Streams

The Delicious Knish

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mano Hirsch, of the eponymous knish shop on Brighton Beach. Sign in the upper left says, in Hebrew letters, Kosher. Mano Hirsch, of the eponymous knish shop on Brighton Beach. Sign in the upper left says, in Hebrew letters, Kosher. (Photo by Barbara Pfeffer/Courtesy of Marvin Hirsch)

Laura Silver describes her round-the-world quest for the origins and modern-day manifestations of the knish. Starting in New York, she tracks down heirs to several knish dynasties and discovers that her own family has roots in a Polish town named Knyszyn. In Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food Silver tells stories of entrepreneurship, survival, and delicious knishes. She even meets legendary knish maker Mrs. Stahl’s granddaughters, who share their family recipe.

The first written record of a knish dates back to 1614 and Polish town of Krakowiec (now in Ukraine). No filling was mentioned, but it may have contained grains.

Silver calls knishes “Jewish soul food.” And they are often used for mourning in Polish to comfort the bereaved.

The word “knish” has links to Ukrainian, Russian, Yiddish, Polish, and old German. You pronounce the “k” (kah-NISH), though Silver met some people in the Midwest who make the “k” silent (nish).

 Silver says that the knish could make a comeback in the coming years. “I think the knish is poised for a renaissance in the US, in Poland and beyond because it’s still a wholesome food. One that has this mark of history and something homemade. And it’s a great way to break bread – or break knish – together.”

You can find some suggestions of where to find good knishes in New York in the comments below. 

Guests:

Laura Silver

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Comments [25]

Ronni S. from Pound Ridge, NY

My father is Jerry of what was Jerry's Knishes in Far Rockaway,so the knish is inextricably intertwined w/my childhood. Enjoyed the convo w/Laura Silver very much, even though my Dad's knishes were not mentioned

Jun. 25 2014 06:08 PM
Gerry from Somerset, NJ

I heard the author of this book on WNYC today. I had to stop everything and listen to her story. Great fun! Jewish comfort food. I immediately added her new book to my Nook so I could enjoy it on my upcoming trip. She talked about Mrs. Stahl's knish store in Brighton Beach, where I ate many times as a young child and whenever I visited the old neighborhood. It was one of my favorite places to eat. My folks told me that Mrs. Stahl used to sell her home-made knishes on the boardwalk when they were kids, and because her recipe was so popular, she opened the store. Sadly, the store is gone, replaced by a Subway. My other favorite knish store, Yonah Schimmel's Knishery, is still in business on Houston Street in Manhattan. My Dad used to eat there as a child, and took me there many times so we could enjoy the wonderful knishes together. I go there now whenever I can.

Jun. 25 2014 01:29 PM
Edward Schneider

Greetings. I'm glad I was in the kitchen listening to the radio during the knish segment with Laura Silver; I enjoyed it. On a non-gastronomic matter, Henry Roth, in his 1934 novel "Call it Sleep" gives "knish" as slang for "vagina".

Jun. 25 2014 01:26 PM
Alan Viani from Dobbs Ferry, NY

In the late 1940's and early 1950's a knish man pushing a metal cart would show up at lunch time at my school (PS 3) in the west village. The cart had no markings on it and all I can remember was that it was silver colored metal and box shaped with wheels. Out of the bottom of the cart you could see smoke emanating from what obviously was either a charcoal or wood burning heater in the bottom of the cart. The knishes were square and piping hot and the man would take the knish out with tongs and place it in a paper bag and then proceed to shake a ton of salt into the bag. I think the potato was made with black pepper in it (I could be wrong). On a cold winter's day the knish tasted like heaven to us (a predominantly Italian American student body). I guess if he showed up at our school, there had to be many others doing the same thing at other schools. To this day I love knishes and they always bring back memories of my youth.

Jun. 25 2014 01:12 PM
phil

My grandparents lived on Brighton 4th St. a block off the boardwalk. Knish's, the beach, the men's club on the boardwalk were an integral part of some of my best childhood memories. We always picked up Mrs Stahl's Knish's to take home with us (in addition to the ones we ate while we were there). Even though I no longer had relatives there, when I got engaged I took my wife to be to Brighton and straight to Mrs. Stahl's.
Thanks to Laura Silver finding Mrs. Stahl's grand daughter and the dough and baking recipe, I now make kasha knishes at home and sit there eating and remembering.

Jun. 25 2014 01:11 PM
Paul from White Plains

Leonard - I told you at the recent producers circle event that I was always amazed and delighted at your show's range of topics. Never clearer than this hour pairing Boies/Olson and a prime national topic with a search for the best knish. Keep it up!

Jun. 25 2014 01:06 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I dunno...how can I consider anyone a knish expert who pronounces it kuh-nish instead of k'nish? (Yes, there's a difference--closest definition I can get is 1-1/2 syllables instead of 2.)

Jun. 25 2014 01:04 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Lena

How often does Leonard talk about Jewish foods? He had plenty of shows about French foods and Indian foods and other food. What is your problem?

