Get ready to channel your inner babushka as you cross the threshold from South Texas into Eastern Europe at Sasha’s European Market. Like many markets and shops in the Medical Center, Sasha’s exemplifies San Antonio’s diverse selection of specialty international grocers and markets.
When Sasha’s European Market first opened in 2010 they began by carrying almost exclusively Russian goods. While that still makes up a bulk of the selection, they now offer foods imported from more than 20 other European countries — primarily those in Eastern Europe like Poland, the Ukraine and Georgia. The store instantly transported me back to the months I spent living in Southern Poland outside of Krakow.
The first sight upon entering the shop is a generously filled deli case topped with a variety of Kinder Eggs, matryoshka (nesting doll) themed chocolates, halva (sweets), Eastern European wines, Russian magazines and a stack of poppy-seed danishes that were advised to not be eaten before a drug test. But if you can pull your eyes away from all the goods above the case, you’ll find the deli selection itself isn’t lacking. Sausages of all sorts fill the case, with Hungarian options being particularly plentiful alongside the Russian, Polish and even some Italian options. You’ll also find several smoked hams and deli-style cheeses in the case.
There are more cheeses along with refrigerated breads located in the back of the shop that are perfect for making the simple Eastern European staple of sliced buttered bread topped with cheese and cold meat slices, especially loved at breakfast.
The center of the store is filled with aisles boasting an extensive selection of dried and canned goods, with a large section devoted to pickles, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables. Sasha’s also carries teas, baking mixes, several choices of poppy seeds (though you’ve been warned), pastas, popular Eastern European grains like buckwheat, premium spices like Spanish paprika as well as cookies, cakes and other sweets.
In addition to the deli case at the front of the market, there are other freezers and refrigerators throughout Sasha’s filled with sweet and savory crepes, perogies/varenki (dumplings), smoked salmon and trout, caviar and roe, Russian sour cream, farmer’s cheese (ideal for making your own perogies), kefir (a European sour cream beverage), juice, imported water as well as cold beer and many other popular foods and beverages.
Along with making kissel and serving the aforementioned staple sandwich of bread, butter, cheese and cold meat at breakfast, my Polish host-mother also prepared mizeria for nearly every meal. When I first arrived in Poland I wasn’t a big fan of cucumbers. However, mizeria was the dish that won me over. It is simple, fresh and light alongside heavier entrees of meat and potatoes or other starches like pasta or dumplings that are common on an Eastern European table.
Mizeria is such a simple dish that you really need to use good quality ingredients for it to come out well. Thus, I highly recommend purchasing the imported European sour cream from Sasha’s to prepare it. Any leftover sour cream will complement borscht, perogies or even makaron z truskawkami (Polish pasta with strawberries) if you’re really wanting to expand your palate.
Polish Mizeria Cucumber Salad
1 pound English or small seedless cucumbers
½ cup good sour cream
1 bunch of dill
1 teaspoon of lemon juice or malt vinegar
½ teaspoon white sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Begin by slicing the cucumbers as thin as possible. The closer to paperthin, the better the texture will come out. Peeling the cucumbers is optional as English cucumbers have a thin skin.
Once the cucumbers are sliced, sprinkle them with the salt and let it them sit 10 minutes to “sweat.”
As the cucumbers sit in the salt, chop the dill. Then in a separate bowl combine the sour cream, acid of your choice and sugar. Set that aside.
After the 10 minutes ends, drain off the liquid from the cucumbers and then add the dill. Combine with the sour cream mixture and finish with a little bit of black pepper.
Mizeria should be chilled before serving. I personally would recommend at least an hour for it to truly marinate.
And despite it’s name, mizeria is anything but miserable. Pair it with your buttered cheese sandwich and a bag of spice cookies from Sasha’s and you have a nice little meal.
Sasha's is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
8023 Callaghan Road, (210) 348-7788.