If you’re following my website the chances are you are probably fond of Eastern European food as it is. However, if you need more reasons to fall in love with the amazing traditional cuisine of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus, you should definitely read this article. I mean read it anyways, it’s a good one 🙂
But seriously, my love for where I am from and the traditional food of the region was the reason why I started this website in the first place and my mission is to show the world how wonderful Eastern European food truly is. Especially, being away from my homeland and my family makes me think the more about all the great food and my heritage, which I am very proud of. There I go then, 10 reasons to love Eastern European food are following:
Okay, I have to admit that this reason is kind of obvious but it’s also the most important one. I love Eastern European cuisine for an amazing rich flavor of the dishes. I personally don’t think I could live without pierogi, pickled herring, sauerkraut, żurek, smoked cheese, sausage, all European pastries… wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the deliciousness. I love the way Eastern Europeans spice their meals, it’s not too spicy or overwhelmed with herbs, but so flavorful. You simply can’t beat it!
Do you know the feeling when you found a great recipe online and then look at the ingredient list and it’s seems to never end? And the worst part is it calls for some weird spices, you’ll probably never use again or some ingredient really hard to get. That’s definitely not the case with Eastern European food. Actually, if at home you have eggs, potatoes, onions, flour, sugar, some meat and some vegetables or fruit there is an endless number of recipes you can make with that and they will all taste very different and great. See kluski śląskie (potato dumplings) above? To make them I used 1 egg, potatoes and potato starch. It’s hard to get an ingredient list shorter than that and let me tell you, they were AH-mazing!
Most ingredients required to make Eastern European food are very inexpensive. It’s always a plus, especially if you’re cooking for the whole family. I love to know that most ingredients won’t break the bank, like for example a cabbage to make delicious cabbage stew or potatoes for all sorts of potato dumpling things. You will hardly spend anything and will be able to create very rich flavors. And the best budget-friendly must have ingredient that makes everything better? Fried onion! Enough said.
4. Pastries aren’t too sweet
Most Eastern European cakes are not crazy sweet which is perfect for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love candy and all sweet stuff as much as the next person, but sometimes when I try cakes with an icing that sugary that it almost has no flavor and my teeth are hurting, I want to scream. European style pastries are the bomb. Filled with cream, fruit, great texture and beautiful. There is nothing better than Eastern European desserts. On the picture from the left: sękacz (Polish-Lithuanian cake baked over open fire), marcinek (15+ layer cake with cream), napoleaonka (puff pastry with cream).
Another great reason to fall in love with Eastern European cuisine is it’s diversity. it is very eclectic because of a long European history. Over the years, it was influenced by countries all over the world. Since Polish- Lithuanian and Polish-Ukrainian border shifted a lot, I am mentioning all of them together.
- Back in renaissance Italian queen Bona Sforza wife of Sigismund I the Old, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania introduced us with celery, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, pasta or wine.
- Wars with Turkey popularized cinnamon, coffee, olive oil, almonds and very widely used now poppy seeds.
- The XIX century was the time of a lot of French influences like pate, some cheeses, souffle or ice cream.
- Originally Lithuanian dishes like babka, żurek, bigos or Ukrainian like borscht became popular throughout the whole Eastern European region.
- Poland is heavily influenced with German, Jewish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian and so many other cultures
- It’s just some examples, there is SO much more! I think that’s amazing that over the years we grew and got inspired by all these great cultures and we got to enrich each others cuisines.
Being influenced by other countries, cuisines of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus still managed to have their distinctness. There are so many dishes that you simply can’t find their counterparts for in other countries. For example pickle soup, pierogi or gołąbki. It’s very special and unique. There is no other thing in the whole world you can mistake these with. See these oscypki above? Salted and smoked cheese made of sheep milk, made exclusively in Polish Tatra Mountains.
7. Easy to make
Some traditional dishes are very demanding in preparation, I’ll be the first to admit it, however, everyday dinners or lunches are not complicated at all. Soups are very easy (other than being healthy and delicious), so are salads and some meat entrees. There are also plenty of easy desserts like these szyszki (3 ingredients, ready in 10 minutes) or lemon babka (mix all ingredients in blender and bake).
Most Eastern European dishes are high in carbs therefore will keep you nice, warm and full for hours. This reason is especially important in the winter and fall. Do you know the feeling when you eat something and after few hours you are ready to eat again? Definitely, not the case with Eastern European food. For example all sorts of potato dishes, sauerkraut, flour meals, like pierogi. There is a story that holds that the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Casimir IV, fed his army with gołąbki (cabbage rolls with meat and rice) before one battle during the Thirteen Years’, they got the strength from the hearty meal and won. They are THAT hearty.
9. It’s healthy (well, some of it)
I think the biggest misconception about Eastern European cuisine is that all of it is very heavy and unhealthy. While it is true that it is hearty and rich in potato, flour and other caloric thing, there are plenty of healthy stuff too, like soups, healthy grains buckwheat or barley, and all sorts of vegetables.
I think that Eastern European cuisine is constantly changing and for the best. In the past our countries were troubled by wars and due to shortages in economy they couldn’t afford a lot of things, they weren’t even available in the stores, then cheap, heavy and caloric meals were the best option to keep you full. Now, Eastern Europeans are aware of healthy options, while of course indulging on very traditional meals on special occasions. Fish, poultry and pork are the most popular dinner choices, accompanied by a wide variety of soups and salads, often made of fresh or root veggies, called in Polish surówka, beets, cabbage etc. All in all, while it’s true most traditional dishes are rather heavy there are plenty of healthy options as well.
10. A part of a long tradition
Food takes a very important place in Eastern Europeans’ lives. We like to take time to prepare special meals, especially for important occasions or holidays, and feast, spend time together by the table and enjoy the conversation. Shoot some vodka possibly 😉 Did you know that first Polish cooking book was published in 1682?! I love holiday Christmas or Easter food and knowing that a recipe I prepare was prepared by generations before me which makes it even more special.