Our Ethnic Foods: Culinary Inroads Into
California, Anyone for Knoephle?
"Our Ethnic Foods: Culinary Inroads Into California, Anyone for Knoephle?" California District Council Report, Spring 2004.
At a recent corporate-sponsored "Diversity Day" potluck
luncheon in San Ramon, California, a Filipino-American associate
of mine unpacked a huge pot of soup. Her home-made lumpia had been
the hit of our previous luncheon and everyone was anticipating a
culinary repeat performance. She hesitatingly explained that she
wasn't sure what this soup was called, however, and it wasn't even
Filipino, it was her husband's grandmother's recipe. She reassured
us it was the ultimate "comfort food"! The soup was another
potluck triumph: creamy, with a definite chicken fundament, bits
of potato and celery and lots of little dumplings. I thought about
my associate's anglicized, vaguely-German last name, and about her
long daily commute from Lodi. When asked about her husband's family,
she, expressed the nationality confusion many German Russians have
experienced: "I don't know. I guess they're German or something."!
As a California native from a Volga German family, I realized I
was having my first encounter with Knoephle Soup!
Following are excerpts from a Knoephle Soup article in the March
8, 2001 edition of "The Morton County and Mandan News"
in a cunning bit of journalistic wit by Aaron Laduke. Know Your
The South has their Barbeque, Chicago and New York their own styles
of pizza, the Northeast can boast of seafood, California of sushi
(Editor: sushi?), but here in North Dakota, we have a dish that
surpasses all of these, in taste and in sustenance - a soup that
goes by the name of knoephle.
In the peace garden state, whether it be the bar-goer stumbling
from their local haunt, the workman in search of hearty lunchtime
nourishment, or the family sitting down together to eat at home
or elsewhere, one word comes to all of their lips - knoephle. For
me, knoephle soup is as much a part of North Dakota as the Missouri,
Lake Sakakawea, the Badlands and my car door frozen solidly shut
on a brilliant winter morning.
My mother, generous soul that she is, sent me on my senior ski trip
with a massive crock of knoephle. How my friends' spirits were raised
by the kettle of knoephle riding safely along with us on the long
trip through Montana!
Just this fall at a football playoff game in Strasburg, my heart
skipped a beat when I saw the charmed words in the window of the
concession stand - knoephle soup, 75 cents.
Knoephle soup has obviously given me so many meals and memories
I'm going to tell you a bit about the history of our state soup
(May I be so bold?), and I am also going to take on a much more
daunting task. I shall try to determine who serves the best bowl
of knoephle soup in Mandan.
It's almost impossible to name another food as cherished as Mr.
Laduke's beloved knoephle. He learns all about its heritage from
his German-Russian grandmother and from the GRHS office in nearby
Bismarck, and then his knoephle-odyssey takes him through all of
Mandan's best knoephle-houses to Ohm's Cafe, The Speedway, Kroll's
Corner, Stadt Haus, Fried's Family Restaurant and Dakota Farms (Editor:
all this in a town of just 17,000 residents?). After carefully evaluating
all the possible variations in the soup's appearance, its exquisite
aroma, its comforting flavor and the attributes of its dumplings,
he sidesteps naming Mandan's best knoephle soup, explaining diplomatically
that he, afterall, "never met a bowl of knoephle" he "didn't
If you have a favorite knoephle soup anecdote - or short narrative
about any German-Russian ethnic foods - please share it with the
Our appreciation is extended to the editor of the California
District Council Report for permission to use this article.