National Food or What to Try in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, and AustriaRuss Bily
Traveling across Eastern and Central Europe will undoubtedly be full of vivid impressions and rich flavors—from juicy meat to sweet tender cakes and pastries. Here you can get your fill with a fine beer or wine, and do not worry about your figure.
Walking through ancient medieval castles and boat trips will quickly consume the stored energy, and you’ll want something to eat again.
In this article, I’m going to introduce you the national cuisine of these countries.
So don’t read this article if you’re hungry, or better plan your trip to Eastern and Central Europe to try all these tasty goodies.
Eat Żurek in Poland
Traditional Polish cuisine is a real calories bomb, but once you try it, you will not be able to resist the temptation. It is rich in various kinds of meat (pork, chicken, beef) and famous for its excellent bread and delicious sausages.
1. Żurek and other Polish Soups
Locals are very fond of soups and cook them with pleasure. Borshch (beetroot soup), white borshch, cabbage soup, pea soup, Żurek, and many other kinds of soups are not served with bread, but with potatoes, poured with pork fat.
The most famous Polish soup is Żurek. As a rule, it is presented in a pot made of bread. It looks very colorful. It is served with an egg and a big piece of smoked sausage. Very often, locals prepare Żurek for Easter.
Rosół or chicken soup is also common soup, served in Poland. It is very easy and quick to prepare, commonly served with homemade noodles.
2. Pierogi (Polish Dumplings)
Dumplings are made of thinly rolled-out dough filled with a variety of fillings. The most popular fillings are meat, sauerkraut, and mushrooms, seasonal fruit (blueberries, strawberries, and cherries), buckwheat, sweet cottage cheese, or boiled potatoes with fried onions. Pierogi is a Polish food that’s always served for Christmas.
3. Gołąbki (Cabbage Rolls)
Gołąbki is a typical traditional Polish food made of minced pork with some rice, onion, mushrooms, wrapped in white cabbage leaves. There are also other variations of fillings such as poultry, mutton or without meat. Before serving, cabbage rolls are simmered in fat.
4. Polskie naleśniki (Polish Pancakes)
Polish pancakes are very thin, and they are served either with cheese, quark previously mixed with sugar, jam, fruits and powdered sugar or with meat and vegetables- all equally tasty.
Bigos (Hunter’s Stew)
National Polish cuisine is impossible without meat and stewed sauerkraut. It is based on a mixture of fresh white cabbage and sauerkraut with the addition of meat (pork or smoked sausage). Mushrooms, tomatoes, prunes, and a variety of spices are added in Bigos. According to some recipes, meat and cabbage should be equally divided. Bigos is served hot with white or black bread.
Kotlet schabowy (breaded pork cutlet)
Kotlet schabowy is one of the most delicious and the oldest Polish dish. The pork breaded cutlet coated with breadcrumbs (served with bones or without) can be perfectly served with buttered potatoes and cabbage salad. If you don’t like pork meat, try to eat chicken cutlet made the same way as the pork one.
This dish is initially from Hungary, but the Polish recipe has been slightly changed. It is a stew of meat served with potatoes and vegetables, seasoned with friend onion and peppers.
8. Polish Desserts
For a sweet-tooth, it is necessary to try сharlotte (apple pie), which is served with an ice cream and whipped cream. At Christmas, locals prepare makowiec or a poppy-seed cake. It is a traditional Polish dessert – a yeast cake stuffed with ground poppy. Some raisins, almonds or walnuts are the most typical additions. The baked cake is decorated with icing and orange peel. In the distant times, this poppy-seed cake was a traditional dessert prepared for Easter and Christmas.
Mazurek or shortcrust tart is often baked at Easter. There are various kinds of Polish mazurek made from different dough: brittle, sponge, marzipan dough and a so-called makaronikowe dough. The dough is interlaid with a nut mass, preserves or a jam. The surface of the mazurek is decorated with icing, chocolate, dried or fresh fruit, almonds, nuts, and raisins.
Polish donuts or Paczki are one of the most typical sweet snacks you can buy in a Polish store. Paczki is a round spongy yeast cake stuffed with one of many fillings like rose or strawberry preserves, liqueur, budyn, sweet curd cheese or chocolate. This Polish dessert is fried in deep oil until it reaches a dark, golden color and is served topped with powdered sugar, icing sugar or chocolate. Also, it is oftentimes sprinkled with orange peel. Paczki is one of the most traditional Polish desserts.
