Make dough. Put stuff in dough. Cook dough. Eat.
It’s a simple concept, found all over the world. From bao and gyoza in Asia to empanadas and pupusas in the Americas, bread-with-stuff-in is a staple the world over. Rotis, pasties, samosas, dumplings, tamales, kreplach, pozi, pot pies, manti, pastelitos, momos, corn dogs—the varieties are endless. Big or small, sweet or savory, there’s something in the bread-with-stuff-in line for every appetite.
Poland’s version, the pierogi, is deceptively simple. The dough is just flour and water, and the stuffing is frequently just mashed potatoes and farmer’s cheese, though a version with ground beef, cabbage, potatoes and spices is also very popular, and sweet pierogi with berries often show up in desserts. Traditionally a peasant dish, every stratum of Polish society has embraced the pierogi, and it’s now widely considered the national dish of Poland. That’s for good reason: they’re delicious.
Pierogi have become staples of Polish cultural events. Krakow hosts a pierogi festival that draws thousands each year. Over the centuries, different shapes and fillings of pierogi were made for holidays like Christmas and Easter and for life transitions like weddings and wakes. Pierogi have even picked up a patron saint, St. Hyacinth. “St. Hyacinth and his pierogi!” is a rough equivalent to “good grief” or “holy smokes!”
If you find yourself at leisure in Poland (say, if you were on UW Alumni Tours’ “Discover Eastern Europe” tour, which features opportunities for independent exploration in Warsaw and Krakow), you could do worse than to seek out these tasty treats.