Hooray, Purim is coming! Another chance to eat great Jewish food, this holiday is a gold mine of dough-filled delights called hamantaschen. Although you can now buy them at other times of the year, when I grew up, they only appeared at Purim, with fillings of all types peeking out from a cookie-liked dough triangle. My favorite hamantaschen fillings are poppy seed – not too sweet and definitely made from scratch, not with that horrible poppy seed filling sold in grocery stores – and chocolate, a modern variation but truly delicious surrounded by the buttery dough on the outside.
Fooled you! This post is not about hamantaschen at all, but about kreplach. I’d heard of kreplach before, but had never eaten or made them until last week, when I went looking for traditional Purim recipes. To my amazement, 3-cornered hamantaschen are not the only surprise-filled Purim treats. Kreplach are their savory cousins, filled with meat, potato, or in some communities, turkey. You can float them in chicken soup or serve them as a side dish with a meat or vegetarian meal.
If you search for kreplach in cookbooks or online, you’ll notice references to them as Jewish wontons or the Jewish version of pierogi, ravioli. agnolotti, tortellini, or empanadas. Suffice it to say, every ethnic group that cooks with dough has figured out that putting filling in it and cooking those small “packets” is a great idea.
Not being an expert on linguistics or food anthropology, I won’t evaluate what I found on the origin of the term and the dish, but will simply pass along a few interesting tidbits:
The Origin of the Term Kreplach (Also Spelled “Kreplakh”)
- In Jewish Holiday Kitchen, Joan Nathan says “kreplach” comes from the French “crepelle”
- Wikipedia says the singular, krepl, probably comes from the Old High German “kraepfo”, meaning grape.
- The Oxford English Dictionary says kreplekh, plural of krepel, is from the German (dialect) Kräppel, meaning‘fritter.’
- In a Jewish Chronicle article, Ruth Joseph has 2 other suggested derivations: First, Kreplach are eaten on 3 festivals: Yom Kippur; Simchat Torah; and Purim. The “krep” part of the name comes from the initials of those three festivals – K for Kippur, R for Rabba, and P for Purim, with “lach” coming from the Yiddish, meaning “little”. Second, she suggests that kreplach may come from the German word, Krepp, meaning crêpe.
Where Did Kreplach Originate?
- Joan Nathan has 2 different explanations. In the 1979 (first) edition of Jewish Holiday Kitchen she says, “Most authorities think that this dish originate in China and worked its way via trade routes to the countries of the West. The Jews may have learned about kreplach from the Chinese or the Italians. Maimonides traces cooked dough to Persia and the Middle East.” About 15 years later, in Jewish Cooking in America, she said that kreplach were “brought either by the Kahzars to the Polish lands or by Jews trading in China who learned to make them there.”
- Several others mentioned the Chinese connection and the Italians of the 14th-15th centuries.
I decided to go fusion with mine, in part because I thought it would be fun to play around with the wonton wrappers I found at my local Safeway. Don’t even think of chastising me for cheating and not making my own dough; I’ll try the dough next time, maybe.
I turned the chicken from my soup into a filling and even added a bit of Sriracha sauce, taking my cue from an old cookbook of my mom’s that suggested filling kreplach with chopped liver. (My filling resembled a chicken version of the chopped liver my mom used to make.) Then I stuffed it into wonton wrappers and cooked it not-quite-every which-way: I boiled it in the soup, boiled and then fried it like an Asian-style fried dumpling, and baked it lightly brushed with olive oil. Strangely enough, I just found that my off-the-cuff filling closely resembles Tori Avey (the Shiksa)’s, which I hadn’t seen until today when I looked for a bit of history to add to this post. Of course, we shouldn’t be shocked that there is nothing (or at least not much) new under the sun when it comes to variations on a delicious theme like kreplach.
No matter how I cooked them, the kreplach were light, and even with a bit of Sriracha, they were not spicy. Whether you try my filling or make up your own, use wonton wrappers as I did or make your own dough, you’ll enjoy the process and the result.
My Chicken Kreplach
- Wonton wrappers
- 1 pound of cooked chicken meat (from my soup), about 3½ cups
- 5 ounces or about 1 cup of chopped onion,
- 2 tablespoons of butter or chicken fat (I had fat known as “schmaltz” frozen from the fall)
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Few dashes of Sriracha sauce (not pictured)
- 1 egg lightly beaten and set aside for brushing over the edges of the wrapper (not pictured)
- Canola or olive oil if frying or baking (not pictured)
- Cutting board
- Food processor
- Pot (to boil eggs in and later to cook kreplach if you’re boiling them)
- Slotted spoon and tongs or a spatula if you’re baking or frying them
- Pan – to fry onions, then to cook kreplach if you’re frying or boiling/then frying
- Cookie sheet – if you’re baking them
- Shred or chop the cooked chicken into small pieces.
- Roughly chop the hard-boiled eggs.
- Chop the onion.
- Melt the butter or chicken fat, add the onions and fry on medium heat until the onions are nicely browned, about 8-10 minutes.
- Put the chicken, eggs and onion in a bowl, add salt and pepper and chopped dill, adding Sriracha if you like a bit of spiciness.
- Mix everything together gently.
- Put into a food processor and pulse on and off a few times until the mixture is evenly ground. It has the consistency of a light, well-mixed tuna salad.
- Place several wonton wrappers on a clean counter or a cutting board.
- Put about 1 teaspoon of chicken/egg mixture into each wrapper.
- Fold the wrapper over the filling into a triangle.
- Press down lightly to seal the edges and brush with beaten egg. I also folded two corners into the middle like a wonton might look, but that’s optional. The important part is to make sure the edges are sealed so the filling doesn’t leak out.
- Cook – Choose any of these methods:
Boil – Boil chicken soup or water. Gently place the kreplach in the boiling soup or water for about 5-7 minutes until they rise to the surface.
Boil/Fry – Boil the chicken soup or water. Again, gently place the kreplach in the boiling liquid, but for this method, cook them in the liquid only for about 3-5 minutes. Take them out with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate. Gently dab the liquid off the kreplach with a paper towel. Heat the oil in the pan and gently place the kreplach in the pan. They are likely to splatter if there is any liquid on the outside of the kreplach, so be careful. Fry them on both sides until they are lightly browned.
Fry – Same frying technique, but without boiling first, so it takes longer to fully cook them.
Bake – Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a cookie sheet or spray it with vegetable oil. Place the kreplach on the oiled cookie sheet, brush them lightly with oil and bake for about 7 minutes until lightly browned.
These kreplach are fried (top) and baked (bottom).