A lot has already been written about the culinary traditions and flavours of the Małopolska region. These include delicacies made from sheep’s milk, delightful and original bakery products, as well as Małopolska’s vineyards. The topic of lesser-known dishes such as siuśpaj from the Tarnów area or cabańskie potatoes, which have yet to be discovered by wider circles of gourmets, has also been taken up by online sources and other publications. So, it’s hardly surprising that we’ve seen the creation of the Małopolska Gourmets Route, which is a trail of regional inns serving traditional dishes, with each place awarded between one and three stars, depending on whether it meets certain requirements.
No one awards stars to mountain shelters for the quality of service and epicurian delights of the food. Instead, stories circulate among tourists about where they bake delicious apple pie, serve wonderful dumplings or other dishes, after eating which one can only sigh in complete satisfaction: Delicious! There are hikers who choose a particular route precisely because they want to eat their favourite dish. It’s possible that the evaluation and taste experience is also influenced by the physical effort involved in reaching the refuge and the atmosphere of the place, the views it offers. So, let’s take a look at what and where to eat on the hiking trails of Małopolska.
Let’s start with soup
Broth or tomato soup are Polish classics when it comes to soups, but not in the mountain shelters. But there’s an exception: the almost legendary tomato soup in the shelter in the Five Polish Ponds Valley in the Tatra Mountains. So, how about a ‘classic’ sour soup, with eggs, sausage and a slice of bread, i.e., a very filling combination, one that perfectly fits the bill after a major physical effort? We won’t get this soup either, although it’s excellent in many places. Maybe kwaśnica then? Yes, it’s pointed out by many tourists, especially those staying in the Tatra mountain shelters. It’s hardly surprising: after all, kwaśnica has its origins in these areas. However, it might not surprise you that more sophisticated flavours reign in the mountains.
Turbacz mountain shelter in Gorce is known for several soups: horseradish soup with potato pancake, oscypek soup, and garlic soup with croutons. The countless accolades of which the kitchen is fond of boasting have it that the former is a marvel and the garlic one is simply brilliant.
The latter also tastes delicious in the shelter in the Roztoka Valley n the Tatra Mountains, where it competes with boletus soup with noodles for the title of best dish. Horseradish soup, on the other hand, filled with generous helpings of bacon, potatoes and eggs, is also worth trying in the shelter on Markowe Szczawiny on the slopes of Babia Góra.
In the Trzy Korony Shelter in Sromowce Niżne, they serve a delicious baraninówka, a well-seasoned goulash soup based on mutton with lots of vegetables and a blob of cream, for which, some people come here on purpose, claiming that it’s the tastiest one in the entire Podhale. There’s also no shortage of supporters of the local sour soup with potatoes and ribs, prepared in accordance with Sromowce traditions, i.e., with mashed potatoes and special ingredients which give the soup its unique flavour.
The site on Kudłacze in Beskid Makowski is made famous by the cream soup made of wild garlic, which gets lots of attention on many food blogs and is mentioned in other media specialising in food and all things culinary.
And then there’s this interesting fact: in the shepherd’s hut at the foot of Bereśnik in Beskid Sądecki sometimes you can eat a soup which can seem completely unusual for a shelter: a delicious ramen. Then again, surprising the guests is probably a trademark of this mountain getaway. Tourists are greeted by flowers growing in... shoes, and food is served on fancifully decorated plates.
Main course: traditional pork chop or perhaps dumplings?
In this category, it’s difficult to identify a single favourite. The variety of tastes and flavours is overwhelming. The list of dishes pointed out by hikers includes, of course, the traditional pork chop, which is recommended by visitors of the shepherd’s hut on Maciejowa in the Gorce Mountains. The dish is also praised by regular visitors of the shelters on Przehyba, Turbacz, in a shepherd’s hut at the foot of Bereśnik (fried cabbage with pork chops and Janosik potatoes – ‘A real hit’, according to one review) and in the shelter at Markowe Szczawiny, where it’s sometimes lovingly referred to as ‘the bear’s paw’.
The official original names of the dishes can be found in the Orlica shelter in Pieniny Mountains, near the marina where rafting down the Dunajec River Gorge ends. The most popular are janosikowy pancake – a potato pancake layered with goulash, oscypek, tomato, and cheese, served with pickled cucumber – and juhas dumplings stuffed with potatoes, oscypek and bryndza, and topped with cranberries or onions. A review of the dumplings can be summarised with the following words: the pastry is tender, the filling melts in the mouth, something wonderful. The local oven-baked trout with lemon and garlic butter has no original name but is truly unique, which is confirmed by opinions such as: wonderful, yummy yum yum!
