With plenty of Polish food stores around the city, by now many Dubliners will have visited one.
Wandering through to the deli, the waft of the aromatic sausages can be inviting. But there are a huge variety of meats laid out behind the glass of the counter with no instructions.
Through the car park of Aldi on the Long Mile Road in Walkinstown, is one unassuming Polish shop. A poster outside indicates it’s called Sami Swoi.
Based underneath a yoga studio, it’s got Polish snack foods on the shelf to the left and a vat of pickles ready to be skewered. Its main feature, though, is a deli counter stretching along the wall to the back of the shop.
The middle is packed with sausages: some shriveled, some plump, some stumpy, some long, some dark as black pudding, some paler than an uncooked Superquinn sausage.
Kielbasa z beczki, kielbasa ze swiniobicia, swojska z bobrownik, kielbasa torunska, kielbasa z karkowka read the labels.
As you might’ve guessed, kielbasa is the Polish word for sausage.
A very different beast to the Irish sausage, Polish sausages are already cooked and come in many different flavours. In Sami Swoi, the only sausages kept with the raw joints of meat are the Irish ones.
The shades of brown and the intensity of the wrinkles vary depending on how long the sausages have been smoked. The texture depends on whether they’ve been dried or not.
And their flavours vary with the seasonings used in the meat. None would be plain.
Unlike Irish sausages, they keep for weeks and can be imported from Poland without any worry that they might go off.
The dried sausages are a favourite for hikers and campers who eat them as is or throw them on the campfire.
You can also reheat them in hot water, but they are most popular in summer when barbecues are alight.
Behind the counter of Sami Swoi in a red apron, Gosia keeps busy though the place is quiet this morning. She is from the north of Poland and helpfully points out the most popular sausages with her plastic-gloved hand.
They’re all made of pork with the exception of the two palest in the middle, which are made of chicken – kielbasa z fileta/piersi kurczaka.
She indicates the kielbasa ze spichrza as one of the most popular and her favourite. Its dark brown exterior has a strong smoky smell. Cutting through it shows a dark pink centre.
The taste isn’t as strong as I had expected from the scent. But its salty, smoked flavour lingers and is intensified after a grilling.
It tastes like Black Forest ham, but is a little drier. It could probably substitute for rashers on a BLT.
A lighter brown sausage – kielbasa ze wsi – is smoked and steamed. It tastes spicier than the kielbasa ze spichrza, but is much moister and fattier. It wouldn’t be too out of place in a coddle.
Gosia cuts half a long link of both – they’re not much short of a foot. They cost €1.18 each.
From the shelf, a long packaged stringy chicken sausage doesn’t smell as appetising as the stuff from the fridge. But its milder taste would suit someone with less adventurous taste buds.
There’s frankfurterki, which are obviously frankfurters, too. Though they are much longer and darker than what you’d get in other shops. And they aren’t floating in a jar of liquid.
Behind the counter, Gosia says that in Poland they are eaten with hot ketchup or really strong mustard. On the shelf, there seem to be some bottles to fit this description.
Kielbasa boczkowa (bacon sausage) is another favourite in the shop and isn’t too different from a frankfurter either.
Another type, kielbasa zwyczajna, is seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic. Then it is cured by smoking.
Easy to Find
Not many ethnically Irish people drop by Sami Swoi, Gosia says. It’s usually people with roots in Eastern Europe.
When Poland joined the European Union in 2004, Ireland was one of just three member states to open it’s borders to Polish workers. (The UK and Sweden were the other two). So, many of them came during the boom.
According to the 2011 census figures, 122,585 Polish people live here and make up 2.7 percent of the population. This was up from 63,276 in 2006. And up from 2,124 during the 2002 census.
They were the biggest minority in Ireland at the 2011 census and they have brought their culture and their cuisine with them.
Polish food stores have popped up all around the city. Chains like Polonez, Mroz, Polsmak, and, of course, Sami Swoi have flourished.
Yet Irish people are still probably more familiar with Italy’s sausage offerings than with Poland’s.
But if you can handle the likes of chorizo or pepperoni, then you’ll be well able for Polish sausages, which have flavours that tend towards the smokey rather than spicy.
And as they’re already cooked, there’s not much that can go wrong.