Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
‘Zapiekanka’ comes from Polish word ‘zapiekac’ which means ‘to bake’. In general it can describe dishes consisting of various ingredients (topped with sauce), that are baked in the oven. But in Poland there is one type of ‘zapiekanka’ that is the most common and is nowadays one of the most popular fast-food snacks in the country. It came into being during period of Communism in Poland and is still a meal that every Pole knows. It is easy to make at home, sold all around the country in most of the fast-food places and its recipe enables to change ingredients so as to invent new types and sorts of the meal.
Traditional zapiekanka is halved baguette topped with champignons, hard cheese and ketchup on it. These were the ingredients that were quite easy to get during the Communist regime in Poland. With time, however, people started to add ham, vegetables, different sorts of cheese or sauces when making Zapiekanka.
How to make ‘Zapiekanka’
(in amounts depending on number of people)
You must halve the baguette first (if it is very long you may also cut it into smaller pieces). If you use microwave or ordinary oven, you should fry the champignons separately on the pan before putting them on the baguette. You put the mushrooms on the inside part of the halved baguette, then top it with hard cheese – if you grate the cheese before, it will be easier to distribute it along the whole surface. Bake zapiekanka in the oven till the cheese is melted and the baguette becomes crunchy. Using a microwave might be an option but also very tricky one. If the heat is not strong enough, your zapiekanka might become not as crunchy as you would maybe wish. After zapienka is baked, serve it with ketchup.
There are many places that specialise in making zapiekankas, as well as you can purchase frozen ones in some of the shops in Poland. There is especially one place in Krakow (south of Poland) that became popular for delicious zapiekankas among the locals and tourists. Even the most acclaimed tourist guides mention the spot as a must. It is a small square (called ‘Nowy Square’) located in Kazimierz district of the city. In the round building – that used to be a kosher butchery – there are couple of places that serve numerous types of zapiekanka. The most renowned among them is one called ‘Endzior’ – you can recognise it by the long line of people waiting to eat their favourite fast-food. This is also one of the places that started to produce new versions of zapiekanka. It, of course, still most of the time consists of champignons and hard cheese but one can add ham, salami, vegetables, fried onion or chive on the top. You can exchange mushrooms for spinach or hard cheese for traditional highlander’s smoked cheese called ‘oscypek’. You can also top zapiekanka with ketchup or mayonnaise, take both of them, or exchange them for garlic sauce.
All in all, when sitting and home and wishing for something easy and tasty to eat, zapiekanka will surely be one of the best choices ever!