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How to eat a knish

When I first moved to New York I knew that I had to try a few things: bagels with real lox and cream cheese, deli pastrami and a knish. I tried them all within my first few months here and fell absolutely in love, except with the knish.

Now I'm starting to think I didn't like knishes because unlike bagels or pastrami, a knish isn't a self-explanatory snack. Do you eat it cold? Hot? Dipped in sauce? With something on top? I tried a spinach knish from my next-door deli when I first came here and when they asked how I wanted it, I sheepishly said, "To go." I didn't know what the options were, but I wish I had since I found the knish to be much akin to a dried out hockey puck. Now whenever I go to market, I see myriad knishes waiting for a home and I'm willing to try if someone would just tell me how to do it like a real fresser.

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  1. I've always eaten my knishes plain, heated up. I prefer meat or potatoe knishes myself.

    1. Definitely hot and plain. (Okay, maybe a touch of mustard because I'll put mustard on anything.) I'm a kasha guy myself...

      2 Replies
      1. re: sea97horse

        Kasha for me too...wish I could get them here in San Fran!!!

      2. Always hot, or at least warm. If it's a potato knish, I like it with mustard, as a side dish with hot dogs or a pastrami sandwich. If it's a spinach (or other variety), no need to put anything on top.

        1. I like the round flaky knishes over the square fried looking pucks. I used to see "potato dogs" around in the old days. They were really good, they were usually deep fried in an eggroll like skin. To duplicate, take a cooked hotdog, and stuff it into a potato knish. heat the knish until crisp, and serve with mustard. That's my favorite way to eat them.

          9 Replies
          1. re: michele cindy

            They're supposed to be flaky? The ones I've had had the consistency of dense and dry mashed potatoes.

            1. re: JungMann

              The crust is what is supposed to be flaky.

              1. re: Shayna Madel

                Maybe I couldn't tell because the knish was cold, but it didn't seem that my knish had a crust. It seemed to be all all potato. Maybe I'm also buying bad knishes.

                1. re: JungMann

                  Since you had trouble finding the crust, I am assuming that you had a round one, not a square one. The square ones have a thick, sort of golden brown crust and some purists don't care for those. The round ones have a very thin layer of dough encasing the filling. Traditionally, the filling is potato, but some do meat, kasha, spinach, sweet potato, mixed veggies, mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage--each mixed in with potato.

                  1. re: Shayna Madel

                    The best old-school kasha knishes I've found in the NYC Metro area are - strangely enough - from Hobby's Deli in Newark, NJ. There's been a deli at the current location for over 90 years, and they make the kind of very flaky, pastry-like crust filled with distinctly grainy kasha (not the kasha mush you commonly find, often blended with potatoes) that I remember from the 50's.

                    Kasha or potato knishes should, as others have stated, be heated to a pleasant warmness in an oven or toaster oven (never microwaved) and served with deli mustard (brown, spicy).

            2. re: michele cindy

              Where can you get round knishes in NYC? I've only seen square ones.

              1. re: chowmeow

                Surely you jest...try Yona Schimmel's, on Houston Street in Manhattan (www.knishery.com) or Knish Nosh, on Queens Boulevard, in Rego Park, Queens (www.knishnosh.com). Also, Katz's Deli (www.katzdeli.com), Carnegie Deli (www.carnegiedeli.com), Stage Deli (www.stagedeli.com), Ben's Deli (www.bensdeli.net) all Manhattan deli's, have them. I am sure that other Kosher/Kosher-style deli's have them, also, as well as some bagel places.

                  1. re: chowmeow

                    Glad to help. Hope that you have some and enjoy!

            3. Just hot, or sometimes hot with some mustard. Depends on the filling. Unfortunately, most places reheat them in a microwave oven, but they are really better if reheated in a toaster oven/convection oven/traditional oven. Yona Schimmel's, on Houston Street has a wide assortment. Also, in Queens, you could try Knish Nosh, on Queens Boulevard, in Rego Park has a few different types. Both are local institutions and YS is near both Russ & Daughters and Katz's Deli, also institutions, for smoked fish and deli sandwiches, respectively.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Shayna Madel

                ... and the mustard must be applied properly. Have the deli counterman cut the square knish the long way, parallel to the crust, spread the mustard on the potato filling and then close it back up.

