Magdalena Michalewicz places bowls of green salad, fried parsnip ribbons, and some oscypek-style cheese on the windowsill of the Twisted Dough Wicklow food truck.
It’s a rainy Saturday at Bushy Park Market in Terenure. Behind Michalewicz, chef Karol Kowalczyk – her business partner and boyfriend – chops peppers, onions, and scallions.
For true-blue pierogi enthusiasts, these are maybe not the ingredients you would expect in Poland’s best-known dumpling.
“What we’re trying to do is show what Polish cuisine tastes like, and I think the combination of the flavours is amazing. So, we start with traditional flavours – some of them – and we also have a few new ones,” says Kowalczyk.
A mainstay of Polish milk bars and grandmothers, pierogi are dumplings made of dough wrapped around a filling of meat, vegetables, cheese, or fresh fruit. Combinations vary across regions.
Twisted Dough started selling three months ago at the Kilruddery Christmas Market. Since then, they’ve expanded to Bushy Park on Saturdays, and Marlay Park on Sundays.
They bought the truck from a neighbour in Wicklow, where their producers are also based. It was a spontaneous decision to start to sell this “Polish-Irish fusion food”, says Michalewicz. “We want to show off our pierogi to the Irish community.”
A lawyer by training, Michalewicz came to Ireland eight years ago for a job at the Polish Embassy. But her dream was always to start her own food business.
She left the embassy after five years to start a soft-drink distribution company. “I was selling drinks to food traders before as well, and I saw that there’s such an amazing idea of weekend markets in Ireland,” she says, adding that she thinks it’s “the best way to start a food business in Ireland”.
When the soft-drink company folded, the natural next step seemed to be for her to start a food truck. She and Kowalczyk, who was sous-chef in Sova Vegan Butcher at the time, started Twisted Dough Wicklow.
All the classic types of pierogi are here: meat, “Ruskie” (Russian style, with cheese curds and potato), and sauerkraut and mushroom.
“That’s what’s on the Christmas table always – every Polish person knows it,” says Kowalczyk. But his version has a twist.
“So, there’s sauerkraut and wild mushrooms, the classic way, but the garnish on top is glazed aubergine with rosemary, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, so it breaks with that sweet flavour all the sour flavour of the sauerkraut,” he says.
Kowalczyk makes the sauerkraut himself, following an old family recipe. Both of their mothers regularly send them wild mushrooms from the forests back home, too.
There’s also a twist to the Russian-style cheese-curd and potato pierogi, which are spiked with kale, scallions, and red-lentil salsa. And the meat pierogi – made with braised beef brisket – are topped with pancetta.
For the more experimental pierogi lover, there’s lentil, smoked tofu and hemp, with ginger and chilli – in a bright green dough.
“However we can bring an Irish taste to Polish cuisine, we’re going to do it,” says Michalewicz. “Especially right now, there’s a big passion for vegan food – […] it’s a new fashion, but based on Polish history.”
Michalewicz says her favourite part of the business is talking to customers. Most of the time, that means translating ingredients for those who recognise the dishes from trips to Poland.
Kowalczyk ladles out some beetroot borscht with small mushroom dumplings for a customer who has come up to the truck window. The soup is sweet from fresh beetroot, and the dumplings are salty and rich.
The truck also offers kopytka or “little hooves” – a kind of Polish gnocchi, served here with aubergine or creamy broccoli.
Kowalczyk says his family in Poland are happy that he’s promoting pierogi over here. “I showed them the menu – the main thing they loved was that we kept the name pierogi, and we kept the name favorki (fried pastries), and borscht, and they’re very happy to see that abroad – some of my family don’t speak English, so they feel like I’m home and happy.”
As Michalewicz prepares the garnishes, another customer comes to the window to order some Russian-style pierogi. He loves Eastern European food, he says. They talk about the oscypek and kopytka. She wraps his pierogi to go and tells him to fry them in a little oil when he gets home. He hasn’t been to Poland since 1968 he says, and wishes them luck.
“There were a lot of chefs that came to Ireland a few years ago, and they changed absolutely the cuisine in Ireland,” says Kowalczyk. “I came over here seven years ago, I learned as much as I could, and I believe that’s why Twisted Dough exists now.”
Feedback so far has all been positive, says Michalewicz. “You have to keep going z duchem czasu” – with the spirit of the times – “so if we would like to keep Polish cuisine in the present, we have to go with the times.”
CORRECTION: This article was updated at 10:48am on 21 March to reflect that Bushy Park is in Terenure, not Templeogue.