I grew up eating knishes, of various styles and an assortment of fillings. The King of them all is the classic Coney Island potato knish, with its soft potato filling with a hint of onion flavor, and crisp pastry exterior, these are the knishes I enjoyed as a child while visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn.
Talk about comfort food. Think of that classic Coney Island potato knish as a hand pie filled with comfort and goodness.
Jewish immigrants brought knishes to the United States in the early 1900s, which is when the knish made its first appearance on New York’s Lower East Side.
I found a book online called: Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food, by Laura Silver that I must read. The author took a tour across 3 continents to seek out the origins and modern-day manifestations of knishes.
According to the Goldbelly online blog: Knishes are traditionally a Ukrainian, Swedish, and Polish street food. They were brought to New York City’s Lower East Side by Ashkenazic Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century. The name for these delightful potato pockets is Yiddish and comes from the Polish word knysz (knish).
In modern times you can find several different variations of the humble knish.
There are savory fillings such as: Kasha, broccoli, mushroom, sweet potato, cabbage, spinach, caramelized onion, and hundreds of others. Then there are the sweet fillings such as: cherry cheesecake, blueberry, chocolate, and a variety of other sweet choices.
There are also a few different shapes of knishes, round, square, and rectangular. There are different pastry crusts that enclose the filling of your chosen knish.
I saw an episode of “Girl Meets Farm”on the Food Network where host Molly Yeh made sweet potato knishes with pecans and brown sugar. Oh my goodness, they looked beautiful and delicious. I would try them in a heartbeat. As good as that recipe sounds, the Coney Island knish remains my favorite knish of all time, but I’ll eat just about any knish I come across in my travels.