                1. re: stuartlafonda

                  exactly what i was going to say! the mustard has to get right in there.

                  1. re: LNG212

                    Definitely the mustard goes in the middle. Sorry I did not specify that. I guess I am just used to doing it or the places I go to know what to do...

                2. re: Shayna Madel

                  And if you're in the Bronx (Riverdale section) make sure you stop in at Leibman's Deli. The knishes are good, the sandwiches great, the cole slaw magnificent and the pickles just outstanding!

                3. go to a knish cart and say
                  "one hot knish with sauerkraut, mustard and alittle ketchup please"
                  that's how to eat a knish!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: buenosds

                    With ketchup!? Never heard of that one. What type of knish would that be that you eat that way? A meat knish?

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      I never heard of the ketchup thing or the sauerkraut thing either, but as to ketchup, I figure people do french fries or home fries with it, so it could make sense and as to sauerkraut, both Knish Nosh and Yona Schimmel make a cabbage knish, so maybe sauerkraut could work. Hey, Elyssa, perhaps some homemade chopped liver?

                    2. re: buenosds

                      Why ruin a perfectly good knish with sauerkraut and ketchup? Save the ketchup for a burger. A hot, grilled/griddled knish with some brown deli mustard on the side to dip the knish into.

                      1. re: ESNY

                        There must be a special place in foodie hell for anyone who would put ketchup on a knish. Sacrilege! I'm not even kidding.

                      1. Plain. Hot, or at least warm. No microwave.
                        Forget the mustard / ketchup / whatever narrishkeit: a knish is a knish is a knish. No sauces.
                        Spinach knish? What's that?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: RicRios

                          Hey purist, I think a spinach knish is a cousin to a cinnamon-raisin bagel or something along those lines. I'm figuring if they do them at Yona Schimmel and/or Knish Nosh, nothing drastic will happen if I try one some day.

                          1. re: Shayna Madel

                            Spinach knishes are great. Did you ever eat boiled potatoes, mixed with creamed spinach, and hard boiled egg? Not exactly the same, but that's what a spinach knish reminds me of.

                          2. re: RicRios

                            You've hit on my pet peeve, RicRios. Too, too many delis microwave their knishes these days. It has to be from the griddle, preferably picking up some of the hot dog grease. I always ask now if the knish is being microwaved or not. Usually the answer is yes, so I don't bother ordering it. If I wanted a handful of lukewarm mashed potatoes I'd order a handful of lukewarm mashed potatoes.

                            Oh, and it has to be brown mustard, never yellow. And I generally prefer kasha anyhow. I haven't seen a meat knish in years. Boy, do I miss those.

                            1. re: rockycat

                              If you are in NY, go to Knish Nosh on Queens Boulevard, in Rego Park. They list meat knishes in their repetoire. And they do kasha. And they ship if you are not nearby. Without getting into the "best" type of debate, these are good knishes. And I agree with your "no microwaving" philosophy.

                              1. re: Shayna Madel

                                OMG, this thread is driving me crazy!!!! I've only visited New York once, in between high school and college, but I still remember the knishes...a deli here in Atlanta made incredible, authentic potato knishes years ago, but they closed, and I haven't found another good one since. I'm going to have to investigate the shipping for a special occasion...

                          3. I'm rolling on the floor. This link is as good as a Jackie Mason shtick (sp?). I love it! Thanks everyone.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: CocoDan

                              Hey CocoDan the proper eating of Knishes is nothing to laugh at!!! :>
                              That being said, my favorite way of eating the revered knish is to take home a round one (don't get me started on those square things!) and heat it in the toaster oven until the crust has the requisite crunch. The mustard (brown of course, yellow mustard is only for the ball park) should lie adjacent to the knish ready for dipping. A deli here in Westchester, N.Y. serves a stuffed knish with either salami or hot dog. Genius or over kill?

