Polish Food Adventure

Following the success of our Vietnamese food adventure at Tuong Lai, we explored ‘Martha Stewart’s’ favourite cuisine – Polish food.

When I think of Polish food, it always brings me back to the first time I tried the cuisine many years ago with a uni friend. Jeff ordered cured herring and because he assured me it was a Polish specialty, curiosity got the better of me. From memory, it was a piece of cured herring rolled together with some apple and held together with toothpicks. I don’t remember it tasting particularly revolting, but the leathery texture and silvery grey colour of the herring was a combination that required an acquired taste to appreciate it.

After dinner that night, we got back to the car and there was a pizza delivery motorbike parked in front of us. At first, Jeff was just kidding around, nudging the car forward, closer and closer to the bike. Then one thing led to the next and before we knew it, the bike toppled over with a crunching sound. Jaw dropped, I looked over and saw Jeff’s eyes were wide with shock. He then immediately fastened his seat belt, reversed the car and sped off before people came out to exact revenge.

After that meal, Polish food always conjured up negative emotions. Although in the intermittent years, I have had brief liaisons with the cuisine (including making pierogi), nothing was not good enough to salvage Polish food from the depths of leathery, raw fish and possible illegal behaviour.

But when ‘Martha Stewart’ talks about the food of her homeland, it’s hard not to be infected by her enthusiam, passion and excitement for what she describes as “the best food in the world”. Add to that, in the days ahead of our lunch, I tried some of her Polish style chicken schnitzels, mash potatoes (made with her mum’s secret recipe) and mushroom sauce. It was a delicious meal that instilled me with confidence and anticipation for our Polish expedition.

We ultimately decided on Alchemy Polish Cafe in Surry Hills to be the lucky candidate to showcase Polish food. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, on one sunny Saturday afternoon, we were finally sitting at one of Alchemy’s tables, decorated with a white lace tablecloth and centred with a vase filled with a bunch of fresh pink roses.

The menu consists of half traditional Polish foods, and half typical Australian cafe foods. ‘Martha Stewart’ guided us to order some representative Polish dishes, including:
Pierogi / Dumplings available in beef, mushroom and sauerkraut, or potato and cheese fillings. Overall, the beef and mushroom/sauerkraut fillings were well received.
Pierogi / Dumplings
Much like a Chinese pot sticker. They are available in 3 flavours: beef, mushroom and sauerkraut, or potato and cheese. It’s served with sour cream, an accompaniment that is ubiquitous in Polish cooking, but is I find quite delicious without it. Amongst our lunch crew, the former two fillings were most well received.
Cabbage parcels with pork and rice filling, served with a tomato sauce The sauce was delicious and gave the dish its flavour. It was quite similar to the goulash sauce, perhaps with a stronger tomato . The filling itself was not flavoured, probably so as to not conflict with the sauce.
Cabbage parcels with pork and rice filling, served with a tomato sauce
The sauce was delicious and defined the dish. It tasted quite similar to the goulash sauce, but with a stronger tomato note. The filling itself was not flavoured, probably so as to not conflict with the strong sauce. Potatoes, which are another Polish staple, would ordinarily be served with this dish. With the rice, I thought this would have been carb overload, and requested potatoes to be omitted.
Pork goulash with potato pancake The fried potato pancake came highly recommended by 'Martha Stewart'
Pork goulash with potato pancake
‘Martha Stewart’ ordered this dish because she loves the potato pancakes Alchemy makes. It was a giant, extremely crispy potato pancake (with a slight green tinge) with pieces of stewed pork inside the fold. Although the goulash sauce looks thin, it was full of spices and flavour, and just like my cabbage parcel, you can soak the pancake and the pork in this sauce.
Fried potato pancake with smoked salmon and sour cream (and caviar!)
Fried potato pancake with smoked salmon and sour cream (and caviar!)
Although the fried potato pancake was yummy, the combination with salmon and sour cream made the overall dish a bit heavy
RADZIWIŁŁ – pork tenderloin stuffed with spinach and cheese in pink pepper sauce
RadwiŁŁ – pork tenderloin stuffed with spinach and cheese in pink pepper sauce
The meat was a bit dry and bland, and the sauce didn’t do much for it either. Probably the least well received dish.

Overall, Polish food is delicious but it’s also very filling! So although the cakes and desserts on display were tempting, we were all too full to fit in dessert.

After the table was cleared, we sat and chatted for a long time. To be honest I felt a bit guilty for just sitting there for 2 hours and not ordering anything, but the staff at Alchemy was so friendly, they never made us feel like we had overstayed our welcome. The owner joked with us a bit and even gave us free lollies (Polish chocolates with prune and praline inside).

Polish food redeemed.

Alchemy on Urbanspoon

Advertisements