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Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

The backbone of the Polish Christmas Cuisine | Origin and recipe for Ryba po grecku

ByDominika Margolt

Dec 2, 2022

What is ryba po grecku?

Ryba po grecku is a dish known in Poland possibly based on Greek Psari Plaki. It is typically served cold and is prepared from fried pieces or fillets of fish covered with vegetable sauce. Basic sauce ingredients include grated carrots, parsley, celery, onion as well as tomato concentrate (which you may know under the name tomato paste).

This traditional recipe features fried white fish, such as perch, pike, walleye pollock, and frequently cod smothered in vegetable sauce, which has been smothered in tomato paste. At first glance, one might wonder why on earth anyone would want to cover crispy fried fish with a wet sauce? Well, it works and is delicious.

Ryba po grecku is usually served at most Wigilia dinners,  the meatless (because obviously fish is not an animal) Polish Christmas Eve. Along with 11 other vegetarian courses, ryba po grecku will be tasted one by one and again and again. As there are so many dishes prepared for this special day, only a small portion of each is served at a time. However the process will be repeated, the process of eating, not cooking, obviously. People will continue eating on the Christmas Day, in Poland called the 1st day of Christmas, and on the 26th of December, called the 2nd day of Christmas in Poland. Nobody is complaining about eating the same food over again, as some of this festive fares will not be cooked for another year.

Is this dish made of fish actually Greek in origin?

Its name most probably derived from the connection of ingredients typical for the Mediterranean cuisine, i.e. fish and stewed vegetables with olive oil. Many Polish people argue that there really is nothing Greek about this POLISH ryba po grecku recipe, yet that is the name it has carried for years.

If we were to show the Greeks fried pollock fillets, covered with grated carrots, celery, onions and tomato concentrate, asking if they were able to recognize it as a Greek dish, they would be likely to nod their heads in an affirmative manner. However, it is good remembering that this gesture has the opposite meaning in Greece comparing to the Western countries.

The differences between Polish ryba po grecku and Greek psari plaki

Above all, fresh tomatoes and good-quality olive oil, which is a splendid flavor carrier, are used for the preparation of the psari plaki. The obligatory elements also include dry red wine, lemon juice, and substantial amount of oregano and garlic.

Ryba po grecku is usually fried rather than stewed, and is served cold. The vegetables also differ, because the ones that are used for the preparation of the Polish variant include carrot, celery, parsley root or parsnip. As you can see, the resemblance between the Polish and the Greek dishes can be found but it’s a loose reference rather than a precise interpretation.

So, as expected, The Polish national variation is probably a bit bastardized version of the Greek dish.

INGREDIENTS

Fish frying:

  • 500 g of fish fillets (any white, mild fish will work; perch, pike, pollock, cod)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons of oil

Vegetable sauce:

  • 5 carrots
  • 1 parsley root
  • 1 parsnip
  • ½ a celery root
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 100 ml of vegetable broth or water
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • a sprinkle of pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika

INSTRUCTIONS

Fish frying:

  1. Wash fish fillets, pat dry and cut into about 8 cm pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Break an egg into one deep plate, add a tablespoon of water and scramble. Place flour in another deep plate.
  3. Heat oil in a frying pan. Dip each piece of fish in one plate, then another, and then fry on medium heat until the pieces become lightly golden brown.
  4. Remove the fish pieces and place on a plate.

Vegetable sauce:

  1. Peel carrots, parsnip, parsley root and celery root and grate on the largest side of a vegetable box grater. Chop the onions.
  2. Heat oil in a deep frying pan.  Afterwards, add peppercorns, allspice berries, and bay leaves, followed by shredded vegetables and onions.
  3. After about 10 minutes, add broth, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and paprika. Sauté until cooked, about 5 minutes. Overcooking is nor recommendable, vegetables should be a bit crunchy.
  4. Once vegetable sauce is prepared, create layers on a serving plate by placing about ⅓ of the vegetable mixture first, then put the fish pieces on it. After, cover the pieces with the rest of the vegetable sauce.
  5. Having cooled, place into a refrigerator and keep there until serving.

Enjoy!