5 Truly Polish Pierogi Fillings
You’ve made it to Poland and you have a to-do list. You know that you have to see the Old Town in Warsaw, the Cloth Hall in Kraków, and you need (not!) to lick walls in Wieliczka salt mine. You want to try some good Polish vodka, Polish kiełbasa, and Polish pierogi (‘pierogi’ is plural, so we don’t say ‘pierogis’). You are seated in a restaurant and you’re trying to make it through the menu. You know that feta, sun-dried tomatoes, or smoked salmon do not sound very Polish, but there are so many options. What to choose, which filling is the best? Here is our traditional top 5!
You can’t go wrong with meat pierogi (pierogi z mięsem). This is the staple Polish pieróg (that’s a singular form). Pork cooked with carrots, onions, and parsley, then ground and seasoned with a generous amount of garlic and marjoram is a classic. Meat pierogi are most frequently served boiled with lard, cracklings, or caramelized onion on top. Some people prefer them fried (they become crunchy).
And remember that ‘meat’ in 99.9% of cases will stand for ‘pork’ on Polish menus!
In many Polish restaurants, they’re called Russian-style. How come typical Polish pierogi are ‘Russian’?! Well, it’s a consequence of a pretty shabby translation: ‘ruski’, even though in colloquial Polish refers to ‘Russian’, in fact is an adjective deriving from ‘Ruthenia’, i.e. a cross-border region in Europe covering parts of Ukraine, Slovakia, where the pierogi-in-question come from. Ruthenia used to be part of Poland for several centuries, hence the name for the local dish. Ruskie pierogi are filled with mashed potatoes, quark, and fried onion. They are served boiled or fried with lard, cracklings, or caramelized onion on top.
03. Sauerkraut and wild-mushrooms
Have you ever tasted Polish Christmas? These pierogi taste like Polish Christmas Eve. The filling is made of cooked and chopped sauerkraut and wild mushrooms. Most frequently, they are served with caramelized onion. Some restaurants serve them baked (but then, the dough is similar to Cornish pastry).
04. Sweet quark
Don’t be surprised to see pierogi with sweet fillings served for lunch in Poland. Many Poles refuse to eat meat on Fridays (because of catholic Friday lent. Fish is not meat though, so fried cod as a vegetarian option should not come as a surprise. Be warned! You’re double lucky if it was lard-fried), so they rely on a number of sweet lunch dishes. Pierogi filled with sweet quark (sometimes mixed with raisins), served with sour cream and sugar (and sometimes fresh fruit on top) is a classic. And the best Polish comfort food!
05. Wild blueberries
Wild blueberries are Polish obsession. Polish people think that summer has the color of blueberry juice mixed with sour cream and sugar. They freeze wild blueberries only for pierogi. Be careful! All pierogi filled with fruit are quite tricky –the juice bursts out as soon as you try to eat them, especially when you’re wearing a white t-shirt or your favourite dress.