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Cracovian Cuisine, P-Z

Cracovian Cuisine, P-ZThe international superstars of Polish cuisine: pierogi. Photo: Silar/en.wikipedia.org/CC BY-SA 3.0
Continuing our romp through the world of Polish cuisine, we give you not only not only more descriptions of Poland's most signature dishes, but also where the best places in town to try them are. Smacznego!

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Doughy dumplings traditionally filled with potato (Ruskie), sweet cheese, meat, mushrooms and cabbage, strawberries or plums, though if you nose around you will find plenty of maverick fillings like broccoli, chocolate or liver as the possibilities are truly limitless and they are served almost everywhere in the city.

Placki

These greasy, fried potato pancakes (‘placki ziemniaczane’) are very similar to Jewish latkes (if that means anything to you) and ideal for meatless winter days. Served with sauce, goulash or simply sour cream on top, placki are a great hangover cure and you'll find them on menus everywhere. U Babci Maliny’s ‘Placki po Węgiersku’ is generally accepted as one of the most delicious and highly-caloric meals you’ll ever have anywhere in your life.

Smalec

Vegetarians who broke their vows for a bite of sausage or a taste of żurek generally draw the line here. An animal fat spread full of fried lard chunks (the more the better, we say) and served with hunks of homemade bread, Smalec is a savoury snack that goes great with a mug of beer. Any traditional Polish restaurant worth its salt should give you lashings of this prior to your meal; we've had the best at Pod Baranem, or buy your own at Krakowskie Kredens.

Soup

Poland has three signature soups: barszcz, żurek and flaki. A nourishing beetroot soup, barszcz may be served with potatoes and veggies tossed in, with a croquette or miniature pierogi floating in it, or simply as broth in a mug expressly for drinking. A recommended alternative to other beverages with any winter meal, we’d be surprised if you can find a bad cup of barszcz anywhere in Kraków. It doesn’t get any more Polish than żurek – a unique sour rye soup with sausage, potatoes and sometimes egg chucked in; you can’t beat Wesele’s batch eaten out of a breadbowl. If you’re of strong constitution and feeling truly adventurous, spring for flaki – beef tripe soup enriched with veggies, herbs and spices. A hearty standby in most kitchens, we personally save the pleasure for compromising situations involving mother-in-laws, but you can take your chances at Pod Baranem.

Zapiekanka

The ultimate Polish drunk food. Order one at any train station in PL and you’ll get half a stale baguette covered with mushrooms and cheese, thrown in a toaster oven and squirted with ketchup. Underwhelming to say the least. However  the vendors of Kazimierz’s Plac Nowy (D-6) have made a true art out of the ‘Polish pizza.’ With endless add-ons (including salami, spinach, smoked cheese, pickles, pineapple, feta – you name it), garlic sauce and chives have become standard procedure at this point. Because of their popularity you’ll witness ridiculous lines at the various windows around the roundhouse, but the wait is worth it. At 8-10zł it’s a great value and will sustain you through a night of heavy drinking. To leave town without having tried a Plac Nowy zapiekanka would be felonious, as would settling for one anywhere else in Kraków.

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