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Uszka is a Polish dumpling that is usually filled with minced meat, cabbage, or mushrooms. It is often served alone, but it often is accompanied by a Ukrainian soup called borscht. While the food originated in Poland, it is a common dish in several Eastern European countries, particularly in Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. It is especially popular as traditional dish served at Christmas time in these countries.
The word uszka means “little ears” in Polish, and is inspired by the shape of the dumplings. They are made of folded squares of dough, to which the filling is added. The finished product looks similar to a Chinese wonton or an Italian tortellini.
Uszka dough is made of eggs, flour, and salt. The base filling consists of onion, butter, bread crumbs,and egg. The rest of the filling is traditionally savory and usually consists of dried boletus mushrooms, cabbage, or minced meat, either alone or combined. The boletuses are a particularly favored ingredient, as there is a strong Polish tradition of mushroom hunting.
The dumplings are made by placing the filling into a square of dough and pressing the corners together into a triangle over the filling. Then the two points of the triangle are pinched together to form a small package. The dumplings are then boiled for several minutes in salted water.
Though uszka dumplings have a simple recipe, preparing them is time and labor intensive. Many Polish families prepare large amounts of the dumplings at a time and freeze them for later use. A typical supply can last for several months.
Particularly as a traditional Christmas meal, uszka are often served with borscht, a Ukrainian soup that can be served either hot or cold. Though it is often made primarily of beetroot, borscht can also have a dominant tomato base or even sorrel for a green-colored broth. A white borscht made of fermented rye is also popular in Poland. The Polish version of borscht tends to have more ingredients than its Ukrainian counterpart, including carrots, garlic, celery, and root vegetables. The uszka can either be served in or alongside the soup.
Uszka are similar to pierogi and varenyky dumplings, which are also a part of traditional Eastern European cuisine. Pierogi can be baked or fried, and are usually served as an appetizer. They are made of dough cut into circles or squares and either folded in half or pressed into a half-circle. Varenyky are usually crescent-shaped and filled with a combination of cheese, cabbage, meat, sauerkraut, meat, and hard-boiled eggs. Some varieties of varenyky are simply filled with fruit.