Food - Drink
How The Knish Became A New York City Staple
The knish, a doughy snack made famous by New York City delis, originates with the Ashkenazi Jews, and traditionally consists of a ball of mashed potatoes or buckwheat grains, called kasha, wrapped in a thin layer of dough before being baked or deep-fried. This is a short history of the rise, fall, and resurrection of an NYC icon.
Knishes were first sold in the U.S. in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where a plethora of Jewish immigrants settled between 1881 to 1924. The first official knish bakery in New York, called Yonah Schimmel, was established in 1910, and the eatery provided working-class immigrants with a healthy, affordable meal in a small package.
At one time, knishes were so popular that political candidates looking for support from the Jewish community ate these treats as a sign of support. However, author Lauren Silver explains the knish became less relevant as Jews climbed the social and economic ladder in America, leaving their old neighbors and knish bakeries behind.
Documentarians and Jewish culture historians may be responsible for an imminent knish comeback, as information on the snack's historical significance reaches the mainstream. Knishes can still be found in New York delis, and have evolved to include fillings with pastrami, cheese, mushrooms, or caramelized onions.