Polish Raw Salads Vs. Cooked Salads - Sałatka Or Surówka

Polish Cucumbers in Sour Cream - Mizeria
Polish Cucumbers in Sour Cream - Mizeria. © Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

Sałatka Or Surówka That Is The Question

Salads are an important component of the Polish culinary repertoire, no matter how cold the weather. As in most cultures, appetizer salads and main-course salads exist, but the two most popular you will see served at breakfast, on buffets, with a meal, as a snack and at other times of the day fall into the categories of surówka and sałatka (not to be confused with sałata, the Polish word for "lettuce").


A sałatka typically is a cold salad made of cooked ingredients. Sałatki might include chicken, tuna, ham, beef, frankfurter, egg and other cooked proteins dressed with sour cream or Polish mayonnaise. Others are made with cooked vegetables like potatoes, potatoes and herring (), beets and others. As one might expect, there are always exceptions to this naming rule as in and other salads that are made with all raw ingredients.


A surówka is a cold salad made with raw ingredients like mizeria or sliced cucumbers in sour cream. Other surówki are lettuce salads, grated carrot and apple salads, sauerkraut and fresh cabbage salads, beet salads, radish salads and more. Surówki typically accompany hot meals. They change based on seasonal produce. So in the winter, root-vegetable salads figure prominently. An exception, among many others, to the naming convention is surówka z szynka i owoce, which includes cooked ham along with the fresh fruit.

How Mizeria Got Its Name

Legend has it this dish was a favorite of Queen Bona Sforza, an Italian princess who married the widowed Polish King Sigismund (Zygmunt) I (the old) in 1518. Homesick for her native Italy where fresh vegetables like cucumbers were common, everytime she ate it, it made her cry.

Hence the Polish word for "misery," derived from the Latin.

The Culinary Legacy of Bona Sforza

Vegetables other than cabbage and root vegetables were virtually unknown in Poland until Sforza introduced them. Many Polish words for vegetables, in fact, are taken directly from Italian -- kalafiory (cauliflower), pomidory (tomatoes) and sałata (lettuce), for example. To this day, soup greens are known as włoszczyzna or "Italian stuff," włoski being the Polish word for "Italian."

Popular Polish Salad Recipes