Sunday, December 11, 2005

Take-away – po polsku

Wherever we go these days we are confronted with similar options for a take-away. But this na wynos globalization has its local varieties. In Poland, these varieties can be quite bizarre.

For instance, when I came here the first time in 1995, the streets around Plac Konstitucji in Warsaw were lined with hamburgery and hot dogi stands, selling nasty stuff that emerged steaming, damp and limp from microwave ovens.

But what could be good were the ‘bar orientalny’, selling what they claimed was ‘Vietnamese food’.

To this day, Poles must think that a typical family in Saigon sit down to Sunday lunch and tuck into sweet and sour prawn balls, five spice beef and spring rolls. Maybe they do. Strange, then, that the food they call take-away Vietnamese in Poland is remarkably similar to what in Britain we call take-away Chinese.

But take-away Chinese food in London has nothing much in common with Chinese food in China. Someone from Shangri probably never heard of Chop Suey or Chow Mien. That’s because these dishes were invented in the Chinatowns of America, and designed for American taste buds.

The Vietnamese in Poland have designed their take-ways for the Poles. The first time I had one of these dinners in plastic pots they served up the chicken and cashew nuts and rice with a large dollop of sauerkraut on the side. I was shocked. But it went down quite well. I became hooked.

Other variations and culinary ad libs are not so successful.

What must bring tears to the eyes of an Italian boy in Warsaw, and make him miss his mama back home very much, is what they do to pizzas in this country. Why, oh why, do they smother their margarita in tomato ketchup? This culinary abomination has become institutionalized by the telepizzas of Poland when they ask you if you want ‘sauce’ with your hawaiian.

Things have got so bad that many Italian restaurants – such as the great Nonsolopizza in Ochota – have signs on the tables advising that the tomato sauce is already on the pizza – it's that red stuff under the mozzarella – and not in a bottle on the table.


My theory is that this nasty habit started in the late 1980’s with the first Polish street food, zapiekanka.Basically just a bread pizza with cheese and mushrooms, it cried out for ketchup. And ketchup is what it got. Lots of it.

If the sticky goo doesn't dribble down your chin then it goes straight down the sleeves of your shirt. Nasty.

And have you ever wondered why kebabs just don’t taste like they do at home? The first time I ordered a szysz they asked me if I wanted ‘thin or fat bread’? I said I wanted neither – pitta bread would nicely, thank you. But a kebab will never taste right in Poland because it is made, not with lamb, but with beef. Making a kebab from beef is like trying to cook up galonka using chickens feet.

It’s just wrong, wrong, wrong.

So I think it’s time we got our own back on take-away po polsku. I am going to open a little kiosk - take-away po angielsku - selling bigos made from fermented newspapers, and pierogi stuffed with politicians' toenail clippings.

5 Comments:

At 12/11/2005 09:37:00 PM, Blogger Aaron Fowles said...

I find zapiekanka absolutely amazing. The can be up to two feet long and dripping with various sauces! Add some tomato sauce and it's basically a french bread pizza.

 
At 12/11/2005 11:19:00 PM, Blogger jeronimo said...

So who in the hell had the idea of putting corn on pizza? Truly disgusting and really f's up the texture!

 
At 12/13/2005 07:41:00 AM, Blogger Michael Farris said...

"they served up the chicken and cashew nuts and rice with a large dollop of sauerkraut on the side. ."

Are you sure it was sauerkraut or was it more like cole slaw (surówka)? If it's the latter, that's probably more Vietnamese than the chicken and cashew nuts. Something more or less like surówka is actually a common Vietnamese dish (though they put things like chilli, soybeans and cilantro in theirs).
IME food that the Vietnamese make for themselves is lot lighter and tastier than the pseudo chinese fare they usually serve up in Polish take out places and there's lots of salady kinds of dishes.
And Spring Rolls are jsut a Chinese version of Vietnamese nem (smaller and fewer ingredients and meant to be washed down with liberal doses of fish sauce, an acquired taste).

 
At 12/14/2005 04:10:00 PM, Blogger beatroot said...

yeah, their food is always covered in fish sauce - in Thai they call it nonplam...fermented shrimp and stuff I think.

Maybe it was sour colslaw?

 
At 12/24/2005 05:58:00 PM, Blogger Eugene said...

Actually, I'm quite satisfied with Kebabs made from chicken....truly excellent, especially when salad and hot sauce are added to it! I have no problem with kebabs that "are not" made from lamb, or beef for that matter. My favorite chicken kebab stand is located near the "Kraków Głowny" train station, in a small but neat wooden kiosk. Check it out next time you are at the Kraków main train station. Smacznego!

 

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