Krakow – Jewish Quarter Food Tour

Just one of the little courtyards serving fantastic street food.

I have been seriously jonesing to travel again.  Having been fully vaccinated and gone through enough paperwork to keep a small government department busy, I was eventually able to set off.

I had heard great things about Krakow from anyone who had visited before, but wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

With this in mind my travelling companions and I booked a food and history tour of the Kazimierz or Jewish quarter.  We placed ourselves in the very capable hands of George.  A trained chef originally from Turkey, he gave us a great tour discussing the history of the district and it’s up and coming food culture.

Hebrew street art

Before the second world war about 25% of those living in the district were Jewish having originally been encouraged to settle on the city by King Kazimierz centuries earlier.  The Jewish population was forced into a ghetto when Germany invaded and unfortunately we’re all aware of what followed.  Auschwitz concentration camp is within travelling distance of Krakow.  While I think it’s important that what happened at the camp shouldn’t be forgotten, honestly I’ve had a really tough year and just didn’t feel up to visiting.

Poland’s oldest synagogue

The Jewish population of the district is now less than 1% but the district still maintains it’s Jewish identity and the oldest synagogue in Poland is still located there.  In the main square there are lovely restaurants serving kosher food and drinks and offering traditional Jewish folk music at weekends.

After the war many of the buildings stood empty, so students and artists eventually moved in due to the low rents.  The area now has a bohemian feel and is becoming gentrified.

With such a young population the area is full of great places to eat and drink.  Our first stop was at a popular perogi shop.  If you haven’t had these before, they are little dumplings. The most common filling is potato, cottage type cheese and fried onion (my personal favourite).

Perogis with spinach and cheese.
Blueberry perogis with sour cream.

We also tried other versions including suarkraut and mushroom (traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve), spinach and cheese, and a sweet version made with blueberries and topped with sour cream.  Perogis are really common with most restaurants offering several different kinds.

The district has some great street art as well food.

Small courtyards with little food trucks are popping up across the area, serving everything from traditional Polish pork dishes to Asian ramen bowls.  It was at one of these courtyards we had excellent traditional pulled pork rolls with pickles and fantastic bread.

The new square has a central hub of red brick buildings selling a range of different street foods.  It was here we tried the Polish version of a French bread pizza topped with spicy ketchup and lots of chopped chives.  Apparently these were made my Mothers who couldn’t get theirs kids to come in from playing outside, to make sure the didn’t starve.

Polish pizza

If you have sweet tooth, we also enjoyed excellent apple fritters at Kuchina Doroty.  Rich with vanilla these probably had 1 million calories, but were worth every single one.

Krakow has great bars everywhere, these range from very dark but not unwelcoming local dive bars through to sophisticated cocktail bars. The most common beverages seem to be beer and vodka. Lots of bars are introducing small batch artisanal beers often brewed in people’s sheds (they are well worth trying). I’ve always had an aversion to vodka, (I think it tastes like hairspray). However, George our tour guide got us to try a shot of bison grass vodka which is popular in Poland, and it’s much more a agreeable than the normal stuff. If vodka is your thing there are several different tasting experiences available in the area.

Bison grass vodka, tastes fresh and almost sweet. It reminded me of the smell of hay.

To sum it up the area is well worth a visit, great food, lots of history and movie buffs can spot the different streets where Schindler’s List was filmed.

Wonton Soup

I’m seriously missing being able to travel. With this in mind I decided to recreate one of my favourite dishes. I first ate this in Hong Kong. I first ate this in a hole in the wall cafe. It was a revelation and probably the best thing I ate the whole time was there.

Food in Hong Kong is amazing but this just hit the spot. If chicken soup is the ultimate Jewish comfort food, this is probably Hong Kong’s version.

You can find wonton wrappers in the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets, or larger supermarkets. This may seem like a lot of wontons, but I also freeze half so I can pull them out of the freezer without any fuss.

These are also great to make with kids, (a little bit of child labour never does any harm). But I also like to stick the music on and switch off, making these can be quite therapeutic. For the soup I usually use shop bought good quality chicken stock. So if you have some wontons in the freezer and some ready made chicken stock this can be a really quick meal.

Ingredients

For the dumplings

500 Grams Pork Mince

4-5cm Piece of ginger (finely grated)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

2 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

1tsp Cornflour

1tsp Sesame oil

1tsp Soy sauce

1 Red chilli (finely chopped)

1 Pack of wonton wrappers

For the broth

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Litre Chicken stock

1 Tbsp Rice wine vinegar (I didn’t have this and used cider vinegar and it was fine)

2 Scallions/spring onions (ends removed and cut in half)

3-4 cm Piece of ginger (cut into 3-4 pieces)

1 Red chilli (cut on half, and seeds removed)

2 Cloves of garlic (cut in half)

Garnish with finely chopped scallions and coriander

Stock infused with garlic, chilli, ginger and scallions

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients for the filling of the wonton filling in a bowl, and get your hands in and mix well until all ingredients are combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  2. Open your pack of wonton wrappers and like filo pastry, you’ll need to cover it with a damp cloth to prevent it drying out. Keep a small bowl of water beside you, as you’ll need to wet the edges of the wonton so they stick
  3. Take a square and put a small teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Wet the edges of two sides of the wonton and fold over to make a triangle. Make sure to press the edges together well (or else water will get in when you cook them). Dab the two long edges of triangle with water and fold the edge together and press (it should look like a tortellini). Place on a tray and continue doing this until you have either run out of filling or wrappers
  4. Add 7-8 wontons at a time to a pot simmering water, and cook for 5 minutes or until the wontons float to the top. Drain and set aside, I usually freeze half the batch. If you’re going to freeze these, let them cool first and spread them out on a tray lined with cling film that you have rubbed lightly with oil to prevent them sticking. When they are frozen, split into batches and transfer into freezer bags
  5. For the broth, add all the ingredients to a pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the ginger, garlic, and scallions from the both and discard
  6. Add the wontons to the broth and sprinkle with finely sliced scallion and coriander