A knish is a Jewish dumpling made from dough wrapped around a savory filling and then baked or fried. Knishes are particularly associated with Eastern European Jewish cuisine, although they are served in many areas with a large Jewish population, especially in New York City. They are also relatively easy to make at home, for cooks who want to experiment with their own fillings and flavors. Knish range in size from bite sized appetizers to serious meals, satisfying a range of tastes and needs.
The dough used for knish may be yeast based for a more bready dumpling, or it may be made with baking soda as a riser agent so that it is more like biscuit dough. Fillings vary widely; mashed potato, meat, cheese, onions, kasha, and vegetables are all common traditional filling for knish, though they are not used together. Cheese and meat knishes are not kosher, and pork knishes are essentially unheard of, for much the same reason.
Once a knish is assembled, it can be brushed with egg and baked, or fried. Baked knish may be molded to allow some of the filling to show, while fried knish are sealed tightly to avoid leakage. The best way to eat a fried knish is hot, although baked knishes can make excellent cold snacks, and they can be eaten plain or with other foods. Many people associate knish with Jewish comfort food, and they are a popular offering at Jewish delicatessens and markets with a large Jewish clientèle.
In addition to making knishes for immediate consumption, some companies also make frozen or refrigerated knishes which can be cooked at home. For cooks in less of a hurry, a version of knish can easily be made at home by mixing up a batch of savory pie dough, rolling it out, cutting it into segments, and mounding fillings of choice on each segment before tucking the corners together into a firm dumpling shape. A wide variety of recipes for knish dough can also be found online, including more traditional recipes which include ingredients like mashed potato.
Many cultures have some version of the knish, like Latin American empanadas and the pasties made along the East Coast of the United States. The widespread appearance of dumplings in global cuisine is probably due to their filling, comforting nature and durability, which allows people to carry food with them for snacking.