Jun. 25 2014 01:01 PM
Laura from Brooklyn

Kaff's in Borough Park also has delicious knishes.

Jun. 25 2014 12:59 PM
Lena from UES

Typical Leonard Lopate show, typical theme if you know what I mean....

Jun. 25 2014 12:55 PM
tee from NJ

And yeah, they were inferior stadium knishes, but...it was for us a first taste of what a knish might be.

Jun. 25 2014 12:54 PM
Jaime from Ellenville

WhaT ABOUT KASHA KINISH! How about Avenue U Brooklyn? Or Greenpoint+

Jun. 25 2014 12:54 PM
David from Manhattan

I summered in rockaway and we worshipped at Jerry's knishes.

Jun. 25 2014 12:53 PM
tee from NJ

Back in the 80's at freezing cold games in the late Giants Stadium, my husband and I would buy them at the stadium to stuff in our pockets as hand warmers. Then after the game we'd eat them warm in the car. And they were wonderful.

Jun. 25 2014 12:51 PM
Charles Imbimbo from Teaneck

What do you think of the Knish Nosh in Manhattan? I used to go there often.

Jun. 25 2014 12:48 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Yecchh! Kasha knishes??? Come on, get real. Either talk about the REAL knishes or shut up, if you ever knew what a real knish was.

Jun. 25 2014 12:46 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Danielle

Those were not knishes. Those were Kardboard. You've never had a real knish. I haven't had one in 55 years myself. The real knish is as dead as the Dodo. I wish for a real knish!

Jun. 25 2014 12:43 PM
Danielle Jensen

I have very fond memories of buying those square knishes from street vendors in the 1960s. Even though I was not that familiar with them, I think I still somehow knew they were probably not the best example of them. Afew summers ago I had the best one ever on Brighton Beach being sold by a guy walking the beach-he said his mother makes them-true or not it was delicious-it was crispy and light-maybe deep fried-and had a great potato filling. Later I saw the same ones for sale by the elevated subway line. I bought 3 for $5 to bring home and when I was on the subway realized I had left them on the counter!!

Jun. 25 2014 12:35 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Oh, man, we kids in the Yeshiva up on "the hill" around Eastern Parkway in Brownsville couldn't wait till the knish man showed up during recess every day. They were 10 cents. They were hot from that little oven he pushed around. And they were HEAVEN ON EARTH! That was way back in '58 and never ate another knish as good as his again in my life. Those manufactured square things that proliferated later on were and are garbage. I wish I had that guy's recipe for the real deal, the true knish - that is my Quest! To eat another knish like that before I die! Maybe there's a knish man in Jewish heaven, assuming they'll let me in. Doubtful.

Jun. 25 2014 12:14 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Oh, man, we kids in the Yeshiva up on "the hill" around Eastern Parkway in Brownsville couldn't wait till the knish man showed up during recess every day. They were 10 cents. They were hot from that little oven he pushed around. And they were HEAVEN ON EARTH! That was way back in '58 and never ate another knish as good as his again in my life. Those manufactured square things that proliferated later on were and are garbage. I wish I had that guy's recipe for the real deal, the true knish - that is my Quest! To eat another knish like that before I die! Maybe there's a knish man in Jewish heaven, assuming they'll let me in. Doubtful.

Jun. 25 2014 12:13 PM
Eddie from Queens

I grew up in Brooklyn in Crown Heights. In the 1940's on Utica Avenue just South of the Carroll Movie Theater near Montgomery Street was a store Called Mrs. Silvers Knishes. I remember it because everyone thought Mrs. Silver was Phil Silvers (Sgt. Bilko) mother. Any connection?

Jun. 25 2014 10:11 AM
howard kastin from long beach , ny

I am a Brighton boy. Do you have the cabbage knish recipe. IT WAS THE BEST.

Jun. 25 2014 09:51 AM
Laura Silver from Brooklyn, NY

Nancy,

Thanks for writing in. Great to hear about your Mrs. Stahl's connection.
And I'd be happy to help with the birthday caper.

I'll ask the granddaughters of Mrs. Stahl if they can advise on a cabbage knish recipe -- same dough as the recipe for potato knishes in my book, www.knish.me, for starters.

My very best,

Laura Silver

Jun. 25 2014 08:36 AM
Linda from Brooklyn

Our friend, Bonnie Abrams, wrote a beautiful and funny song in homage to the great Ruby, of Ruby's Knishes. She sang it at one of Laura's events, and it was a hit!
http://dynrec.com/bonnieabrams/bonnie4.html

Love and Knishes to all!

Jun. 24 2014 11:54 PM
Nancy Stolarsky from N

The knish my whole family loved best was the cabbage knish. I would love to find a recipe for it. Has it ever been published anywhere, or is there a way I could obtain it? There is nothing that has ever compared to it. My husband used to shine shoes outside Mrs. Stahl's Knish store when he was six years old so he could go in and buy one for himself. Your help would be greatly appreciated. He is now 81 years old and I would love to surprise him for his next birthday.

Jun. 24 2014 09:00 PM

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