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Why Knoephla is the best | Dakota Harvest

Why Knoephla is the best

Guest Post by Jennifer Barnes

The bakery makes a lot of different soups. At least one for each day of the week and every now and then more than one, and which soup gets made each day varies each month. So it would stand to reason that some days we sell out and some days we don’t. Some soups are wildly popular and others not quite so much—though each does have a strong following. However, there is one soup we always sell out of... sometimes by noon or even earlier. That soup is Knoephla.

There are people out there who spend a significant portion of their week looking forward to Knoephla Day. I know because I’ve become one of these people. When the weather is cold and snowy, nothing is quite as fulfilling as big bowl of hearty Knoephla soup and a slice or two of bread with it.

I have some German roots, but not really that many—mostly I’m English. Maybe it’s because of this, I somehow made it all the way through college without having even heard of Knoephla, despite living in North Dakota since I was 5 and living in Minnesota before that. Boy, was I missing out! The first time I tried it, I was in the heart of North Dakota working for a local college in recruitment. I’d just told a group of high school seniors about how great attending said college would be for them and we were chatting. I was having lunch after I left the school so I asked the kids where was the best place in town to eat. They told me, without batting an eye, that their school was the best place in town to have my lunch. So with a little trepidation I went to eat with them. Lunch was Knoephla hot dish. It was thick, creamy, hearty, and by far the best meal I’d had in a while. I was sold. When I got back to town I started taking notice of when places were serving it and when the Bakery put it on the menu I was more then a little excited.

So if you’re like me and you’ve never tried this amazing soup here’s a quick rundown of what it is.

What’s with the name?
Knoephla, sometimes spelled Knephla, is a German soup. The word is related to the German word Knopfle which means little knob or button—probably in reference to the small delicious dumplings that fill the soup.

Why haven’t I heard of it?
Well, you might not be German or you might not live in a town with enough Germans in it. The Germans who brought us Knoephla soup came to the upper mid-west by way of Russia. They were originally invited there to help with farming by Catherine the Great. To encourage immigration, Germans were excluded from paying taxes and from serving in the Russian military. Under later Tsars these benefits were removed and the Germans, many of whom were pacifists by way of religion, emigrated to the United States. They settled mainly in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Luckily for us they brought their soup recipes with them. However, even if you’re from one of those states like I was you might not have a strong segment of Germans from Russia in your population or might have noticed Knoephla on a menu here and there, but then went with a soup you’d heard of.

What’s in Knoephla?
Knoephla is a creamy soup filled with potatoes, chicken, and dumplings. It’s possible to make it without the chicken as well if you want a vegetarian option—it’ll be great no matter what. Sometimes you’ll see Knoephla with celery or carrots as well. The main thing about Knoephla though is the dumplings and the cream. Knoephla dumplings are made by making a dough of milk, egg, and flour, mixing it till it’s stiff, and then cutting it into small bite sized dumplings. As they cook in the soup, they slowly rise to the top where they meet the butter. That’s right—Knoephla also has butter in it! It’s possible to make it without—but why would you want to? The soup can be thick like a stew or be served thinner; because of this, Knoephla is alway delicious on day two.

But really, why is knoephla the best?

It’s comfort food.
I know everyone probably has at least one food that takes them back to their Grandmother’s kitchen. Sometimes it’s chicken noodle soup or if you’re from Sweden it might be yellow pea soup served on a Thursday afternoon. Some people might like Macaroni and Cheese or a good pot roast. You can tell just by tasting it’s comfort food. Half way into the bowl you can start to taste the hard work that went into the dish. By the time you’re scraping the bottom, you just know that it is probably the most comforting thing you’ll have all week—unless you’re planning a trip to see a grand parent.

It’s hearty.
Knoephla is really a stick to your ribs kind of soup. The chicken, the potatoes, the dumplings, the cream, and of course the butter all work together to make sure you won’t need food for the rest of the day. When you finish a bowl of Knoephla you feel like you’ve had a meal—not an appetizer or a light lunch but a full meal—it’s that hearty.

It’s tasty.
This is probably pretty obvious. Any soup that sells out consistently, and is as comforting and hearty as Knoephla is must be tasty. That’s not all there is to it though. Knoephla has tons of herbs in it. Each cook seems to a slightly different combination that as been passed down to them that they are sure bring out the best flavors. While the spices vary, they do bring out all the savory flavors of the chicken while enhancing the broth. I often spend part of my time eating trying to figure out which herbs and spices must have gone into the pot to make it taste this good.

So there you have it! Knoephla is comforting, hearty, and tasty: everything a good soup should be. So, if you haven’t tried it yet, make sure you get to the bakery early the next time it’s on the menu. If you already know how good it is, make sure you get there even earlier—there might be new people coming in to try it.

Jennifer Barnes is an alumni of Dakota Harvest Bakers.

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