Sernik or Cheesecake is also one of the most popular desserts in Poland. A sweet curd cheese is its main ingredient. There are many kinds of sernik, different in composition, taste, and way of preparation. The best known is a cheesecake baked in the oven and made with a layer of a crumbly cake, although there are also cheesecakes prepared without baking. In most cases, raisins, fruits, a crumble topping or chocolate sauce are stock additions. Quite an original example of this Polish dessert is a delicious sernik made from a sponge cake and cream cheese and covered with fruit and jelly. This type of cake is dished up cold.
As for Polish beverages, I have recommended you to try «Miod Pitney», Polish strong drink, which is prepared from fermented honey, as well as liquor «Krupnik», sweet hot wine «Grzaniec», plum brandy «Slivovitz», and «Zubrowka», traditional Polish beverage with apple juice.
Please visit my blog, the article “Shopping in Poland and Hungary. What to bring as a souvenir?” and see what food and drinks you may buy in Poland.
Get your fill with Meat Dishes in Czech Cuisine
All restaurants and bars in the Czech Republic offer their visitors two types of menu:
1. «Napojovy listek»: a kind of “beer card,” as the focus of this menu is aimed at a traditional Czech drink;
- «Jidelni listek»: a collection of the most traditional national Czech dishes.
It’s no secret Czechs know beer and do it well. You’ll find opportunities for drinking the world-renowned golden pilsners around every corner of Prague. The best and freshest beer is found at breweries, where the beer is brewed right on the premises.
However, besides traditional and famous all around the world Czech beer, national cuisine of the Czech Republic has a lot to offer. So, let’s take a look at some most delicious and traditional dishes.
In Czech, soup is called polevka, and is very thick, like goulash or soup-mashed potatoes. The most popular are the following:
Cesnecka—garlic soup with the addition of smoked products;
Drstkova—tripe Soup, was originally popular with the poor population, now is the national dish and the pride of the country;
Bramboracka – soup with potato and smoked meat.
Kulajda soup (polevka) is also very popular in Czech cuisine. Kulajda or “dill” soup is made of potatoes, forest mushrooms, cream, dill and garnished with poached eggs, and it’s a hearty and delicious combination.
We also recommend trying gulasova polevka and beer soup with cheese croutons.
Svíčková na smetaně (beef sirloin in cream sauce)
This is classic Czech dish, and one of the most popular foods in the Czech Republic. Its main ingredient is sirloin, prepared with vegetables (carrots, parsley root, and onion) and smothered in a creamy sauce. Svíčková is always served with potato dumplings (called Knedlíky in Czech), and many restaurants serve this dish with cranberry sauce and lemon on top.
It is one of the most popular dishes in the Czech Republic. Gulaš is a stew, usually made up of beef, onions, and spices. You can get gulaš soup that is served inside a bread bowl, or just get standard gulaš on a plate with bread/dumplings on the side. Every local Czech restaurant will sell their own brand of gulaš, so make sure to get a taste of this delicious Czech meal.
Smaženy Syr or fried cheese
It is a national Czech dish and it is sold everywhere around Prague. Basically, a smaženy syr is a fried cheese patty (a giant mozzarella stick into a patty shape), with two buns wrapped around it. The best place to buy a Smazeny Syr’s is from any street vendor in Prague’s Wenceslas Square. There are dozens of these street vendors lined up, and they are open 24 hours of the day.
Open-faced sandwiches topped with in numerous combinations of spreads, garnishes, cold cuts and cheeses. Typically served as a snack, at parties and gatherings and for lunch and breakfast. “Chlebíčky” may translate to “little loaves of bread” but they’ve got a big place in traditional Czech cuisine.
Peсená veprová zebírka v medu
Try traditional pork roasted ribs in honey, usually with some interesting, for example, cranberry sauce.
Baked boar knee or pork knuckle
The average weight of this dish is 1.5-2 kg. This huge piece of meat is served with a side dish and several types of sauces. It is recommended to take this dish for a big company of people. If you want something simpler, then Vepro-knedlo-zelo is baked pork with gravy, dumplings, and stewed cabbage.
