If you’ve been getting ready to make your way to a few gorgeous Eastern Europe cities, odds are you’ve been told about the food situation, right? See, here’s the thing – if you’re headed on one of the many Eastern Europe tours that have become popular lately, you’ll have to invest in some comfy trousers, because the food is good. Traditional Eastern European food is filled with rich, comforting flavours, and now a new wave of imaginative chefs have started to reimagine these authentic favourites to appeal to the Food Network generation.
Get ready to be tempted around every corner!
To make things a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of five must-try Eastern European foods every traveller should sample in Poland, Croatia, Austria and the Czech Republic to provide some culinary guidance when you hit the road. Here you go!
Polish cuisine was shaped alongside the country. In the middle ages, it was mainly based on wheat, meat, fruits, herbs, honey, and spices that were grown locally. Poland’s relations with neighbouring countries like the Czech Republic and Germany also had an impact on the development of the local food culture. A strong hunting tradition, underpinned by a love of forest fruits, mushrooms and pickled foods had laid the groundwork for a hearty cuisine with lots of enticing flavours.
Here are five Polish delicacies and dishes you should try on your tour of Eastern Europe:
Bigos (hunter’s stew). This Polish meat staple is often referred to as the Polish national dish. A combination of cabbage, meats, sausages, mushrooms and spices is cooked for hours (and sometimes even days) – very delicious and filling.
Pierogies (dumplings). Small dough dumplings stuffed with a filling such as potato or cheese, typically served as a dish with onions or sour cream.
Zurek (sour rye soup). A soup made of soured rye flour (similar to sourdough) and meat (usually boiled pork sausage or pieces of smoked sausage, bacon or ham). It is normally served around Easter, but can be enjoyed all year round as well. It is also said to be a great hangover cure!
Śledzie w śmietanie (herrings in cream). This quintessentially Polish dish is served every Christmas Eve as a part of the festive feast. Creamy fish may not be for everyone, but if you enjoy seafood and strong flavours, definitely give it a go!
Kremówka (puff pastry with all sorts of tasty things). Every Polish pastry shop worth its salt has a kremówka on the menu. It’s a variation of the mille-feuille with the puff pastry layers interspersed with whipped cream, sweet cream, pudding or meringue; and the top sprinkled with powdered sugar or covered in lashings of icing.
Croatian cuisine is a delicious tapestry woven from myriad cultural influences over the centuries. Along the coast, you’ll find that Italian-style food rules the roost, while the continental regions share more similarities with Hungary, Austria and Turkey. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are celebrated, so no matter where you go, you can look forward to excellent Croatia food and drink.
Here are five Croatian delicacies and dishes you should try on an Eastern European tour:
Peka (tender meat & vegetable dish). Widely known as the Croatian national dish, Peka is also called ispod čripnje (under the bell). This is because it is cooked under a terracotta or iron lid over the embers of a fire. It often includes octopus, lamb, veal or chicken, potatoes and other seasonal veg.
Soparnik (savoury pastry). Split Croatia food is renowned among foodies. If you head to this seaside city in the Dalmatia region, you have to try the first Croatian dish that earned cultural heritage status – two layers of thin dough stuffed with swiss chard, parsley and garlic.
Šaran u rašljama (fire-roasted carp). Carp fixed to forked branches and roasted in its own oils over an open fire – it doesn’t get any more rustically simple and delicious than this.
Brodet (seafood stew). A slightly spicy stew made with all sorts of seafood and fish, cooked with some quality wine, and served with polenta to warm your bones when the wind blows in over the ocean. Best enjoyed with a view of the sea.
Rožata (custard pudding). Another dish that has been included on the Croatian heritage lineup, Rožata is a custard pudding similar to creme caramel, with a hint of lemon that gives it a truly delightful flavour.
