The bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is a New Yorker's basic breakfast. My parents grew up on it. As did my cousins and aunts and uncles. And there's no way we don't buy at least one for each of us whenever we go back east to visit. So, when I heard of the mysterious beigel over on Brick Lane when I was studying abroad in London last fall, I wondered if it was simply a mispronunciation. Could a beigel be the same thing as a bagel? Both amounting to circular, doughy breads loaded with carbs and joy? Of course, my roomie and fellow foodie adventurer Claudia and I went to check out London's beigel scene, and to confirm if there really was a battle of beigel vs bagel when it came to making the iconic breakfast sandwich. Let's deduce.

The Etymological Origins of Beigel vs Bagel

Tara Bitran

Although bagels are an international phenomenon, the word "bagel" itself is thought to be an Americanization. According to The Joys of Yiddish, the "Bajgiel" was created in Krakow, Poland in the early 1600s. They were apparently baked as gifts for women during childbirth. Hey, my kind of gift. These "bajgiels" became a staple of the Slavic diet and are now the popularized bready goods we eat on the daily.

The word "bajgiel" is believed to stem from the Germanic word for ring or bracelet, "Beygel." The Germanic word for round loaf of bread, "Bügel," has also been traced as the potential origin of the word "bagel." And according to The Londonist, to pronounce "beigel" right, you have to say the "ei" as if you're saying "Einstein." But essentially, "beigel" and "bagel" are the last remaining word survivors adapted from the original names for the baked bread that is still considered a gift when received. But Americans decidedly shortened the word "beigel" to "bagel" in 1932, according to William Safire of The New York Times.

But are spelling and pronunciation the only differences?

Tara Bitran

When Claudia and I ate these rainbow "beigels," we thought they tasted just like the bagels we'd eaten time and time again back in the States. And I've got to say, I missed the scrambled eggs in my bacon, egg, and cheese. But the rainbow was fun!

Anyhow, they are typically prepared the same way by means of baking and boiling with similar ingredients. While the distinctive beigels from the likes of "Beigel Bake" in London used to be made by hand until machinery was introduced, they are still prized for their chewiness and crisp crust thanks to boiling then pre-baking.

But as far as I could tell, my beigel tasted pretty similar to the bagels I was used to from back home. 

Where can you find beigels in London?

There is a beigel community on Brick Lane, since the area was home to a large Jewish community who came to Spitalfields in the early 19th century. While the community dispersed into North London, according to The Londonist, the beigel shops are still standing, with two "rival" shops packing in the most frequent visitors further escalating the beigel vs bagel debate.

Claudia and I visited The Beigel Shop (see the featured image up top). But The Beigel Bake is located right next door, and they were originally owned by the same family. While the Beigel Bake refuses to bust out the rainbow beigels, both shops sell their beigels for a more than reasonable price. For instance, you can get a beigel for 30p (like 30 cents in the UK, but a little more). Seriously?! What are you waiting for?! For beigels/bagels at that low of a price!

Well, the beigel vs bagel battle isn't as intense as you'd assume. The main difference comes down to a discussion of semantics, but they taste pretty similar, in my book. Both delicious and a great morning treat for the carb-lovers in your life.