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Polska... tastes good!
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Pierogi Back in Fashion
   
Pierogi are among the most famous and best loved Polish dishes. The best kind are those made at home, but frozen pierogi made by food processing plants are also popular.

The fascination with fast food is on the wane in Poland. Traditional dishes, including pierogi, are becoming all the rage. Any self-respecting restaurant will most likely have many varieties on the menu. Pierogarnie, or restaurants specializing in pierogi, are also springing up everywhere.

Pierogi are a dish made from dough that is rolled out thinly. It is cut into circles that are stuffed with one of many fillings, pinched shut and then boiled in water, baked or deep-fried. In Poland the filling is most often meat (ground and cooked first), sauerkraut with forest mushrooms, seasonal fruit like blueberries, sour cherries and strawberries, buckwheat groats, and cottage cheese—either sweet or with added mashed potatoes and fried onions. The latter are known as ruskie (Russian) pierogi.

People in the eastern Lublin region enjoy pierogi with cheese, potatoes and dried mint, which gives the dish a slightly tart taste. Apart from Poland, the dish the Poles call pierogi is popular in various forms in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, China, Japan and Italy.

Pierogi were made in Poland as early as the 13th century. They probably came here from the Far East via Ruthenia. In the old days pierogi were only made for festive occasions, and every festivity had its own pierogi shape and filling. There were pierogi for weddings, for funeral receptions and those made for name days. The little ear-shaped uszka are especially popular on Christmas Eve; stuffed with mushroom filling, they are served with clear borscht or forest mushroom soup.

The basic ingredients of pierogi dough are wheat flour, eggs, water and salt. Pierogi can also be made from a yeast-based dough or short-crust pastry. The most popular yeast-dough pierogi in Poland are called kulebiaki. The most popular fillings for these include fish, meat (such as cooked beef, pork or mutton), poultry (including chicken livers), sauerkraut, less often cottage cheese or fruit. Kulebiaki are delicious with clear soups. Yeast dough can also be used to make small pierogi which are then baked or deep-fried. The short-crust pastry variety are usually stuffed with meat or sauerkraut.

Producing pierogi is rather labor-intensive but many people in Poland think it is well worth the effort because nothing can compare with the version made at home. For those who don’t have time to make their own, there are plenty of frozen pierogi to choose from, as many Polish food-processing plants make them. When shopping for ready-made pierogi, look for those with the label Poznaj Dobrą Żywność (Try Fine Food); this is a guarantee of consistent quality, reliable sources of ingredients and processing technology that ensures consumer safety, as well as flavor.

A.R.