Pierogi Coma

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

When a couple of locals asked us why we decided to visit their country, I answered quickly:

“For the Polish pierogi!”

To which they laughed.

To which I told them that I wasn’t kidding.

Having grown up with both German and Ukrainian heritage, I am no stranger to these little bundles of goodness. They exist in many versions across Eurasia, but Poland is the official home of the pierogi, and thus Pete and I were on a mission.

To try as many as possible.

We started with gusto, consuming a few plates of different varieties in the first few days. The standard potato and cheese, some with bacon, buckwheat and cheese (favourite), wild boar, and just straight sweet cheese.

Making Authentic Polish Pierogi

We made a gallant effort, all in the name of research. There were several days when we were forced to abstain in order to alleviate the pierogi coma that threatened to take over. But overall, we done ourselves proud.

We tried to keep track along the way, and estimate that between the two us we ate over 170 little bundles of goodness in total. And as our days in Poland came to a close, our pierogi coma turned into pierogi panic.

Where were we going to get our pierogi fix?

Enter Goscinna Chata – a beautifully appointed restaurant and small inn in central Krakow, home to authentic traditional food made entirely fresh and in-house.

Making Authentic Polish Pierogi

Making Authentic Polish Pierogi

The owner and chef, Irene, invited us to teach us how to make pierogi for ourselves.

“Her mother didn’t believe in eating out,” our translator Marzena shared, “or in buying anything pre-made. Cooking has always been in the family, and this is her second restaurant.”

Before us were ingredients for three traditional types of fillings:

  • Bacon and buckwheat, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic
  • Cabbage, cheese and fried onion with salt and pepper
  • Blueberries tossed in sugar.

The dough, we were to make ourselves.

  • One kilo of flour
  • One egg
  • One tablespoon of oil
  • Hot water added until appropriate texture reached

Making Authentic Polish Pierogi

Irene moved quickly around us, kneading dough, shaping dough, trimming dough. Her fingers were nimble and stuffed the pierogi to their brim, pinching them into perfect little delectable half moons.

Pete and I struggled with the act of pretty-pinching. And we were awfully slow – Marzena disclosed that expert pierogi artisans can make up to 1,000 in an hour. I don’t think either of us could have made it to 100.

Making Authentic Polish Pierogi

Making Authentic Polish Pierogi

Irene’s pretty piergoi are on the right, my sad lonely one is on the left.

With finishing touches added, the final tasting was what we had ultimately been waiting for.

Our own creations were good enough (best ever, I might add), but Irene and Marzena would not be satisfied until we had been plied with the other flavours the restaurant has on offer. Plum, cabbage and mushrooms, lamb and pork, black pudding and mushroom, and the most popular ruskie (potato and cheese).

Making Authentic Polish Pierogis

And this is precisely where we lost count on the total number consumed.

(Our lapse in accounting skills may have been aided by another notable tradition observed – shots of vodka to aid in digestion. And not just one, but two each, because as Irene aptly noted, we have two legs.)

Cannot argue with that.

Making Authentic Polish Pierogi

Many thanks to Irene, Marzena and all the excellent staff of Goscinna Chata for providing us the perfect (and most delicious) end to our pierogi quest.

Worried about traveling while celiac? Check out these detailed gluten free restaurant cards (POLAND)!

42 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • August 26 2013

    This. Is. AWESOME!!! I love pierogi thanks to my Ukranian grandma. Sauerkraut and mushroom are my favorite, but the ones you guys sampled looked delicious!!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Vancouver Review: Food Cart Fest

    • August 27 2013

      Pete loved those ones too (I don’t like mushrooms, however). My grandma only used to make the traditional kind with potatoes and cheese. SO good.

  • August 26 2013

    Oh that looks great. I love pierogi too and yes, lots of Ukrainian and German communities in Canada so I know them well. Fantastic reason for visiting Poland; must visit soon myself!
    Marsha recently posted..Surviving Overseas Flights

    • August 27 2013

      We went for the pierogi and enjoyed them, but also discovered so much more. Win, win!

  • Kellie @ The Fundamental Alchemist
    August 26 2013

    Oh my dear gawd those look amazing! Like miniature Cornish pasties. Time for a late night cupboard raid methinks!

  • Pierogi’s and vodka?! Is there really anything else you need in life? Goscinna Chata looks like such an awesome place.

    Happy travels πŸ™‚

    • August 27 2013

      Haha, and I do have to say, that was the best vodka I had ever tasted. So smooth, with no burn! I didn’t know that was possible!

  • August 26 2013

    God those look awesome! It’s funny because when I lived in the UK (being so close to Europe) No one has ever heard of them before!

    • August 27 2013

      I think they are known in the UK just as dumplings? Regardless, now you know, and you must taste them! πŸ™‚

  • August 26 2013

    Looks good! What is the creme type sauce that goes on top? I’m used to seeing sour cream, I use plain Balkan style yogurt now. I’m curious though as to what is in the picture.

    • August 27 2013

      In that picture, because it was a sweet pierogi (blueberry), it was just cream with a sprinkle of sugar. But we have seen sour cream around as well – I had wondered if that was just a North American thing, but it’s not.

  • Sam
    August 26 2013

    Mmmm. It’s interesting how this semi-circular pastry with filling seems a pretty common way of packaging food around the world (empanadas, cornish pasties, dim sum). I guess they’re mostly a convenient way of delivering food to the mouth using the hands!

    • August 27 2013

      I agree with you, it is quite interesting. They are so similar in different parts of the world, with slight variations. Borders blur when it comes to food!