Trdelnik is one of the most common pastries to find on Prague’s streets. You can watch how it is made: they roll out the dough, wrap it around the stick, called a trdlo, sprinkle it with a sugar and spice mixture, and set it over the flames to cook. It’s perfect with mulled wine.
Makový koláček is a pastry filled with poppy seeds, fruit jams, nuts or sweet cheese. Most Czech families have their secret koláč recipes which have been passed down through the generations.
Medovnik or honey cake is very popular in Prague. It’s made according to a traditional Bohemian recipe. It has a rather dry, almost savory crumb with very sweet, honey flavored icing between each layer. It has a unique flavor of honey but also a slight flavor of caramel.
Marlenka is another type of honey cake popular in Prague. The best way to recognized marlenka from medovnik in Prague bakery windows is to look at the shape — medovnik is baked in circles and served in wedges, while marlenka is baked in rectangles and served in rectangular or square slices.
Taste Paprikás and Goulash in Hungary
From handmade pasta and dumplings to tenderly cooked meats and savory soups, with exquisite and indulgent desserts, Hungarian cuisine deserves to be tried.
The following foods are a delicious introduction to Hungarian cuisine.
1. Paprikás Csirke (Chicken Paprikash)
As you may know from my article “Shopping in Poland and Hungary. What to bring as a souvenir?”, Hungarian cuisine is famous for its flavor, and one of the essential ingredients is Paprika.
Paprikás Csirke is very popular and flavourful dish, made with chicken stewed in a creamy paprika sauce, sometimes topped with sour cream, and often served alongside noodles or nokedli (Hungarian dumplings). The sauce is made with sweet paprika.
2. Lángos (Fried Dough)
Lángos is the ultimate Hungarian street food: flattened, deep-fried dough topped with savory ingredients, such as sour cream and grated cheese or garlic butter, although sweet versions are popular as well. It’s flavourful toppings, crispy exterior, and soft chewy center make for a really heavy (albeit delicious) snack.
3. Gulyás (Goulash)
Goulash is not only Polish but also the Hungarian most well-known national dish, but traditional Hungarian Goulash is quite different from Polish. Primarily made with tender chunks of beef, vegetables, and plenty of paprika, with some versions including csipetke (hand-rolled pinched noodles). It’s hearty and comforting, with a distinct smoky, spicy-sweet flavor.
4. Halászlé (Fisherman’s Soup)
Halászlé is a national staple, too. It’s characterized by a fiery red broth, made from fish giblets, paprika, peppers, and onions. The ingredients are simple, but the flavors are complex – it’s spicy and savory, with generous portions of melt-in-your-mouth freshwater fish fillets – usually carp, catfish, perch or pike. Try it with white bread and more paprika in the form of a spreadable hot paste.
5. Túrós Csusza (Curd Cheese Noodles)
Only four ingredients make up this basic and tasty dish: túró (a fresh, soft curd cheese), homemade egg noodles, fried bacon, and sour cream. The noodles, cheese, and bacon are mixed, topped with sour cream, and heated briefly before serving.
Lecsó (Vegetable Stew)
Lecsó is a versatile stew of tomatoes, onions, peppers and sweet or hot paprika. It can be eaten for breakfast with a fried egg on top, served as a side dish, or enjoyed as a main meal with added kolbász (Hungarian sausage) or bacon.
Hungary’s famous cake is somlói galuska, made from sponge cake layered with chocolate cream, walnuts, rum, and topped with whipped cream.
Kürtőskalács, or «chimney cake» is baked rotisserie-style outdoors over charcoal, and topped with anything from cinnamon to walnuts, granulated sugar, and caramel.
Kifli are crescent-shaped pastries filled with a sweet walnut or poppy paste. I also recommend you to try Krémes. Its massive portion of custard between layers of pastry is perfect if you prefer something rich and filling.
Try Bratwurst in Germany
1. Bratwurst, Currywurst or Weißwurst
It is a huge part of German street food culture. It’s a fried sausage, covered in curry ketchup and curry powder. It’s best eaten with fresh french fries.
Weißwurst is a specialty of Bavaria, and it’s simply a white sausage. Eat it with a warm Bretzel, lots of sweet mustard, and beer.
You haven’t had a pretzel until you’ve tried one in Germany. It is a type of baked bread product made from dough and most commonly shaped into a twisted knot. Try it with sweet mustard or butter.
