The German cuisine is mostly known for its heavy, meat based meals but a hearty Sauerbraten, a typical roast, is unthinkable without a very specific, traditional, and delicious side dish: the Knödel. The most famous Knödel is a potato based dumpling which is boiled in salt water and enjoyed with a lot of gravy. In addition to this Knödel made of potatoes, you can find a big variety of other Knödel. The mostly ball-shaped delicacy can be formed with various other ingredients e.g. flour, semolina, bread crumbs, yeast, soft white cheese etc. Some are even filled with savory or sweet fillings like fruits or meats, depending on the type of dough. After being boiled or steamed, they are served in soups, as main dish, as side dish or even as dessert.
For a very hungry person a big serving of Knödel can feel lifesaving. The people of Deggendorf, a city in southern Germany, also known as Knödelstadt (City of Knödel) claim that their ancestors used Knödel to rout out besiegers and allegedly proving Knödel to be real lifesavers. As much as one would want this entertaining legend to be true, it is unfortunately not, but nobody can take away the image in your head of Knödel throwing, medieval city dwellers.
In the German-speaking area two different words for dumpling exist: Knödel and Kloß. The river Main functions as a kind of linguistic dumpling frontier. South of it people call a dumpling Knödel and north of it mostly Kloß. Knödel comes from the word knode meaning little knot and Kloß originates from Middle High German from the word klō meaning flower bulb, ball, or clump.
Written recipes of Knödel and Kloß can be traced back as early as to the 18th century, but these kinds of dumplings are not only typical German. Many countries surrounding Germany also consider them part of their cultural heritage. In Poland, for example, chefs serve Kluski kartoflane, in Czech Republic Bramborove Knedliky, in Croatia Knedle sa šljivama, and in Hungary Dödölle. The mastermind of the great idea to roll up ingredients into balls and boil them will probably remain a secret. However, the popularity of this idea increases the variety of dumplings and provides gourmets with the opportunity to always try new delicious versions of this dish.
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Written by Annemarie Menger – Communication Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and a student of the master’s Program in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a teacher’s degree in the form of the First German State Examination for Elementary Education, a BA in Cultural Basic Skills and an additional degree in Global Systems and Intercultural Competence from the University of Würzburg.