What is a dumpling?
A dumpling is a pocket of dough usually filled with some sort of savory filling, but when it comes to soup dumplings, they can also be dough without any filling.
Dumplings are an almost universal type of food, there are lots of different types of dumplings from around the world. Infinitely adaptable and versatile, dumplings have become staples for many people. Dumplings can be made from different types of doughs, have different kinds of fillings, they can be steamed, boiled or fried, the options are all there for you to choose.
It's no wonder we have several kinds of dumplings in the Jewish cuisine from around the world, today we are focus on Jewish soup dumplings. Starting with the most popular and well known, the matzo ball.
This video from 2013 is one of our most searched for videos on youtube, with viewers from all over the world wanting to try their hand at this iconic Jewish staple. Matzo balls, otherwise known as Knaidlach, are dumplings made form ground matzo, eggs, fat, liquid and seasoning, most traditionally served on Passover, but many Jewish people serve them all year round on Shabbat in their chicken soup.
According to Gil Marks, author of Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, explains that they were developed as Passover alternative for the more commonly made bread or flour dumplings that became popular in Europe in the 12th Century. But they only became popular in the 20th century when packaged matzo meal was introduced.
We love matzo balls first because they are delicious, but we also love their versatility just like any good dumpling. We have colored our matzo balls, we have stuffed our matzo balls, we have fried our matzo balls. We have made large light and fluffy matzo balls called floaters and we have made small dense matzo balls called sinkers. What kind of matzo balls do you like?
The next soup dumpling on our trip around the Jewish world is Kubbe. Kubbe comes to us from the Jews of Iraq, Syria and Kuradistan and has become quite popular around Israel.
Kubbeh is made from either pure semolina flour or a mix of semolina and bulgur combined with water. The dough is stuffed with either raw or sautéed beef mixed with onions and seasonings. There are a few different kinds of broth most commonly cooked with Kubbe, the most well known are either made with beets as in our video or green veggies and lemon, called Chamusta. Check out our other recipes for Baharat Kubbe and Chamusta Kubbe with Bamia (Okra).
You might find meat and rice (or chickpea flour) dumplings from the same region prepared in similar ways, this how they made "kubbeh" for Passover and in some regions it is called Gondi.
Kubbeh can also be called Kibbeh and can be fried and served as appetizer with tahini.
Griz Galushka (Hungarian Farina Dumplings)
This soup dumpling comes directly from Jamie's grandparents and their Hungarian upbringing. Farina dumplings are the Hungarian version of matzoh balls. A wonderful addition to a chicken, beef or tomato soup, they are so tasty that you may find yourself working them into your regular repertoire.
You might find these dumplings referred to as semolina dumplings, but we prefer to use the whiter, lighter farina for a fluffier result. To understand the difference, farina is the cream of wheat and is extracted from soft wheat on the other hand, semolina is made from hard wheat.
While you can't make these on Passover, they make a perfect dumpling any other time of year.
Kreplach are a thin pasta like dough stuffed with meat, usually folded in a triangle. Another traditional Ashkenazi stuffed dumpling either served in soup or sautéed with onions. They are most similar to Asian wontons and that is why we use the readily available wonton wrappers to make kreplach easily.
Kreplach have been found throughout Europe since medieval times. Moment Magazine states "According to Hot chicken soup with tender kreplach welcomed Polish Jews to the holidays, while German Jews ate their own versions of steamed sweet, fruit-filled germknödel or dampfnudel. Russian Jews and their neighbors boiled small pelmeni, a pasta-style dough filled with meat. Central Europeans, Jews and Gentiles alike, adored Polish pierogi (and the Ukrainian version, vareniki)—large dumplings, boiled and sautéed, filled with sauerkraut, potatoes and even sweet cherries.
Still the origins of kreplach as a Jewish dumpling is unclear. Cultural anthropologist Claudia Roden argues in her book, The Book of Jewish Food, that the kreplach originated in the ghettos of Venice at about the same time the Italians first created the ravioli.
The late Gil Marks writes in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food that a northern Chinese steamed, filled bun called mantou, meaning “savage’s head,” later became European filled pasta.
So while the history is debatable, Kreplach as a Jewish food is not. In fact many have the custom to serve Kreplach before Yom Kippur, on Hoshanah Rababa and on Purim. Find out more about these customs here.
These are the most common Jewish soup dumplings, let us know what your favorite soup dumpling is in the comments below.