When I planned a trip to Poland, I had vaguely incorporated going to a Milk Bar as 1 of the To Do’s in Krakow if time permitted. The cause for my nonchalance maybe stemmed from the belief that Polish Cuisine is bland uninspiring. Right after a three day trip to this quite picturesque Polish city the culinary practical experience in the milk bars of Krakow emerged as the highlight of my short sojourn in Poland.
What is a Milk Bar
As the name suggests milk bars are not genuinely outlets exactly where milk is sold from the tap and patrons guffaw about sipping on tall glasses of milk shakes. “Bar Mleczny” or Milk Bars in Poland are a relic from the Socialism era. The initially milk bar was set up in Warsaw in 1896 serving dishes primarily based on dairy things and regular Polish cuisine. These outlets with inexpensive and nourishing meals played a prominent part in the course of the Terrific Depression of 1930’s appropriate by means of Planet War II. In the aftermath of devastation and war Poland came beneath communist rule from 1945 imposed by former Soviet Union . In their more than zealousness for socialism, private establishments which includes restaurants had been nationalized and the moderate to high priced ones had been at some point closed down. The state subsidized milk bars thrived in the course of this period serving dairy primarily based meals often egg and pierogis (dumplings). Meat and Alcohol had been strictly off the menu and folks survived on fundamental fare of potatoes, wheat and cheese. There are stories about cutlery getting chained to the tables in the milk bars to protect against diners from taking them away in the course of the occasions of induced scarcity.
Winds of transform have blown across Poland soon after the curtain contact on communism in 1989. More than time the nation became a element of the European Union opening up the path to financial progress and prosperity. The economy of shortage gave way to modernity in all spheres but the milk bars of yore had been retained with a nostalgia of the previous in their appear and really feel and a makeover in their menu to incorporate meat things. These self service outlets run by ladies in crisp aprons serve non ostentatious but healthful scrumptious grub at incredibly inexpensive prices. They are largely frequented by students, pensioners and anybody hunting for a rapid meal that is light on the pocket. Sharing tables with strangers is quite considerably the norm and not an exception in these locations.
Milk Bar Hopping in Krakow
On a hot summer season afternoon in Krakow, I decided to stroll into 1 of these milk bars for a bite. A rapid google search threw up Pod Termida a handful of metres away on Grodzka. I obediently followed Google’s directions to my location. The small blue sign with bold white letters “Mleczny” Pod Termida can be missed if you are not hunting out. The spot was neat and spartan and to my comfort the “Jadlospis” or Menu had English translation of all the things. Greater nevertheless, the lady donning a crisp apron had a smile on her face and we managed to converse in English. I ordered a plate of Kluskie Slaskie with Mushroom Sauce and she rapidly conveyed directions to the kitchen in fast Polish when handing more than the transform. In the subsequent handful of minutes that I waited at the table for my meals, streams of folks queued up at the counter. The odd tourist in the melee of locals could very easily be identified by the lengthy pause in front of the menu on the wall.
The steaming plate of Kluskie Slaskie looked rather dull but my apprehension led to a wide smile as soon as I took the initially bite. The potato dumpling was produced from a dough of boiled mashed potatoes, flour and salt, modest balls of which had been subsequently flattened and steamed. The buttery mushroom sauce had loads of onion, garlic and spiced with pepper for taste. I devoured each and every bit of the spongy dumpling, sometimes observing the ladies across the table. They spoke in hushed tones exchanging smiles that would have been certainly concealed behind the down turned lips in their younger days beneath communist rule. Some folks had been politely turned away as their preferred Beetroot Zupi (Soup) was more than for the day. These outlets do brisk business enterprise and are typically performed with their restricted generate inside a handful of hours of opening. So if you are hunting for option, improved to pop up early and with money considering the fact that most do not accept credit cards. A fantastic 30 minutes later, 15ZL (four EUR) lighter but satiated with happiness, I slipped out into the cobbled streets of Krakow for a day of sightseeing.
I was zeroing on one more Milk Bar for the following day when my Air BnB hostess recommended that I must maybe go to a Pierogernia as well and sample the house produced dumplings. Pierogernia’s are comparable to Milk Bar’s in providing and price tag point. They are reviving the culture of relishing the Polish delicacies in a warm, no frills cafe like atmosphere with revolutionary fillings ranging from sweet to savory.
The hand painted wall decor, lamps, and tables in Pierogernia Krakowiacy was colorful. It was virtually like walking into a Polish folklore greeted by a traditonally attired young Polish hostess donning a floral crown. The menu for the day with grilled turkey, tomatoes and pepper seemed enticing but I wanted to have a handful of sweet ones as well.
My dilemma was quickly dissolved when she kindly agreed to give me a half of the day’s unique savory (Lepiaki na Slono) and a half of a sweet 1 (Lepiaki na Slodko) so that I could taste each. They looked quite comparable and drab but appearances are deceptive as they say. Turkey, Tomato and pepper served with some sweet apple relish did rather effectively although the pepper was far as well mild for my spicy Indian palate.
The cherry and mascarpone cheese stuffed dumpling sprinkled with powdered sugar tasted considerably improved than it looked. The sweetness of the filling countered by the not so thick layer of flour doused in thick creamy sauce was a treat for the tongue. It reminded me of my grandmother’s coconut and jaggery mix stuffed dumplings cooked in thickened milk. As I travel about the globe exploring as considerably with my stomach as I do with my eyes, I realise that cuisines merge into every single other at some point the fundamental idea remaining the identical leaving the innovation and differentiation to nearby components.
It was difficult to appear away from the slices of cheese cake (Sernik) loaded with berries that was kept on the counter. Right after a fill of pierogies, I controlled that burp stuck in my throat and gave in to my senses. The squishy cheese cake at 7 ZL significantly less than two EUR was a delight with all these wealthy appealing berries adding colour and taste.
I attempted my luck with Milk Bars in Warsaw as well but sadly the menu was in Polish and they had been all as well busy catering to the workplace crowd. If you are in Krakow would very advocate a meal in a Milk Bar and it will be a memorable date with current history. Do not neglect to carry money considering the fact that most of them do not accept cards and recall to ask for a mix of dumplings so that you can get the most effective of it as a tourist.
Back house in India, these self service spartan locations are the norm of the day be it the Dhabas in the North, the Darshinis in the south or the friendly street carts elsewhere. I frequent these outlets usually, taking their existence for granted. Milk Bar hopping in Krakow got me considering might be a 50 years later when India has progressed ahead and I am lengthy gone, these pocket friendly eateries that feed the masses will be but a relic of the previous holding on to nostalgia in some corner although I sincerely hope not.