Austrian cuisine is something truly inspiring. From the world-renowned Austrian sweets that draw visitors from far and wide, to Vienna Austria restaurants that set the pace for food trends around the globe, there is plenty to look forward to when you make your way to this spectacular mountainous country in south-central Europe. Traditional Austrian cuisine has lately taken on a lighter note, and new generations of chefs are turning to high-quality seasonal and local ingredients, seasoned with brand-new food ideas sourced locally and from abroad.
Here are five Austrian foods you should try when you embark on a tour of Eastern Europe:
Wiener Schnitzel (breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet). Vienna food does not get any more quintessential than this – the schnitzel is considered to be one of the main Austrian national dishes. The thin veal cutlet is breaded and pan-fried and normally served with a side of potatoes and some lemon slices.
Würstel (sausage & bread, street food). Dining on the go? Grab some würstel sausages from a street vendor. Unlike conventional hotdogs, these are served disassembled – sliced sausages with a dollop of mustard and/or ketchup, and a couple of slices of bread on the side. Some say this is the best food in Vienna…
Wiener Frühstück (traditional breakfast). This is perfect for people who like a combination of sweet and savoury to start the day. It includes a bread roll, a croissant, homemade marmalade, butter, sliced cheese, sliced ham, and an egg.
Sachertorte (chocolate cake). Dessert lovers, assemble! This delicious chocolate cake was first created by Franz Sacher, who was instructed to create a new dessert for Prince von Metternich in 1832. It is topped with a thin layer of apricot jam and a smooth chocolate topping.
Apple Strudel (sweet pastry). Apple strudel is one of the most famous deserts in Austria, and with good reason. Try this airy pastry stuffed with apples, raisins, and flavoured with cinnamon and a sprinkling of sugar alongside a cup of piping hot coffee – yum.
Czech Republic Food
Czech Republic traditional food is hearty to the core. Old-school fare hinges mainly on pork, pickled vegetables and dumplings, but there is also plenty in the way of new-wave restaurants if you want to enjoy a more modern slant to the traditional way of doing and get a taste of cutting-edge Prague food and drink.
Here are five Czech Republic foods you should try when you visit Eastern Europe:
Vepřo knedlo zelo (pork & trimmings). Known as the national dish of the Czech Republic, Vepřo knedlo zelo is found on pretty much every menu. The hearty meal is comprised of slices of roasted pork accompanied by sauerkraut (sometimes sprinkled with caraway seeds), and bread dumplings (called knedlíky).
Trdelník (sweet pastry). An exploration of Prague traditional food would not be complete without a sampling of trdelník. This Slovak rolled pastry originates from Transylvania, and is served warm, topped with sugar, nuts or cinnamon. The pastry is cooked by wrapping it around a metal/wooden stick and roasting it over an open flame.
Smažený Sýr (deep-fried cheese). This is gorgeous Czech street food at it’s best. The deep-fried cheese is served with fries, salad or a bread roll – pure heaven for cheese lovers.
Beef steak tartare (raw beef & condiments). This is not for the faint of heart, but if you like things on the meaty end of the spectrum, the raw, chopped beef served with an egg on top alongside various condiments is sure to float your boat. Locals enjoy it with toasted bread and a clove of garlic – the garlic is rubbed against the rough surface of the toast and then loaded with the meat and condiments.
Kolache (fruit pastry). These small, round yeasty dough treats come filled with all sorts of sweet delights, including fruit like plums and apricot, or honey and cream cheese. It originated as a wedding dessert, but now you can find it all over the Czech Republic. Our advice is to go rogue and and enjoy it with a thick, dark coffee for breakfast.
There you have it – the definitive list of must-try classics and reimagined favourites you should be sampling in a few of the best Eastern European cities. This is just the top of the super tasty iceberg, but it will definitely help you to sniff out a few epically delicious things on your Eastern Europe holiday. Keep an eye on the blog in coming weeks and months for more travel inspo and up-to-the-minute insider info. Expat Explore – Travel Made Possible.