Smak, Smaki, o Smaku… it means taste or flavors in Polish and everything here has smak. Bags of chips have extra smak, our bottle of mouthwash has smaku, there is even a food magazine called Smakawcja. There are lots of plays on the word smak. It’s a good word.
As far as traditional Polish food goes, pierogis are very popular, they are a sort of dumpling made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling, then boiled or fried. I bought some pre-made ones at the grocery store when we were first here and followed the boiling instructions. They came out like slimy snot balls. Howard’s ordered them a few times when we were out and they were much better. The fried ones are the best, but with so many other delicious things to eat here I didn’t waste my time looking for the best pierogi.
Pickled herring is very popular as well. We’ve eaten 2 large jars of it at home, plus ordered it as an appetizer numerous times. Beef tartar is also quite popular. It’s usually served with an egg yolk on top and onions and pickles either on the side or mixed in to the tartar. It’s either been really, really good, or “fucking disgusting” to quote Howard after we found a not so great restaurant. Zapiekanka is another popular dish. It’s basically French Bread Pizza and can come with extra sauces and toppings, pickles being a common topping. I tried it that way once and it was okay. Don’t think I’ll get it with pickles again though.
We weren’t limited to just Polish food this summer. There were sushi restaurants all over, as well as fine dining, Italian, seafood, and many other places to get a great meal. For a really good meal with drinks we have been spending around 100 zloty, or about $26. And best of all, there is no smoking inside restaurants and bars! In fact, just the number of people smoking on the street is really low compared to the other countries we’ve visited.
By far, my favorite restaurant in Poland was Hamas, an Israeli restaurant in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. Located in a small outdoor courtyard, it’s surrounded by other fabulous restaurants and a great mixology bar. The food is mostly vegetarian with a few lamb dishes. We went there several times and had the most delicious humus, tahini, and baba ganoush, along with fried cheese and other yummy treats. Howard doesn’t normally like humus, yet this was his favorite place too!
As far as eating out goes, I’ve gotten used to taking a seat then waving over the server over when I want something. I don’t feel like I’m being rude doing that anymore. When grocery shopping, I’m used to people not speaking English. I just smile and point when needed and it’s easy to tell what the credit card machine is asking for, even though I don’t know the language. Most Polish people seem genuinely pleased when I say dziękuję (It means thank you and is pronounced jen-koo-ye) and it’s very easy to get by here. A lot of people here speak English too, and we’ve met some great people. Plus, visiting with my old friend Tom, his wife and their adorable little dachshund puppy has been nice.
I’m not sure if Poland reminds me of home in the US or we are just so used to living in Europe now. Either way, it’s time to mix things up again.This week we are off to a new country, new language, and very different culture 8000 km (5000 miles) to the east in Vietnam!