It’s the German equivalent of the baguette. They’re little rolls, crunchy on the outside with soft warm bread in the center. They are available in probably hundreds of varieties, from white bread to the famous German dark bread.
It is cooked red cabbage. According to the German tradition, Rotkohl is most commonly eaten at Christmas time, with a Bratwurst at the Christmas markets.
Basically breaded and fried pork, Jägerschnitzel is always worth trying while staying in Germany, especially for meat-lovers. Served with a side salad and fries, don’t forget to cover it with lemon juice. The fresh sourness perfectly complements the fried breadcrumbs.
And once again, Gulasch, but now a German version of this delicious meat dish. Usually served at holiday meals with Spätzle (little egg noodles) and Rotkohl, you need to try a bowl during your visit. Around the holidays it’s served nearly everywhere.
Kaiserschmarren are pancakes but in the form of small doughy balls. Usually eaten for lunch or dinner, it’s best served with applesauce of fresh fruit.
With a whipped cream center, Spaghetti Eis is vanilla ice cream, formed to look like spaghetti, topped with whipped cream, white chocolate sprinkles, and strawberries.
Rote Grütze is a warm mixture of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, mixed until it’s a preserve-like substance. Best eaten with vanilla ice cream.
Berliner is a jelly-filled donut with no hole in the center. As it’s available at every bakery throughout the country, it’s worth trying.
Try German desserts with Glühwein, a kind of warm Sangria, created with various spices, orange, lemon, and so on. Served seasonally at the German Christmas markets, it has to be one of the tourists’ all-time favorites. It will warm you up on a cold winters day.
For a Dessert, Enjoy Viennese Strudel in Austria
The Viennese cuisine has set the tone of culinary work throughout the whole Austria. But other regions can also boast crowned dishes, and without them, the idea of Austrian cuisine will be incomplete.
For example, in Styria, the main course is stewed meat with various spices, and in Tyrol, potato dishes such as “Gröstl” – casserole with potatoes, flour and meat are very popular. In Salzburg, dumplings, pancakes, and fritters reserved. In addition, the Austrian cuisine was influenced by Hungary, Bavaria, and Italy.
A significant part of the territory of Austria is located in the Alps, so the cuisine there is nourishing and high-calorie. In the mountains, it is cold in winter, and dishes that can warm up well, especially meat, are in great demand.
The choice of meat dishes in Austria is huge! Locals and tourists eat sausages here like in Germany. Over 1500 kinds of sausages are produced here, for example, Debrecen with paprika and Viennese sausages are especially popular.
But the real symbol of meat Austria is Schnitzel. Tender calf meat, beaten to the finest layer, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and well-fried – if you do not try it, you will not be able to say that you are familiar with the cuisine of Austria.
Schnitzel usually covers the edges of the plate, and it is served with salad and a slice of lemon.
In my article “Shopping in the Czech Republic and Austria. What to bring as a souvenir?”, I wrote that Vienna is famous for its coffee and sweets. The famous Sachertorte chocolate cake is a true Viennese specialty. It is a miracle of confectionery art. This dessert captivates everyone with its delicious chocolate creamy taste with coconut. Sachertorte is perfectly combined with coffee, which is plentiful in Austria.
In general, the capital of the country is confidently leading among other regions by the number of original recipes of sweets. Therefore, Austrian desserts are best served in Vienna. Sweets play a significant role here. For example, the fantastic Viennese strudel is known all over the world.
Austrian Beer and Wine
Brewing history of Austria is one of the oldest and has about 350 types of beer. Only Germany or the Czech Republic can compete in the number of beer varieties with Austria.
The most famous outside the country are the brands of breweries Gösser, Ottakringer, and Eggenberg. Although Austrian beer is not as popular as the Bavarian, Austria also organizes beer tours, where you can visit the ancient breweries and taste famous brands of beer.
You can also go to the Stiegl beer museum, where one of the oldest breweries is located. The museum is located not far from Salzburg.
Wines are very popular in Austria, too, and they have an even more ancient history than brewing. Every year wine exhibitions and fairs are held in Vienna. Local wine has a special flavor that is difficult to replicate. The fact is that grapes grown exclusively in Austria are used.
The cuisine of every country is unique, as it carries a piece of information about the people, traditions, and culture. During your travel through Eastern and Central Europe, strive to try the national cuisine of the country in which you stay. In this case, you will be able to feel its spirit to the full!
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