You can also eat janosikowy pancake in the Trzy Korony shelter, where it’s served in a highlander variation: with fresh vegetables, pickled cucumbers, oscypek and a side of garlic sauce. As it is located in a village where many rafters come from, you can enjoy a delicious rafter’s chop –breaded chicken breast topped with mozzarella, tomato and wild garlic pesto.
Among the dishes mentioned by the enthusiasts of classic cuisine, there’s also pork knuckle and bigos at Przehyba and goulash at Markowe Szczawiny.
It may surprise a little that after the rigours of the hike, many tourists seek out meatless dishes. Undoubtedly the most popular are those with berries (for some, blueberries, which are abundant in the mountain forests and sometimes delay the hike considerably, because it’s impossible to pass them by without stopping to pick some, and indulge…
Berries generally show up in the shelters’ menus inside their dumplings. The mountain shelter on Przehyba is praised for them, as is the shepherd’s hut Nad Wierchomlą in Beskid Sądecki and the one in the Roztoka Valley. In the latter, it’s also worth trying dumplings with lentils and those with a ‘traditional’ filling: the ruskie pierogi, and the ones with meat.
Although the Turbacz shelter is famous for its ‘traditional’ potato pancakes with mushroom sauce, they have stiff competition in the form of hot pasta with cream and berries. In turn, the shelter at Jaworzyna Krynicka in the Beskid Sądecki region, gets great reviews for its Lemko fuczki, i.e., cutlets from sauerkraut served with garlic sauce, goulash, leczo (lech –oh) or vegan leczo with smoked tofu.
Among supporters of sweet dishes, racuchy pancakes on Kudłacze and in the shepherd’s hut at Maciejowa also receive positive reviews. Instead, it’s hard to find a place where the traditional pancakes would inspire shouts of delight. Opinions on them are generally moderate, boiling down to the word correct.
Writing about the delicacies in the Małopolska shelters, it’s impossible not to mention the legendary Lemko dumplings in the shepherd’s hut in Bartne in the Beskid Niski. Unfortunately, these have now become a thing of the past with the resignation of the shelter’s long-standing tenant.
Time for dessert: apple pie!
There’s only one queen in this category: apple pie! However, there can be long arguments about which shelter serves the best apple pie. A solid piece of cake with lots of apples from the shelter in the Five Polish Ponds Valley is considered by many to be iconic; others argue that nothing compares to the apple pie from the Roztoka Valley. Still others insist that the combination of apple pie with cream and berry topping served in the Chochołowska Valle as Chochołowski Dessert, and on Turbacz under the name Gorczański Dessert. A similar set, but with ice cream and vanilla sauce, in the Orlica shelter is known as the Pieniński Dessert.
There are also very many supporters of the apple pie at Jaworzyna Krynicka (there’s even an English-language entry in Google reviews saying that it’s the best apple pie in Poland. You have to come here), at Przehyba and at Markowe Szczawiny, where a wonderful cheesecake with an appetising chocolate glaze baked on site has been competing for the title of best dessert for years. There is also no shortage of enthusiasts of the baked goods served in the teahouse in the Strążyska Valley, not far from Giewont’s sleeping knights.
So, do they have some magic apple pie recipe in the mountains? Who knows, perhaps, as the apple pie is praised by visitors and by bakers in other shelters. Is it because of the mountain air and views admired in the process? This is something we’ll never fully settle.
However, some refuse to answer the question of where they had the most delicious dessert in the mountains, as if they want to hide something from others... It can’t be ruled out that they don’t want to share their experiences for fear that the crowds of visitors will eat the beloved delicacies to the last crumb.
Since this is the case, we encourage you to wander around, discover more delicious desserts on your own and reach for local baked goods to form your own opinion.
Instead of arguing, it’s better to eat
Many people may have different preferences, insist on their own types, or will claim to have eaten something more delicious elsewhere. We believe that it’s not worthwhile to have culinary disputes, as tastes and flavours are to be shared and savoured – the stuff of harmony and pleasure. They differ, but everyone will find something tasty for themselves in the shelters of the Małopolska region. Drawing on local culinary traditions promotes diversity and the uniqueness of flavours. We therefore invite you to check out the car routes and hiking routes in order to reach various corners of the region and delight not only in the sights and views, but also in the food served there.