More than just bigos and pierogi. Eat Polska demistifies Polish cuisine
„What do you see when you think: Polish cuisine?”. „Bigos, pierogi, borscht, and vodka. Lots of vodka, vodka goes with everything!”. A common question that tourists are asked after arriving to Poland, and a typical answer. Even Poles themselves tend to repeat this cliche list of Polish dishes. Luckily for foodies and people who like to explore new countries through food culture, there are some people who don’t like taking the easy way out. They are people who tell passionate stories about Polish cuisine, at the same time challenging stereotypes that have been perpetuated throughout the years. They are Eat Polska’s culinary guides. In Pomorskie region, they offer tours of Gdynia and Gdańsk.
The plan of the trip is simple: we meet in a place that is easy to find for anyone, SKM Gdynia Główna train platform. Daniel Hucik has a bag with „Eat Polska” imprint, for those who are unfamiliar with his performances on popular culinary TV shows to recognise him easily. The group is tiny, consisting only of five people, mainly foreign tourists. The purpose of this is to create a cozy, friendly atmosphere that will make the journey through Polish specialties a unique experience.
– These culinary trips come straight from our hearts, our passion. We wouldn’t like the guests from abroad to think that Polish cuisine revolves only around pierogi, bigos, and schnitzel with cabbage – says Daniel Hucik, one of three Tricity culinary guides. It is worth noting that Eat Polska culinary trips also take place in Warsaw and Kraków.
– We’d like to familiarize other nations and cultures with our tradition and cuisine, but not the bigos- and pierogi-based one. We’d like to show some more, things that tourists that visit restaurants not necessarily will learn of. That’s why I talk about seasonality of fruit and vegetables, why we don’t drink vodka alone, or why we douse pierogi in fat. – says Daniel Hucik.
First stop: Bar Pomorza. If it hadn’t been Sunday, we would’ve first gone to the famous Market Hall, where we would’ve tasted best Polish meat from Jan Sychta’s private butchery; then, we would’ve stopped at Gadus fish store for a piece of herring and cod meatballs. However, since the trip takes place on a Sunday, both the Market Hall and the fish store are closed; so we go straight to Kościuszko Square.
Bar Pomorza, which is also a fishing boat, is full up. It shouldn’t come as a surprise: it’s one of these places where you are certain to get a fresh, tasty fish. A true flavour of Pomorskie. We order fried cod, and a shot glass of Sobieski vodka.
Daniel Hucik tells us something about the history of Gdynia, and about Polish culinary tradition. – We weren’t a rich country, we had to muddle through somehow. That’s why there is such a strong tradition of smoking meat and fish. Smoking is a perfect way to preserve food.
From Bar Pomorza we head to Sztuczka restaurant, which is one of the most important spots on the culinary map of Tricity. A place, in which Gdynia’s local tradition mixes with latest trends in gastronomy.
We walk around the entire trip. This allows for at least some of the calories we have ingested to burn off.
In Sztuczka, we start from soups. For starters, amus-bouche – cold borscht with olive and sun-dried plums.
Next, the first main soup. The chef always tries to surprise his visitors with original dishes. This time, he serves orange gazpacho with basil ice-cream and frozen tomato foam.
– Poland is the only country where soup is an obligatory element of a two-dish meal. This is our tradition: first, a plate of soup, and then the second course – explains Daniel Hucik.
The second soup is an oriental beef broth, with stewed beef tails, fresh chives, radish, and choya wine-marinated plums.
We only eat half of the portion, as the main course is still ahead of us. This is served to us in the recently renovated Cyganeria. It is the oldest cafe in Tricity, place with a soul, famous for being a favourite spot of local artists.
We are treated to mackerel fillet with tomato chutney, couscous, and grilled tomato, and chicken breast with kohlrabi puree with vegetables and demi-glace.
– People used to eat in cafes a lot in the past, as they were the only places that offered meat – explaines Daniel Hucik, who also gives guided tours of Gdańsk during the so-called Vodka Tours.
– We educate our guests that, contrary to popular belief, Polish people don’t drink vodka with their breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and that it is a ceremonial beverage. We explain what Polish vodka is all about, what is it made from. But we also taste liqueurs, and explain customs associated with them. At the end, we offer a Żubrówka cocktail, the so-called „Apple Pie” – says the guide.
There is always room for dessert after the main course. It is a classic Polish poppy-seed cake from the evergreen Delicje confectionery. Despite almost four hours of walking around and eating, Belgian guests who took part in the tour are delighted. – We don’t eat poppy-seed cakes – they say.
Daniel Hucik smiles and sums up: – For us, guides, the feeling that we have showed people something new, things that they haven’t been aware of, is the greatest reward. We come from here, we are passionate about what we do, we love food. If we can share our passion with others, what else could we wish for?
Tours along two routes: Food Tour (Gdynia), and Vodka Tour (Gdańsk) are organised daily, but prior booking is required. During a trip, there are around 13-15 dishes served. Guides are fluent English speakers. The cost of a tour is 290 PLN per person for Food Tour, and 260 PLN per person for Vodka Tour.