Welcome to the third part of the Polish Christmas series. I decided to dedicate one full post to the real kings of Polish Christmas Eve’s dinner - fish.
You may think -“Yeah, but what has a fish to do with Jesus?” - the answer is pretty simple. Take at look:
ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (Iēsoûs) – JesusΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Christós) – ChristΘΕΟΥ (Theoû) – God’sΥΙΟΣ (Hyiós) – SonΣΩΤΗΡ (Sōtér) – Savior
It’s an acrostic - first letters of these Greek words form other very important one: ΙΧΘΥΣ (ICHTHYS), what means simply “a fish”. Fish was a first symbol of Christianity - cross gained more recognition as a Christian symbol in the 6th century.
As I mentioned in the Essential Guide to Polish Christmas - carp is the ultimate king of the night. However, traditionally also pikes, trouts and herrings were very common. Nowadays also other fish available in Poland such as tilapias, salmons, tunas, etc. became very common.
They are served basically in any form: grilled, steamed, baked or fried, in salad, as pierogi’s or pastries’ filling - cook’s imagination is the only limit! Let’s start with the most unusual choices, shall we?
Fish in a jelly - ryba w galarecie
Don’t be mistaken with jellyfish! ;-) Anything "in a jelly" is very popular in Poland and the be honest I think we eat more fish in jelly and meat in jelly than sweet jellies. I may be wrong though…
There are, as always, different ways to prepare this dish, I will just present the general idea. First you need to prepare mirepoix (włoszczyzna) stock (wywar) and in the meantime you separately cook the fish of your choice. Later you add some gelatin and the fish, decorate it as you wish, and leave for some time in cold place.
Some people get very creative and make it look like a jelly dessert :D
Fried fish and baked fish - ryby smażone i ryby pieczone
In most countries fish is served either baked, steamed, grilled or sauteed. In Poland we almost always serve it fried.
Baked fish however is also extremely common on Christmas Eve’s tables. Especially ryba po grecku - fish baked with carrot and tomatoes. The name literally means “Greek style fish”, but it has nothing to do with Greece. Nobody knows why it’s called this way :)
Soused Herring - marynowany śledź
In some regions there won’t be a proper Christmas meal without śledź z celublką - herring with onion and oil. They are also served with other sauces: vinegar, oil with herbs, etc.
Some people also like to fill pierogi with fish, however it’s not too common.
I have to admit that I hate fish… that’s why it took me soo long to write this post! But well… it’s part of Polish culture :)
And now: time for a Christmas song! It’s “Kolęda dwóch serc” - Polish version of Last Christmas!