To Fry, or Not to Fry…That is the Question!

My mother’s mother’s parents were both from a small village in what was then Galicia, later Poland between the World Wars, and is now Ukraine. My Great-Grandfather was Polish, and my Great-Grandmother was Ruthenian. Since my earliest childhood memories, had pierogi for Christmas Eve dinner every year, and they were always boiled. Yet today if you go to Poland or talk to many other Polish people, even here in the USA, they fry their pierogi before serving them. Why fried? It’s not what I grew up with in my very Polish household.

I guess a better question is, “Why not?”  In truth, I now prefer my pierogi fried, and I think it adds a layer of flavor to them. I always fry mine now. For Wigilia I serve them with sour cream and with fried onions. At other times of the year, I add chopped bacon to the onions. But the question has always puzzled me as to why my mother, her mother (my grandmother), and my mother’s mother (my great-grandmother), only boiled them, and never fried them. I believe the answer is in the regional nature of foods, how dishes, even such widely Slavic dishes like pierogi, change over various regions.

Today if you go to Ukraine, you will be served the Ukrainian version of pierogi, called varenyky. They are in general never fried, only boiled. [They also have a small cousin, pelmeni, which are very small, almost like tortellini, but also boiled only.] I think my great-grandmother simply cooked as the people in her region did, and that’s that they made these little dumplings of goodness (called pierogi in Polish and varenyky in Ukrainian) and boiled them and served them that way. It’s how it was done in that area of the Kresy, the borderlands of Poland. So, in Poland pierogi are usually boiled then fried, but in the eastern areas, varenyky are only boiled. Yet they are basically the same thing. Pierogi, varenyky, basically the same thing.

So, the end result? Well, do what you like with them, call them what you’re comfortable calling them (pierogi, varenyky — also called Pyrohy, Pedehey, or heaven on a plate).  Fry them or not, they are still wonderful. There is no right or wrong, there is only the enjoyment of these wonderful, delightful dumplings that are popular throughout the Slavic world with some variations. Smacznego!

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5 Responses to To Fry, or Not to Fry…That is the Question!

  1. Donna says:

    Can’t wait to enjoy some pierogi tomorrow at Mom’s!

  2. Luisa Djadkin says:

    I understood that vareneky were boiled as the word vareni means boiled and the dough is basic whereas pirogi is made with yeast and means a pie which is either baked or deep fried, I could be wrong but that is how I have been brought up.

  3. Billy says:

    I think if the varenyky are freshly made leave them just add well mix in butter but for the next day i fry the varenyky… ….

  4. Mirosław Jędrzejewski - Lublin, Poland says:

    I warmly welcome! In our Polish Lublin, the most popular are, of course, Russian dumplings – because of the proximity. These are the dumplings with boiled potatoes, cottage cheese and fry onions. We also have rural dumplings (with buckwheat and cottage cheese), dumplings with sauerkraut and mushrooms and dumplings with meat (cooked and ground). In recent years, they are becoming increasingly popular dumplings with spinach. Very common they are also dumplings with different fruit. If they are mostly with cream. There are also special dumplings Lublin – with cream cheese, slightly sweet. We know only boiled dumplings! Those who love, time frying them only later before consumption. So much for our “pierogi”. Regards.
    —- Witam serdecznie! U nas w polskim Lublinie najbardziej popularne sa oczywiscie pierogi ruskie – ze wzgledu na bliskie sasiedztwo. Sa one z gotowanymi ziemniakami, twarogiem i podsmazana cebula. Mamy tez pierogi wiejskie (z kasza gryczana i twarogiem), pierogi z kapusta kiszona í grzybami, pierogi z miesem (gotowanym i mielonym). W ostatnich latach coraz popularniejsze staja sie pierogi ze szpinakiem. Bardzo rozpowszechnione sa tez pierogi z roznymi owocami. Jada sie je przewaznie ze smietana. Sa tez specjalne pierogi lubelskie – z twarogiem, lekko slodkie. U nas znamy TYLKO pierogi gotowane! Ci co lubia, czasem smaza je tylko pozniej przed spożyciem. To tyle o naszych pierogach. Pozdrawiam.

    • Mirosław Jędrzejewski - Lublin, Poland says:

      I did not know that the Polish version of the text, you can use our Polish letters characters, because it does not always work. I see that, yes, so Pasting again this passage:_
      * Witam serdecznie! U nas w polskim Lublinie najbardziej popularne są oczywiście pierogi ruskie – ze względu na bliskie sąsiedztwo. To są pierogi z gotowanymi ziemniakami, twarogiem i podsmażaną cebulą. Mamy też pierogi wiejskie (z kaszą gryczaną i twarogiem), pierogi z kapustą kiszoną i grzybami, oraz pierogi z mięsem (gotowanym i mielonym). W ostatnich latach coraz popularniejsze stają się pierogi ze szpinakiem. Bardzo rozpowszechnione są też pierogi z różnymi owocami. Jada się je przeważnie ze śmietaną. Są też specjalne pierogi lubelskie – z twarogiem, lekko słodkie. U nas znamy tylko pierogi gotowane! Ci co lubią, czasem smażą tylko później przed spożyciem. To tyle o naszych “pierogi”. Pozdrawiam.

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