                              1. re: lucyis

                                You're killing me! This is the best! OY!

                                1. re: lucyis

                                  Look at the Sarge's Deli menu (3rd ave and 38th Street in Manhattan). They have something they call a Deli Wellington, which is a knish which has chunks of corned beef and pastrami in it.

                              2. If anyone saw the Food Network show on sandwiches, you will know what I am talking about...Now, I have never tried this, but a guy on the show took a knish and used it as "bread" for a panini. I can only imagine how GOOD that would be.

                                Typically, I 'em warm, not too hot, with some spicy mustard.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: L_W

                                  Fusion panini knishes? What type of sandwich filling did he use?

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    He (guy from Katz's Deli) stuffed it with:
                                    jalapeno pepper jack cheese

                                    And then pressed it on the panini press. I was thinking pastrami would work fine, too.....

                                    1. re: L_W

                                      And alka seltzer on the side? There is something very strange to me about any kind of cheese being anywhere near a knish. Yeah, I know, there are plenty of potato and cheese dishes, but somehow there is a real disconnect here.

                                      1. re: Shayna Madel

                                        Yeah, these ones should be called "KNISHT" ( = a knish nisht )

                                        1. re: RicRios

                                          I for the most part prefer them heated in the oven, with cracked pepper, but have been known to use brown mustard. My girlfriend likes hers with sour cream. A deli here in New Haven sometimes has potato/corned beef knishes that are great. The sqare fried ones are not knishes,

                                  2. re: L_W

                                    Press 195 (I think that's the name of it I'm a bit off with numbers) in Park Slope, Brooklyn has a knish anini. My husband got the on with pastrami. It's way too much for me. I like my knish plain nice and warm. I would sometimes get the hot dog oninons on it. Yona Schimmel's, on Houston St in Manhattan is great, but I miss Mrs. Stahl's in Brighton beach.

                                  3. try this and you will be delirious from happiness...

                                    buy a SQUARE potato knish. bring it home.

                                    heat it in the oven at 375 until the corners get crispy - the crispiness is key!

                                    cut in to quarters so that you have four delicious sections, all terminating in a perfect, crunchy bite.

                                    dip in brown deli mustard - or do like i do and squirt a puddle of mustard AND a puddle of ketchup and alternate, combine, etc as the mood strikes...

                                    best paired with a pile of REALLY GREEN half-sour pickles and a dr. brown's root beer...

                                    if you don't enjoy a knish this way, i don't know what to tell you! :)

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: missfunkysoul

                                      I do enjoy the square knishes on occasion and I will think about the ketchup aspect. but the Dr. Brown's MUST be cream soda.

                                      1. re: Shayna Madel

                                        When I was a kid in the Bronx, the square knishes, which mysteriously appeared in the late 50's, were referred to - not disrespectfully, because they quickly became popular - as "Puerto Rican Knishes". I don't know whether this is because they originated in the barrio, or were derived from a Latino staple (stuffed potatoes are, but these are potato-stuffed!). The name was used to differentiate them from Jewish-style deli knishes, which at the time were uniformly round (and only came in potato or kasha).

                                        Oh - and if you're not drinking Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray, you should be.

                                        1. re: Striver

                                          You got me interested in the difference between the round and square knish and the origin. From this NY Times article, it seems the baked round knish was the original.

                                          Elia Gabay who started Gabilah's Knishes, automated the process, creating the fried square knish. The article goes on to credit Rudi Giuliani for eradicating the square knish from the NY street scene.

                                          While one might think this could be used as a campagn issue against him, maybe not ... as this quote from the article shows ...

