Ryba po Grecku: Fried Cod in Tomato Sauce (Communist-style)

Ryba po Grecku (w stylu PRL)

In Polish, ‘Ryba po Grecku’ (pron.: ree-bah poh gres-koo) literally means ‘Greek-style fish’. White fish gets fried until golden, and coated with a generous layer of grated root vegetables (carrots, parsley and celery roots). These veggies are swimming in sauce made of thick tomato paste.

‘Ryba po Grecku’ is usually served cold, alongside other other appetizers. It’s not clear who came up with this dish, nor where the inspiration really came from. There are a few similar Greek dishes, but none of them are full of root vegetables. 

Roughly from the 1950’s onwards, a recipe for ‘Ryba po Grecku’ started appearing in cookbooks. The height of its popularity fell on the times of the Communist regime. 

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

Back then, most Poles weren’t allowed to travel abroad. Access to imported foods was very limited. The only way to explore the world was through books and… through tastebuds.

Under Communism, many recipes ‘a la [insert country here]’ started popping up left, right and centre. ‘Greek-style fish’, ‘Japanese Makowiec’ (Poppy Seed Cake), ‘Beans a la Brittany’… the list goes on.

More often than not, these dishes had very little to do with the given country. But a foreign name added a touch of an unobtainable, international glamour.

‘Ryba po Grecku’ has survived the transformation, and is still present on a Polish Christmas table. Most homecooks follow the classic recipe –  and that’s what we’ll cook here today. 

For an updated, more festive version of this dish, have a look at this festive ‘Ryba po Grecku’ recipe. It’s with tomatoes (from a can, and not just a paste), dry wine, and fragrant notes of cinnamon and ginger.

Do you need any special ingredients or equipment to make this ‘Ryba po Grecku’?

Most of the ingredients should be easy to source in any major supermarket. The only troublesome ingredients are: parsley and celery roots. If you find only one of them – great. Just replace the missing ingredient with more of the other.

Equipment-wise, you’ll need a box grater or a mandoline slicer. If you want to save time and energy, a food processor works too.

What should you serve with this Cod in Tomato Sauce?

‘Ryba po Grecku’ is mostly served cold, alongside other Christmas Eve dishes. It’s also a popular choice for parties and family gatherings.

Serve it with slices of fresh bread and butter on the side. Beverage-wise, white wine (dry or semi-dry) pairs best.

Can you cook this ‘Ryba po Grecku’ another way?

Yes, you can change a few things:

  • Swap the cod for any other white fish, such as hake or pollock. 
  • The fish itself can be fried (like in this recipe), steamed, grilled or baked.
  • You can serve it in a single baking dish or as individual portions (as explained in this Christmas Fish recipe).
  • Polish celebrity chef Magda Gessler uses courgettes (zucchini) in her recipe (here’s a video in Polish), so feel free to experiment with the veggies.

What diets is this ‘Ryba po Grecku’ suitable for?

This recipe is meat-free and is suitable for vegetarians who allow fish and dairy in their diets.

If you would like to make this recipe gluten-free, skip the flour and fry the fish without it. 

How long can you keep this Christmas Fish in the fridge?

Once served, don’t keep it out for more than 4 hours.

Refrigerate for up to 5 days. Make sure to wrap the dish in cling film, or use a container with a lid. Otherwise, the aromas will spread around the fridge.

Can I freeze this ‘Ryba po Grecku’?

Yes, but only if you want to preserve any leftovers. I wouldn’t recommend cooking this dish with an intention to freeze it.

Move the leftovers into a freezer-friendly container with a lid and label it with a description and a date. Consume within 3 months. 

How do I reheat this Christmas Fish?

From chilled: There’s no need to reheat this dish, it’s delicious when cold – actually, I prefer it this way. If you want to eat it warm, it’s best to pop it to the oven for 10 minutes at 320°F (160°C).

From frozen: Thaw the fish in the fridge overnight. Serve cold or reheat in the oven (10 minutes at 320°F/160°C). You could also blast it in a microwave – 3 to 4 minutes are usually enough to heat it throughout.

Smacznego!

Cod in tomato sauce with vegetables - Polish fish dish "Ryba po grecku"

Ryba po Grecku: Fried Cod in Tomato Sauce (Communist-style)

Yield: 10
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

In 'Ryba po Grecku’, white fish gets fried until crispy and lightly golden. Then, it gets coated with a generous layer of grated root vegetables in a thick tomato sauce. Serve it alongside some fresh bread.

This recipe is enough for around 10 portions (appetizer-size).

Ingredients

  • 2.2 lb (1 kg) cod fillets, fresh or frozen
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper, ground
  • 4 large (500 g) carrots
  • 1 large (150 g) parsley root
  • ½ celery root
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil, for frying
  • flour, for dusting
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika spice
  • ½ tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp (80g; 1 small jar) tomato paste / concentrate
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/3 leek (white part), optional
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh dill; chopped, for garnish

Instructions

  1. If your fish fillets are frozen, thaw them overnight in the fridge.
  2. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Slice the fillets into smaller pieces, roughly 2-2.5 in (5-6 cm) long. 
  3. Generously season the fillet pieces with salt and pepper, then set aside.
  4. Peel carrots, parsley root and celery root. Grate all of them using the largest shredding holes. (A food processor does the job too).
  5. Move grated veggies into a cooking pot, cover with boiling water (just enough to cover), throw in a pinch of salt.
  6. Cover the pot with a lid, leaving a tiny gap for the steam to escape. Cook for 10 minutes on a low-medium heat. 
  7. Add in allspice berries and bay leaves and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.
  8. As the veggies are cooking, fry the fish: Heat up a spoonful of oil on a frying pan. Coat each cod fillet with flour and fry on both sides until golden. The exact time will depend on the thickness of your fillets, but in general - roughly 3 minutes each side is enough. Continue until you’re out of raw fillets. Don’t clean the frying pan just yet.
  9. Let’s go back to the veggie pot. At the very end of cooking, add half a teaspoon of smoked paprika spice, half a teaspoon of ground black pepper, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar. You can squeeze in some lemon juice as well, but that’s optional. Combine everything together with a spatula.
  10. Retrieve some of the liquid from the pot and into a cup (or bowl). Add in the tomato paste and blend together with a fork until well combined. Add this tomato mixture back to the veggie pot.
  11. Peel the onion. Slice it into half moons. Do the same with the leek. Drop both into the frying pan (same one we used for frying the fish) and fry gently until the onions turn translucent and lightly golden. 
  12. Move the contents of the frying pan into the cooking pot. Combine together with a spatula.
  13. Have a taste. If the tomatoey mass tastes too acidic for your liking, add some more sugar or a splash of tomato ketchup.
  14. Time to assemble our dish. You can do so in a baking dish (glass or ceramic) or a large serving plate (although the former works probably better). 
  15. Line the dish with fried fish fillets. The tomatoey veggie mixture goes on top - distribute it evenly. 
  16. Cover the dish (e.g.with cling film) and refrigerate. If you leave it there overnight - even better. The flavours will get a chance to develop.
  17. Garnish with chopped dill or parsley leaves before serving.

Notes

  • Cod fillets can be substituted with hake, pollack, blue grenadier. Some homecooks use a cheaper alternative called pangas catfish.
  • This recipe was inspired by two recipes I combined and altered for accessibility: Ryba po Grecku by Jakub Kuroń (recipe in Polish) and Ryba po Grecku from Magazyn Kuchnia magazine

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 180Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 506mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 4g

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Cuisine: Polish
Region / Subregion: all-Polish
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