside is mashed. They were also super filling, which wasn’t good as we still had three more stops on the tour.
These are Polish dumplings but don’t call them that when you’re in the country as they find it insulting. On my first trip to Poland in 2015, I arrived during the pierogi festival and saw over 120 different flavors! The most common is potatoes, cheese and onions, but you can also get meat or sweet flavors. We had three different types on our tour – duck and apple, mushroom and cabbage, and hunter’s cheese. I loved them all. Laura and I also took a homemade pierogi class while we were in town so we could make more when we got home.
Three Types of Herring
I was surprised at our next dish. The Netherlands is famous for its herring, but I didn’t expect Poland to have it in their cuisine too. We went to one of several restaurants that only served herring and again had three different flavors. Many of the tour participants were full at this point, and even I had trouble eating more than a few bites, but I would have happily gone back for a full meal if it hadn’t been our last day in town.
Warm Apple Pie
Finally, we got to dessert. I was surprised at the choice of cafes for this stop, as it was in a location I expected to be ridiculously expensive, but turned out to be cheap even by Polish standards (all meals are covered in the price of the tour). We all had warm apple pie topped with ice cream and our choice of hot drink. Apple pie certainly isn’t exclusive to polish cuisine, but it was a delicious way to end the tour in a city that loves sweets.
The Krakow food tour leaves every day at 11:30 a.m. by the Barbican on the north side of the Old Town. Make sure you go with an empty stomach and a big appetite, throw your dietary restrictions to the wind for a few hours (if you can) and get ready for a few drinks too. I didn’t even mention all the beers and Polish vodka we tried. Since this is a Secret Food Tour, I’ve kept the restaurants secret. You’ll just have to take the tour yourself someday.