                                          ''I'm glad to see them go,'' said Jim Leff, author of ''The Eclectic Food Guide to New York'' and the creator of Chowhound.com, an encyclopedic and raucous message board whose focus is food spots in New York. ''I equate it with the eradication of the West Nile virus. The knishes that were sold on the street were lousy, soggy little things that gave knishes a bad name. If you want an idea of how awful they are, consider this: They make potatoes taste bad.''

                                          It seems square knish loathing continues under the current ownership
                                          Knishes KO'd

                                          There are two types of wrapping as well: "regular pastry dough, or a thicker, crustier dough"

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            i say, don't believe the hype. of course a knish of either shape served warm and soggy would be awful. i'm sure there are plenty of bad round knishes out there, too. and ok, it's not entirely traditional...

                                            but a good, properly-prepared square potato knish with a tasty, onion-laden filling just happens to be one of my favorite things on the planet, and so i am biased my my own personal taste. i know others who feel the same. we are a small but proud people, us square knish fans... :)

                                            and any dr. brown's is good by me!

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              I think the fried part was one of the reasons they became so popular so quickly. So maybe it was Hispanic street vendors selling Gabila's product that led to the nickname? Just speculating here...

                                            2. re: Striver

                                              FYI, diet cel-ray has been discontinued. But then again, when you're drinking Dr. Brown's, who drinks the diet version?

                                                1. re: Striver

                                                  I like Cel-Ray with my knish.

                                                  I think the square knishes have gotten a bad rep because most of the vendors who sell them just don't care, they let them sit out and become dry and nasty. Turnover isn't as high as it used to be when knishes were more popular, so freshness is suspect as well.

                                                  If you see Gabila's in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket--usually near the deli counter--bring some home and bake 'em at about 350 degrees till you can hear them "sizzle." If you like, slice 'em open and spread some deli mustard inside. They're good.

                                                  There's another brand you might find in the store, "Joshua's". Don't bother with those. They're terrible... Runny mashed potatoes sweetened with sugar. Feh!

                                                  Of course, I also appreciate a good, traditional, round baked knish. I'll be visiting Knish Nosh in a few weeks to stock up!

                                                  1. re: NewYorkDave

                                                    Me too. I like Cel-Ray with my knish, and with my Katz's pastrami sandwich.When I was a kid, my friend Bubbe mad sweet rice kinishes and lima bean knishes....they were great.

                                        2. To summarize: you need to go find yourself a hot, potato knish with a flaky crust! That's how it's done.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Chew on That

                                            Where are you finding knishes in Chicago? I lived near Skokie and regularly bought groceries on Devon and still never saw a knish until I came out to NYC.

                                          2. k, for those of us who are in the middle of the country who can't go to a deli or a cart, anyone have a recipe for these wondermous things?

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: revsharkie

                                              My cousin (a former professional caterer) makes them homemade and gave my mother the recipe. I will try to get the recipe from my mother and post it over the weekend. The way they turn out, they are not as wide across and only about 3/4" to 1" thick, but the taste is definitely there. In fact, I think they are better than the storebought ones, but I may be biased...There are old-time places in NYC that ship, if you are interested in that.

                                            2. Anybody know where you can still get liver knishes? Used to be almost every jewish deli in NJ had them, now I cant find em anywhere!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: basachs

                                                The best old-school kasha knishes I've had in recent years came from Hobby's Deli in Newark; don't know if they make liver, but it's worth a call to find out.

                                              2. I live in Pittsburgh, which has a large Eastern European - Jewish heritage. I recently saw these round knish at my local Whole Foods, and bought one for trying. (The last potato "unknown I had tried, the Potato Latke, had turned out to be delicious). Not having read this thread, I microwaved the knish, and ate it with ketchup. Unfortunately, the crust just fell off the knish, and the results was soggy and stale. I will probably try it a second time.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: eclecticfoodhound

                                                  Definitely try it again, definitely heat in oven/toaster oven, definitely use golden mustard. And with the latke, don't microwave that either and have it with applesauce. (Some do sour cream with the latke.)

                                                  1. re: eclecticfoodhound

                                                    Ketchup on a knish! Aargh! The terrorists have won!