Oscypek, bunc i bryndza: Flavors you should try in Zakopane
If you’re planning a visit to the Podhale region in Poland, get ready for a delicious experience. This area in the Tatra mountains is full of history, folk traditions, and culture. Located in the south of Poland, it is one of the unique places in the whole country. This is thanks to the highlanders who have managed to preserve their distinct traditions and folklore. Podhale will charm you not only with some stunning views but also plenty of tasty and filling food. Are you excited already? Let us take you on a short but mouth-watering trip to Zakopane and the Podhale region’s cuisine.
Poland Zakopane flavors: Heaven for food lovers
Zakopane is a popular mountain resort with year-round tourism. As a part of Podhale, it is at the foot of the Tatra Mountains and an excellent starting point if you want to experience some Goral (Polish name for highlanders) culture. The surrounding environment and harsh conditions have shaped the Polish highlander cuisine. Many of the traditional dishes result from the infertile soil, the mountain range, and hard work required from the Polish highlanders. Potato, sheep’s milk, and cabbage were the main ingredients on the traditional table in Zakopane.
When visiting this region, don’t expect extravagant food. With minimal ingredients, the Polish Gorals had to get creative. The main aim was to make food that will sustain the body in more extreme surroundings. Therefore, you will not find particularly fancy dishes in the Podhale region. You should rather prepare dishes that will bring you some comfort and energy. And most importantly, they will provide you with a unique culinary experience!
What to taste in the Podhale region?
So what should you try while in Zakopane? Here are a few local highlights.
Oscypek is the king, that is sheep’s milk cheese.
You’ll hardly find anything more traditional or local while in Poland and the mountain range of Tatra. Oscypek is so popular that you can even visit the Oscypek Museum in Zakopane and learn how it is made. So what is Oscypek exactly? It is smoked cheese made of sheep’s milk produced during sheep milking season (May to September). The hands make it of shepherds in a special way that has been passed down for generations. They are traditionally made in small shepherds’ huts. Made by hand while only using wooden molds that give them nice decorations.
In fact, Oscypek is a proud owner of a special EU certificate and is a protected trade name under the Protected Designation of Origin. This means that it can only be made in this specific geographical area. If you don’t see that sign on your oscypek, it sadly means that it is not traditional. Keep that in mind when looking for it!
Other cheese delicacies: Bryndza, bunc, and korboce
Although oscypek is the absolute winner when it comes to popularity, plenty of other cheese options are produced in the region. Since sheep farming is one of the main occupations for highlanders, it makes sense that sheep’s milk plays such an important role in the local cuisine. So once you’ve had your fill of oscypki, you can try some bunc or bundz (white sheep cheese with a slightly sweet taste) and bryndza (made from grounded and salted bundz). Korboce is another variety of traditional cheese, this time made of cows’ milk. It is less salty and looks like pasta threads, you can even sometimes see it braided.
Kwaśnica – a soup that will put you on your feet
Just returning from an arduous hike in the mountains? This dish will surely make you feel strong again. Kwaśnica is perfect for those who like an intense flavor as it is sour and fatty. A traditional soup made of pickled cabbage and meat, will warm you up and fill you up. It is often served with a potato or bread on the side.
Czosnianka – a soup to awake your taste buds
If you don’t mind the garlic breath, try this delicious garlic soup. It’s not that popular, and you may have to look around to find it, but it will be very much worth the effort. Its main ingredient is garlic, but there are also potatoes, onions, and mint. This is another great number for warming up!
Not bread, but potato wears the crown here.
Although bread is quite a big thing in the rest of Poland, this is not the case in this region. Since potatoes were one of the main food resources, the local people found many ways to use them. As a result, you can taste lots of different potato cakes and noodles. Make sure to try moskole, traditional cakes made of boiled potatoes, flour, salt, and egg. Of course, cheese is often added on top. The recipe may sound unimpressive, but these crispy on the outside and soft on the inside cakes are among the favorites on the region’s menu.
Another local dish made of potatoes that you should find in most restaurants in Zakopane is Placek po Zbójnicku. It is kind of like a big hash brown served with meat goulash. There are also Hałuski which are noodles made of grated potatoes and serves with warm milk or cheese and butter.
There’s a bit of meat too.
You may have noticed that we haven’t mentioned any meat until now. That is because it was not the staple of the highlanders’ diet. Traditional cuisine of the Podhale region did not include a lot of meat, and it was served very rarely, usually on important occasions. Luckily for those who can’t imagine a meal without meat, many restaurants in the city offer food options that include it. If you want to taste some meat with a local spin, try the lamb roast or highlander pork leg. When it comes to fish, a trout is quite popular on the menu as well.
A little bit of something sweet
If you can’t imagine a satisfying meal without a dessert at the end, then you shouldn’t be too disappointed. The traditional mountain cuisine in Podhale didn’t include many desserts, but there were bombolki for those with a sweet tooth. These yeast buns served with honey and butter can make the whole day sweeter. We are already drooling!
Now that you know a bit about the cuisine in Zakopane, you should be ready for your adventure in the Polish mountains. Make sure to visit some local restaurants and find some smoked cheese. Enjoy all the food and the stunning views. Smacznego! (It’s “Bon Appetite” in Polish).