A Taste of Warsaw in 48 Hours – Part 1

The last time I was in Poland (in Gdnask) I was floored by the eclectic and tasty range of food on offer.From Pierogi to Zur, Zupa Rybna to Lithuanian Manti my palate was tingled by a taste of a cuisine so different and yet so familiar. What I regretted was not trying enough food, there were so many dishes to try that I wanted to taste them all.

So in the 48 hours that I had in Warsaw, I set out to eat everything. Well, everything I could stuff my face in. Considering that Baltic cuisine is hearty, am I’m not a professional food eater that was a hard task. But I was determined. My belly does not have fat cells (ready to expand) for no reason.

My plane arrived in Warsaw around 9am on Saturday and I was famished, but I wasn’t going to settle for breakfast at a fast food restaurant. Breakfasts in Poland are not a big thing but they have become more an more common in recent years. Its growth was marked by the Weekend Breakfast Market that takes over a park in the northern district of Zoliborz and the southern district of Mokotow on Saturdays and Sundays. The breakfast market in Mokotow was having a Mexican themed event the day I arrived and I was ready to jarabe to the music.

Mokotow had a carnival-like atmosphere with food stall owners hawking their food, pop-up cafes ready to make you your fresh cuppa, make-shift delicatessen selling produce fresh from their own farms/factories and teaching classes on how to make your own pierogi (I think).

What surprised me was the number of stalls selling Asian food, there was even a Korean selling Korean food!

There were also a lot of Latin American food stalls, such as this Brazilian churrasco stall and Mexican Tacos stand.

Ahhhhh…(slurp)… the meat looked good….

But I was here for Baltic food. And off I went looking for it. There was this dish that looked local, grilled brinjal (eggplant) with promegranate

But it wasn’t filling enough. From the corner of my eye, I spied a stall selling something called Chinkali.

It looked Baltic so I ordered a plate. Chinkali, or Khinkali, is a Georgia dumpling dish stuffed with a minced meat of lamb, beef and pork and flavoured with onions, salt, cumin and chili peppers. The meat is stuffed and boiled for about 12 minutes before serving. Because the meat is uncooked when stuffed the juices collect in the dumpling and burst out when bitten into, not unlike a Chinese Xiao Long Bao for example.

The popular item at the stall was a lamb filling and that was what I ordered. It was served with a dollop of cream and spicy chili on the side. Dining etiquette for a Khinkali is similar to that of a Xiao Long Bao, make a small hole n the dumpling and suck on the juices first before biting into the dumpling and leaving the top fold uneaten.

The flavour was almost like a lamb filled Xiao Long Bao, the major difference between the skin. In a Khinkali the skin is much thicker than in a Xiao Long Bao so it fills you up a lot quicker.

A full stomach however does stay full for long in the hot summer weather in Warsaw and my stomach was growling again after walking quite a bit. So I hoped over to try Zapienkanka from a shop called Zapiexy (suggested as one of the best for Zapienkanka in Warsaw.

Zapienkanka is a relatively new dish to polish culture. It was created in the communist era as a way to pack a filling meal into a few bites. What it is is an open-faced baguette topped primarily with white mushrooms, a cheese (with high fat content) and baked in an oven until the cheese melts over the whole baguette and the long bread gains a crunchy exterior. A top quality Zapienkanka needs to be stringy with the cheese, crunchy on the crust and soft on the inside of the bread.

It tasted like Pizza without the cream or tomato-based sauces, so good dough, good cheese and good mushrooms and Zapiexy is supposed to do them the best. I liked it, it was the perfect snack dish to curb hunger although be full you’d probably need two whole sandwiches. Either that or I was just really hungry.

Pleased with snack but with still enough space for dinner I headed to a place called Radio Cafe because it is not just a restaurant but also the club of the former employers of Radio Free Europe, a radio station run for the people living behind the Iron Curtain from the Western world outside the Iron Curtain.

I started with Zurek, a sour rye soup with meat, sausages and hard boiled eggs inside and served in a bread bowl. I like Zurek (I had it in Gdansk too), there is something to be said about a soury flavour to thin a soup that would otherwise be too thick. And there’s meat, sausages and egg, what’s there not to like (I don’t run a foodie blog, my descriptions are basic).

My main meal was an oily Kielbasa Warsaw style, which is grilled Polish sausage (with aromatic fat oozing out) lain on a bed of lightly carmalised onions and a served with a side of cold potatoes.

It’s a fat sausage, that’s a winner in my book 😉

I was full, bus with the weather as it is, only a matter of time before I’d be famished again. Time for round two and the next 24 hours of eating.

ON THE MAP (Breakfast Market)

ON THE MAP (Zapiexy Luxusowe)

ON THE MAP (Radio Cafe)

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