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Kugel made with egg noodles
Kugel (Yiddish: קוגל kugl or קוגעל, pronounced either koogel or kigel, as was pronounced in Galicia) is any one of a wide variety of traditional baked Jewish side dishes consisting of ground or processed vegetables, fruit, or other starches combined with a thickening agent (such as oil, egg, or flour). It is sometimes translated as "pudding" or "casserole".

Kugels may be sweet or savory. The most common types are made from egg noodles (called lochshen kugels) or potatoes and often contain potatoes, but there are recipes in everyday use in modern Jewish kitchens for a great diversity of kugels made with different vegetables, fruit, batter, cheese, and other flavorings and toppings.

Some modern cooks add a small amount of baking powder. In addition to lightening the dish, the powder's alkaline chemistry breaks down the potatoes and produces a smoother texture while promoting browning.

Germanic origin

The name of the dish comes from the Germanic root meaning "ball" or "globe" (see :de:Kugel), thus the Yiddish name likely originated as a reference to the round, puffed-up shape of the original dishes (compare to German Gugelhupf — a type of ring-shaped cake), however nowadays kugels are often baked in square pans. There is a common association of this word to the Hebrew k'iygul ("as a circle"), but this is a folk etymology.

History of kugels

The first kugels were made from bread and flour and were savory rather than sweet. About 800 years ago, their flavor and popularity improved when cooks in Germanymarker replaced bread mixtures with noodles or farfel. Eventually eggs were incorporated. The addition of cottage cheese and milk created a custard-like consistency which is common in today's dessert dishes.

Sweet Kugels

In the 17th century, sugar was introduced, giving home cooks the option of serving kugel as a sweet side dish or dessert. In Polandmarker, Jewish homemakers sprinkled raisins, cinnamon and sweet farmer's cheese into noodle kugel recipes. Hungariansmarker took the dessert concept further with a hefty helping of sugar and some sour cream. Most sweet Kugels are served cold or at room temperature. In the late 19th century, Jerusalemitesmarker combined caramelized sugar and black pepper in a noodle kugel known as "Jerusalem kugel," which is a commonly served at Shabbat kiddushes and is a popular side dish served with cholent during Shabbat lunch.

Savory Kugels

While less renowned than their sweeter cousins, savory kugels have always existed. Early noodle recipes called for onions and salt and were tasty at room temperature. Over the centuries, inspired cooks have skipped the noodles, substituting potatoes, matzah, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, spinach or cheese for the base.

Today many cooks top kugels with corn flakes, graham cracker crumbs, ground gingersnaps or caramelized sugar. Inspired cooks may layer the dish with sliced pineapples or apricot jam.

Kugels on Jewish festivals

Kugels are a mainstay of festive meals in Ashkenazi Jewish (Jews of Eastern European descent) homes, particularly on the Jewish Sabbath and other Jewish holidays. Some Hasidic Jews believe that eating kugel on the Jewish Sabbath brings special spiritual blessings, particularly if that kugel was served on the table of a Hasidic Rebbe.

South African slang usage

Amongst South African Jews, the word "kugel" was used by the elder generation as a term for a young Jewish woman who forsook traditional Jewish dress values in favor of those of the ostentatiously wealthy, becoming overly materialistic and over groomed, the kugel being a plain pudding garnished as a delicacy. The women thus described made light of the term and it has since become an amusing rather than derogatory slang term in South African English, referring to a materialistic young woman. As the term originated from Jewish cuisine, the word "bagel" has been adapted by some to denote the male counterpart of a "kugel".

Similar dishes

A similar traditional Lithuanian dish made with potatoes is called 'kugelis'. It is definitely not Kosher, as it is made with bacon fat.

A similar Belarusian dish is potato babka.


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