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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 1, 2014
Regional and Traditional Dishes
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Hylyng: Kashubian-Style Herring
December 1, 2014   
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Herring plays an important role in Polish culinary tradition and is served at major festivities, on Christmas Eve and during Lent and Advent.

Herring are fish of the northern seas and account for one-third of global catches. Herring is tasty and delicate, and also a source of valuable nutrients such as unsaturated fatty acids and easily absorbed vitamins such as A, D, B1, B2 and PP. As a saltwater fish, herring is also a good source of iodine, calcium and iron. Herring features in a range of dishes worldwide. It is served boiled, fried, stewed or roasted. In the old days in Poland it was also cooked in many different ways, but these days it is mostly served as a cold starter.

In the traditional diet of the Kashubian people inhabiting the Pomerania area of northern Poland, fish were a staple as well as being enjoyed as a side dish. Among saltwater fish, herring played a leading role in their diet. It was popular because it was easily available and cheap while providing valuable protein. According to the www.skarbykaszub website, which provides tourists with information on the Kashubia region, in the fall most Kashubian homes prepared barrels filled with salted herring. These were later served in various forms: marinated, fried, roasted over a fire, smoked, salted and served with sour cream, oil or mayonnaise. Herring was also added to salads and mushrooms.

Herring was popular during Lent, when Catholics traditionally abstain from eating meat. It was also an almost mandatory Christmas Eve dish as well as a dish served at weddings. Even today herring with sour cream or in vinegar with onions, with boiled jacket potatoes on the side, is popular as a Friday lunch in Kashubia.

Kashubian-style herring, also known as Hylyng grilled with onion, is often made according to recipes passed down through the generations for over a century. It is served boiled, fried or stewed. To make Kashubian herring, besides the fish you need flour, onions and a marinade made from 5 cups of water, 1 cup of vinegar, half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, some allspice and a bay leaf. After cleaning, the herring is coated in flour and fried. The onions are sliced and either fried or left raw. Next it’s time to make the marinade: stir all the ingredients together and boil for a short while and then pour over the herring.

Instead of fresh herring, this dish can be made with salted herring—the fish should be soaked well in water before grilling. This method was used when fresh herring was not available.

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