You can’t escape visiting NYC without at least hearing about knishes. Next time you’re in the City, make it a point to taste one of these Jewish dumplings. The outer shell is made from dough, usually yeast based for a more chewy texture, wrapped around a savory filling, and then baked or fried.
The commercially produced versions are similar in shape to frozen fish patties. And while the Eastern-European varieties are hors d’oeuvre sized, New York City shops make them close to the size of hamburgers. Most of what you’ll get in shops around here will be made from scratch and definitely won’t rely on frozen shells. Once rolled and formed, they are brushed with egg and then baked or fried. Baked knishes may be molded to allow some of the filling to show, while fried knishes are sealed tightly to avoid leakage.
Unlike normal dumplings, which are round in shape, knishes tend to be flatter but ultimately there is no set formula. I have eaten them round, rectangular and square. Traditionally, they’re stuffed with mashed potato, ground meat, sauerkraut, onions, kasha (buckwheat groats) or cheese. But if you’re vegetarian or simply turned off by these ingredients, modern filling varieties feature sweet potatoes, black beans, fruit, broccoli, tofu or spinach.
To save time in hunting for the best experience, I recommend you head straight to Yonah Schimmel Knishery on the Lower East Side at 137 East Houston Street. They have a diverse selection that are only baked. Other establishments sell them fried and these are best eaten while they’re still hot. Whatever you do, just remember that the “k” isn’t silent so when ordering, avoid being a shlemiel and pronounce it!