Behold the knish: a staple of Jewish households, New Yorkers looking for a street food fix, and staunch potato enthusiasts everywhere. Despite carving its niche in the New York zeitgeist, these pillows of carb-y goodness remain virtually unknown everywhere else. So, for those of you who don't have a Bubbe and are probably asking, "What is a knish?" here is a comprehensive guide.

What Is a Knish?

bread, knish, cheddar
Alyssa Parker

A knish is dough that's usually stuffed with potatoes and onion. In other words, it's a mashed potato pocket. Knishes, similar to everyone's favorite side dish, French fries, come in a variety of equally lovable shapes and sizes. The two most popular kinds are kasha knishes, which are round and baked with buckwheat, and square knishes, which are fried and found in your supermarket's freezer aisle. 

As for the fillings, they're virtually unlimited, especially when it comes to kasha. Satiate your sweet tooth with cheese and fruit fillings or embrace the savory side with mushroom and spinach. The simplicity of a square knish, potato through and through, makes it a true classic (and my personal favorite). 

A Brief History

To quote the greatest poets of our generation, One Direction, "You and me got a whole lot of history." That's right, knishes and New York go together like peanut butter and jelly or Chirssy Teigen and John Legend. 

While a traditional Ukrainian, Swedish, and Polish delight, the true history of knishes links back to New York City's immigrant population. Knisheries began populating the Lower East Side in 1910, when Yonah Shimmel opened its doors.

Selling this delicacy gave immigrant Jews the first taste of economic success, eventually allowing them to leave NYC for the suburbs, taking with them the wonders of the square street  and the kvell-inducing kasha knishes. 

#SpoonTip: Feeling knish-induced #FOMO? Gabila's, the orginator of the square knish, can ship these bits of history right to your door. 

What Knishes Taste Like

Square knishes might as well be the poster-child for comfort food. Deep fried but far from greasy, square knishes seem to stay eternally warm and slightly spicy, thanks in part to to their impeccable seasoning. Their crispy skin and soft middle pairs well with mustard, making you question why you ever chose a plate of latkes over a stack of knishes. 

Kasha knishes are similar, only swapping a crispy exterior for a flaky one. However, the true mark of an excellent knish is not its flavor profile, but the nostalgia each bite brings. Knishes are an institution in practically every Jewish or northeastern household — mine included. They connote memories of after-school trips down Houston street, colds cured with the heat of Gabila's, or in my case, plates piled high with knishes, pickles, and chopped liver at 2nd Ave Deli. 

How to Make Knishes

Lucky for you, us knish enthusiasts are constantly trying to get the flavors of their childhood just right, yielding no shortage of recipes. If you're looking for a traditional Knish experience, check out this kasha knish recipe.

However, if you're looking for to experience all that is a square knish, this New York knish recipe perfectly captures the essence of the New York street food. (Or, you could just buy a pack of Gabila's. I won't judge).