Baked or fried. Stuffed with meat or cabbage, potatoes or even egg.
Round and doughy, or flattened like a turnover and fried crisp.
Piroshki around here come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and levels of gluttony.
With the recent opening of one more piroshki option in the South Sound — Vostok Dumpling House in downtown Tacoma — I revisited my go-to stops for the Eastern European meat and veggie buns.
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301 133rd St., Tacoma; 253-537-1008; marvelfoodanddeli.com.
Two things set apart the glossy piroshki buns at Marvel Foods, a sizeable Eastern European grocery store near Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland. The first was that the buns emitted a yeasty waft like no other piroshki I’ve found here. Second, they lacked the deep-fried overkill of the competition. They tasted baked, not fried.
I found four styles of piroshki at the bakery display case, all 99 cents each. The cabbage roll, dusted with flour, tasted tinged with vinegar and a heavy lick of salt (not that I was complaining). The breakfast-style piroshki was densely filled with sausage and scrambled eggs. Meat and potato tasted like anemic chicken — I wasn’t a fan. The potato and mushroom piroshki came with a texturally sound stuffing of finely chopped mushrooms anchored by creamy potatoes, with a deep peppery bite.
If you’ve never explored Marvel Foods, plan to spend an hour perusing the fresh bread, the curious collection of European deli meats and cheeses, the freezer case of pierogi and liquor-filled chocolates (must be 21 to purchase). Stay for lunch. There’s a steam table with cabbage rolls and other Eastern European favorites, but they often sell out by late afternoon.
3612 Center St., Tacoma; 253-752-5649.
There are moments in your life when nothing will make you feel better than a fried mess of dough. For those moments, direct your car to Tacoma’s Friendly Foods, the Eastern European grocery store and deli near South Union Avenue and Center Street.
At the back of the store, on weekdays, you will find a selection of at least a half dozen meat-and-veggie filled buns and turnovers from 99 cents to $1.49.
My two favorites were vegetable-filled. The cabbage piroshki was an oversized oval, at least six inches long, with a cabbage stuffing with a delicious pickled funk that tasted like a tame sauerkraut. Creamy potato-stuffed piroshki skewed garlicky and I found the texture — crispy exterior breaking to a pillowy stuffing — satisfying.
The meat-filled piroshki suffered from a structural problem with a crumbly filling that spilled everywhere. A bun, identified not as piroshky, but as“belashy,” was stuffed full of ground meat with a light sweetness. That same filling was inside the chebureki, a flattened-out turnover that tasted similar to the meat turnovers served at the Washington State Fair by the Fleischkuechle food truck. And speaking of the fair, there’s a terrific piroshki vendor there called Kaleenka. I wish both places served more frequently outside the fair and festival circuit.
Friendly Foods grocery stocks a deep selection of Eastern European groceries, with a meat and cheese deli near the piroshki case.
Next door to Friendly Foods, you will find the affiliated Little European Cafe, which serves a wide range of steam-table fare with Eastern European roots, from soups to chicken and beef stews to piroshki and chebureki.
VOSTOK DUMPLING HOUSE
1126 Commerce St., Tacoma; 253-301-1085; vostokdh.com.
This newly opened Russian dumpling house in downtown Tacoma has a menu filled with dumplings — vareniki and pelmeni — but if you look deep into it, you’ll find piroshki. The sauerkraut piroshki was a decadent treat with a light-and-flaky exterior fried crisp. It carried the crackle of puff pastry. Cabbage and carrots had been cooked down to a sticky filling, with a puckery flavor. It was topped with a squiggle of sour cream. The menu price listed $3.50, but my receipt said $4.
There is also dessert piroshki listed — in apple and cherry. They’re $5 each.