Poland's cuisine matches its eclectic history and foreign influences, sharing similarities with Slavic and Central European cuisine. Meals are hearty affairs with an emphasis on meat with chicken, beef and pork the most common varieties. Winter vegetables such as cabbage accompany many dishes and cream and eggs are used freely.
An earlier start to the working day means that most Polish eat their main meal around 4-5pm, which will often consist of three courses starting with a soup such as barszcz, the Polish beetroot borscht, or a cold herring and potato salad, followed by a main meal that will consist of roasted meat, sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, rice or cereals. To finish the meal a pastry dessert may be served.
Typical Polish specialties include kołduny - meat dumplings, Zupa ogórkowa - a cold and sour cucumber soup, and bigos - a filling meat and cabbage stew. Wild mushrooms grow throughout Poland and often feature in home-cooked meals and dishes served in restaurants when in season.
Like many of their neighbours, bread forms an integral part of the Polish diet with a preference for crunchy crusts and soft insides. Made from rye or wheat, bakeries all over the country will have their own bread variety with sesame seeds or caraway and onion used for extra flavour and texture.
Beer and vodka are the most commonly consumed alcoholic drinks in Poland. The country is Europe's third largest beer producer and it is normal to drink beer with most main meals. Vodka is generally produced from grain or potatoes and is taken as shots throughout meals. So maybe leave the hire car at the hotel!
Safe eating while travelling in Poland
Poland has very good hygiene standards so travellers have an extremely low risk of getting sick from food whilst on holiday. Nevertheless, basic precautions still apply and you should avoid eating anything that looks old or like it might not have been cooked thoroughly (especially meat and fish). A good rule of thumb is to look for restaurants that have a queue of locals outside, as this will be where the best food is usually found – people don’t wait for food without a good reason.