Polish cuisine is the result a treasured lore of ancestral ingredients, and has recently bloomed from virtual obscurity to one of the rising stars of the European scene. Its great advantage over long-time favorites like French or Italian fare is its range of unexpected tastes: the sharp pungency of mustard plants, the sparkle of fermentation, and umami galore.

While Poland is not immune to the fast-food bug, still to this day the average Pole carries a shaman-like knowledge of mushrooms, berries, and ancestral recipes. Consequently, fresh and delicious local dishes are not hard to come by while visiting, but audacious cooks abroad should not be afraid to try a few recipes themselves since most key ingredients can easily be made at home, if not necessarily available in stores.

FoodThere exists one golden rule to eat well in Poland: ask around. Poles often tip one another off as to where the good stuff is, and as a result reputations spread like wildfire. Do not be deceived by serious faces everywhere. Even though Poles are not inclined to smile to strangers, they are consistently helpful, and will selflessly assist you in a quest to find the best neighboring restaurant.

In the countryside, experiment with the classics described above. In larger cities, the culinary life is extremely refined and fast-paced, and it may be wise to consult websites rather than guidebooks since they become outdated particularly quickly in this regard.

Warsaw's vegetarian restaurants are visited by as many vegetarians or vegans as meat eaters who know where good non-meat-based food is served. The meals are composed of fresh and seasonal local vegetables, uncommon groats and herbs. Prices are low and daily specials are announced via Facebook. The chefs and waiters are young and dynamic. They are unstoppable inventors and experimenters who don't believe in microwaves, know that spices behave differently in meatless meals and serve health on a plate. Hummus with red beets and cloves, lentil-mushroom burgers between gluten-free corn flour buns and mango parsley smoothies - such is the latest in Poland’s culinary evolution.

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Pierogi: the most iconic Polish food of all, they need no introduction. It seems that pierogi ruskie, stuffed with potatoes and cheese, are one of the most popular varieties both in Poland and abroad. Pierogi with meat fillings are quite popular as well: pork, beef, chicken and veal, often served with bacon. More sophisticated versions come with lamb, duck or goose meat.

Additionally, life choices less mainstream than vegetarianism have appeared in very recent years. While the cuisine of Central and Eastern Europe may have an unhealthy reputation, vegan and gluten-free options have become readily available.

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