Poland, part 9

Okay, I’ve been holding out on the best part of my Polish vacation, food-wise.

Let me introduce you to a little something called bigos. It’s apparently the Polish national dish … and it’s completely delicious.

At it’s core, bigos is a stew of sauerkraut and meat. From there, it’s improvised. Well, maybe improvised is the wrong word – what I mean is that everyone does it a little differently. The first place I tried it, it was made with sauerkraut, wine, some kinda meat I couldn’t identify, mushrooms and various seasonings, including allspice berries. (Actually, I didn’t realize what those were at first – I’ve only ever seen ground allspice I guess.) It was garnished with a slice of tomato and served with a side of bread, which is typical. It was warm, tangy, salty and brine-y. I think I could have eaten a few bowls of it. So much of Polish cuisine is like comfort food and this could easily become my new comfort food craving.

The second and third times I had it, it was made with sausage and pork as well and I don’t think there was wine in either of these. The two dishes were from different restaurants but were pretty similar. I think I preferred the very first bowl I had, the one with wine in it. The third bowl I had though was also very tasty and more tomato-based than the previous dishes.

Bigos is also called hunter’s stew, because it’s a hearty dish perfect for a winter’s day — and to fill hungry hunters’ bellies. It’s typically served as part of Christmas dinner too. It’s very filling — and like many of the dishes I tried in Poland, an incredibly good bargain. A decent size bowl of bigos with a basket of bread (which, for obvious reasons, I did not eat,) was around $3 -4. That would fill me up for hours, providing me with plenty of energy for strolling down cobblestone streets, checking out castles and visiting communist prototype towns. (No, really! Think the Stalinist version of Levittown, only weirder and more industrial seeming.)

This is a dish I will probably try to make at home soon. As it is, I can’t get enough sauerkraut. Sometimes I even eat it straight out of the jar. I’ve always used it as more of a condiment or side dish though and have never even thought about cooking with it. Oh the possibilities!

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8 Responses to Poland, part 9

  1. Daniel B. says:

    It sounds great. It makes me want to rebel against the household prohibition of cabbage, especially the fermented kind.

    Although I do keep a jar of kimchi stashed in the back of the fridge, which comes out when I’m all alone.

    The bad news is that I won’t be cooking this at home. The good news is that I don’t have to share my kimchi.

  2. JMP says:

    Here’s what you do: Buy a jar of the lacto-fermented sauerkraut from Hawthorne Valley Farms. They have it at the co-op and a few other places – including the Columbia Co. farm itself. It’s amazing. I would be shocked if it didn’t make a convert out of Mrs. Fussy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip to Poland. It sounds like you had a great time. And from one Panusha to another, eating sauerkraut straight from the jar is a totally reasonable thing to do. At least that’s what I keep telling my non-Polish fiance.


  4. llcwine says:

    I was in Poland in 1979, and loved the local cuisine. Missing it big time, I wonder if Muza in Troy would make Bigos?

  5. JMP says:

    I thought I was the only one who are sauerkraut from the jar. And llcwine, I should ask Muza. To be totally honest with you, I think I liked their galombkis better than some of the ones I tried in Poland.

  6. Albany Jane says:

    As of yet I haven’t been told I’m of Polish decent, but I also occasionally eat my sauerkraut straight out of the jar.

    I’ve never seen bigos before, but now I really, REALLY want to try it.

  7. Chris says:

    A little bigos tip- use part sauerkraut and part fresh cabbage. Also if your bigos comes out too sour the first time you make it, then drain and rinse your sauerkraut a little next time. Also it tastes best with wild mushrooms if you can get them. Smacznego!

  8. Daniel B. says:

    Yeah. Thanks for the tip.

    But there is some weird level of revulsion that needs to be overcome. When she thinks about it, she wants to vomit.

    So… not only would I need to find one that tasted good. I’d need to sneak it into a dish without her knowledge. And serve it to her under false pretenses.

    Given that currently Mrs. Fussy is my meal-ticket this level of subterfuge is probably inadvisable. However, I am looking forward to getting to the polish festival tomorrow.

    Have you been? Is their Bigos up to snuff? Or am I better off trying something else. Sadly the appetite isn’t what it used to be, and I will have to make some tough choices while I’m there.

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