Pierogi in stone dish on wooden table

The History of Polish Dumplings

Dumplings have been a staple of the Polish diet for a long time. History shows that dumplings likely originated in China, spreading to Europe through trade in the Middle Ages. They are called Pierogi in Polish and are prepared and consumed in abundance in Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus and Lithuania. These dumplings can also be found wherever there are large numbers of Polish migrants. Dumplings are internationally favored, with food outlets springing up in the USA, UK and Canada. They are called varenyky in Ukraine and pyrohy in Canada.

History in Asia

There is a legend that dumplings were first prepared and distributed during the Eastern Han Dynasty by a famous physician called Zhang Zhongjing to alleviate the sufferings of cold and fever among the local Chinese population. He cooked lamb, black peppers and medicinal herbs, shredding the ingredients and boiling them in dough skin. He shaped them to look like ears and served them with a bowl of warm soup. Vegetables, meat, potatoes and other ingredients have been added to it over the years. It is used to celebrate the Chinese New Year. 

History in Poland

The Polish pierogi is linked to a Polish Dominican monk Saint Hyacinth (also called Jacek Odrowaz). Magdelena Gessler, a Polish celebrity cook, states that Saint Hyacinth traveled to Kyiv and brought back the dish to Krakow in Poland. Another legend states that he was gifted pierogi after the Mongol invasion of Poland in 1240-41 after he delivered the people of Poland from starvation. There is even a popular colloquial phrase ‘Saint Hyacinth with his pierogis’. There are also claims that the dish was exported from China or the Kievan Rus. Whatever its origin, the dish is now a national staple of Polish cuisine.

Occasions to Eat Pierogi

In Poland, pierogi is a dish that is served on many occasions. A sweet version of pierogi called Saniez or Socznie is served on birthdays or christenings. Smaller versions called Uszka with a mushroom filling are served with borscht on Christmas Eve and also consumed during Easter. Pierogi has permeated every part of Polish life. During the Second World War, it was not uncommon to have pierogi served as the only dish at weddings.

The largest variety was multi-flavored, called henhouses and served at weddings. Koladki were a popular variation served during the caroling season while mourning dumplings called Knysz were shared during wakes. 

International Festivals

Poland has an annual Pierogi Festival around August 17 every year for the Feast of Saint Hyacinth. The best pierogi are awarded a statuette of the saint.  Festivals are also held in Whiting, Indiana and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania due to the large number of people of Polish origin who have settled there.

When learning about dumplings across the globe online just isn’t enough, come visit us at Patty Chen’s Dumpling School for a world-class dumpling making party you’ll be raving about for ages. Reach out to us today for more details!

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