  • August 27 2013

    Nom-nom-nom! I haven’t had pierogi in years. My polish grandma used to make them but it has probably been 15 years or more since I last had them.
    Jennifer recently posted..Capture the Colour 2013

    • August 27 2013

      Then it’s about time you start cooking ’em up! πŸ™‚

  • August 27 2013

    I’m obsessed with pierogi! It’s one of my favourite meals to make from scratch – time-consuming, but really fun. I would also totally go to Poland for no other reason than to try some authentic ones!
    Jessica recently posted..Sunday Snapshot: Nikko

    • August 27 2013

      I love making them too, but it has been awhile. Although now I have a craving again…

  • Mom
    August 26 2013

    I know it’s not very lady-like but, I’m drooling!!!

    • August 27 2013

      We’ll have to make some again next time we are home. πŸ™‚

  • Beth
    August 27 2013

    This sounds like a dream come true! I love pierogi– especially the cheese and potato ones. I had no idea that they came in so many varieties.

    I think you may have just bumped Poland up a bit on my “must travel to” list!

  • August 27 2013

    Yup. +1 for Polish perogies. Have you been to Slovakia? There perogies are a close second for me.

  • August 28 2013

    These look DELICIOUS! I am so made at myself that I didn’t take the time to get Pierogis in Pittsburgh, which is HUGE there. My mate got food poisoning the day we were going to. But these are legit Pierogis and I’m sure so much tastier. Great photos, thanks!

  • August 28 2013

    They look cute!! I would certainly love to taste them provided they are wholly vegetarian!! I especially love the photograph of the 4 wonderful ladies, it looks they are ready to go on a war πŸ™‚
    Lovely post Pete and Dalene πŸ™‚
    Arti recently posted..The Custom Domain Switch: From Blogspot to Dot Com

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    August 28 2013

    My secret shameful confession is that of the few foods I don’t care much for, pierogi has always been on the list. We ate them a lot when I was younger (possibly because one of my grandmothers is from the Ukraine), but we always only had the cheese and potato filled ones and I just always found them so bland and couldn’t see the point of them. But these? These look pretty incredible and I’m pretty sure they could change my entire outlook on pierogi… I guess we’d better make our way to Poland to find out!

  • August 28 2013

    Yum yum yum yum YUM!

    I love pierogi. I’m not Polish, but I have a lot of Slovak in my family – and the foods are very similar. I grew up with pierogi and stuffed cabbage and all sorts of other yummy dishes from Central Europe.

    After eating all the pizza and pasta in Italy (ALL OF IT, I tell you), I’m looking forward to eating all the pierogi in Poland!
    Amanda recently posted..Berlin: Much More Than Its Past

  • August 29 2013

    This kind of blog research is tough, eh? πŸ™‚ Back in the States I used to consume entire boxes of Mrs. T’s pierogi and will probably weep with joy when I finally get to taste the real thing.
    Heather recently posted..Capture the Colour Travel Photography

  • August 30 2013

    This is probably the best tradition EVER. One shot of vodka for each leg!

  • Carmel
    August 31 2013

    The last time I made empanadas, my pinched edges looked a bit like yours. Wah wah….bet they tasted amazing, though. I want to try all those pierogi flavors. Eastern Europe is high on our list, assuming we make it to Europe.

  • August 31 2013

    Some of your best food photos yet!! Now I’m hungry…

  • September 1 2013

    Growing up, I was aware of pierogies and certainly crossed paths with other types of dumplings on occasion, though it has only been in travelling that I learned to make them and have been intrigued to discover that dumplings are as common as individual culture’s tea rituals! In India and Nepal, they are momos, in Mongolia buuz, in China jaozi (pot stickers) and so on and so forth. I wish that I could say that I had perfected my folds, but unfortunately mu dumplings leave much to be desired aesthetically, but are delicious none the less.

    • September 3 2013

      I think it takes a pretty trained hand to make the perfect folds! Ah well, they all taste the same anyways. πŸ™‚

  • September 2 2013

    The lady on the end looks like she could do some damage with that rolling pin.
    Laurence recently posted..In Photos: From the Facebook Page Edition X

    • September 3 2013

      Haha, we took a second picture because she laughed when she realized how it probably looked. I liked this one better though. πŸ™‚

  • September 4 2013

    Ummm, this looks awesome! And congrats for getting so many perogies in while travelling in Poland.

    I now have a sudden urge to hit up Toronto’s Polish markets this upcoming weekend. πŸ˜€

  • September 5 2013

    I have never been impressed by pierogis because they seemed a bit flavorless to me. But I bet they are amazing in Poland and have more variety.

    • September 6 2013

      So much variety, and the dessert ones (blueberries!) were so flavourful. Gotta get them at the source, I think. πŸ™‚

  • Ali
    September 5 2013

    Sounds like so much fun! I love cooking classes when I travel, so learning how to make pierogi sounds great. And they look delicious!
    Ali recently posted..Using Books as Travel Inspiration

  • September 10 2013

    I love pierogi! Every time I head back home, my mom and my granny make some for me (some meaning a full plate). My favourite ones are pierogi stuffed with blueberries and raspberries topped with sour cream and sprinkle with sugar πŸ™‚ Real Yum!

  • Ele
    September 10 2013

    My stomach hates them. I couldn’t finish my plate-they just stuck up in my throat. Don’t know why, and the place was touristy and expensive.

  • September 13 2013

    I’ve never heard of them before. They look and sound incredibly tasty!

  • November 4 2014

    These look divine! We will be visiting Krakow June 2015. Will definitely look up these wonderful ladies!

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