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The Warsaw Voice » Business » April 30, 2010
World Expo 2010 in Shanghai
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Sour Soup, Pork Knuckle and Chopin
April 30, 2010   
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Agnieszka Różańska, manager of the Polish Restaurant in the Polish Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, and executive head chef Jacek Nawrocki talk to Olga Oswaldo.

Surveys carried out during Poland’s preparations for Expo 2010 showed that Poland has no distinct image in China. Has this affected the way the Polish Restaurant is being organized?
A.R.: It has become more of a challenge for us, as this is a unique opportunity to bring our culture closer to Chinese people through Polish delicacies. The possibility of tasting our products could increase their popularity in China, and this in turn could lead to export opportunities. Polish cuisine will thus have its premiere and we are preparing very diligently. We fully realize that the whole Polish pavilion could be judged through what we offer, especially since forecasts show that 70 million people from all over the world plan to visit Expo.

You have been on business trips to China and Shanghai itself. What are your main observations?
A.R.: First of all, I have learned that Chinese people love to eat and have an almost devout attitude to cuisine and to the ceremony of having a meal. They devote much more time to this than we do, but then this is backed by their thousands of years of culture. Restaurants are where many business deals are initiated and finalized, and a meal is truly celebrated. I also paid special attention to Chinese foodstuffs, what you can get in the local stores, large supermarkets and bazaars. With head chef Marcin Bielec we looked for the kind of products that we use, of course with an eye to using them in our menu later.

What was the result of this on-site visit?
A.R.: Our original idea of bringing almost all the ingredients to make our Polish dishes with us, or an entire stock for the whole six months, immediately went out the window. In fact, this would not have been at all simple, because the regulations allowing food to be brought into China are quite restrictive, though on the other hand this would have meant the opportunity for many Polish producers to showcase their products. In short, the information we gathered on site was very important for revising our culinary plans.

What did this involve specifically?
J.N.: We could rest easy, or be certain, that the base products, mainly meat which we want to promote the most, would be of the highest quality. The same goes for most fruit and vegetables. It is not so easy, on the other hand, to find real forest mushrooms, herrings, pike perch, sauerkraut or coarse rye flour to make żurek sour soup in Shanghai. We can get sauerkraut. Agnieszka even brought a jar of French sauerkraut to try, and I decided it would have to do. Then I came up with the idea that we would probably make our own as soon as we got there…

A.R.: You can get herrings in Shanghai, but only as frozen slices.

J.N.: That’s an option we are not considering, so the idea of serving salted herring as our restaurant’s signature appetizer came to nothing.

Were there more such adjustments?
J.N.: There won’t be any pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms, but we will have pierogi with meat filling. Instead of herring in oil or sour cream, we will serve steak tartare. I don’t know if we can find horseradish sauce to go with our pork knuckle, though this—made with cream and lemon—could be a novelty for the Chinese. In summary, pork knuckle Polish-style, stewed in vegetables, served with sauerkraut and potatoes, will be our signature main course. Of course, there will be szarlotka apple pie for dessert.

Wouldn’t the kind of cream cake that was a favorite of Pope John Paul II be better?
A.R.: Contrary to what you might expect, surveys show that few Chinese people know that Pope John Paul II, the late head of the Roman Catholic Church, was Polish, and few have heard of Lech Wałęsa as the leader of Solidarity. Even among Chinese people who work for multinational corporations, and who you could say are more open towards the world than the rest of the population, the most recognizable Polish name is Frederic Chopin. As for Polish cuisine, none of those polled were able to associate any dish with Poland. And that’s something we have to change.

Does this mean that Chopin’s music will accompany the tasting of Polish pork knuckle with sauerkraut—though probably without horseradish sauce?
A.R.: Events will be held both in the Polish pavilion and in selected venues across Shanghai, including some involving Chopin’s music. Our restaurant will be an excellent supplement to the image of Poland created as a result.

How extensive will the menu be?
J.N.: We plan to have about 40 dishes on the menu, starting with appetizers, through soups, main courses, to desserts. There will also be several dishes based on giblets and offal, such as gizzard goulash or tripe as far as hot dishes go, and jellied tongue among cold dishes.

A.R.: I realized during my trip that Chinese people really like giblets and offal, one could even say they prize them. These products cost almost as much as meat like loin of pork. Perhaps we can win Chinese stomachs over with gizzards Polish-style?
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