Best Soup In The West. Knoepfla. Knopfla. Knophla. Knepfla. Knoephla!
Western and central North Dakota boast heritage based in many cultures, a result of pioneer settlement in the latter part of the the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. (late 1800’s through early 1900’s, that is). Germans from Russia and Ukrainian settlers were among the hardiest. Their imprint on the area is vast, especially concerning cuisine.
No Matter How You Spell It, This Soup Is Good!
Soup warms the body, and some say the soul. Two types of soup are common in western North Dakota and recipes for each have been handed down for generations. Borscht and Knoepfla. Both have many correct and common spellings, and both have many recipes tried and true for generations. A good example of these are found on NDSU’s Germans from Russia Heritage Collection website.
More Than Food. It’s An Experience!
Sandy Rieker of the McKenzie County Heritage Park in Watford City loves history and loves to cook! She shares her best Knoepfla Soup experiences and recipes here:
The Wonders of Knoepfla Soup
As far back as I can remember into my childhood, to present day we have always had “noodles” at most if not, all of our Thanksgiving’s & Christmas’s. HUGE amounts of noodles to serve over our mashed potatoes. During my childhood my Grammy was always the “noodle maker” until our family became so large that all three of her daughters started hosting the holiday with their own brood at their own homes. My Mama alway’s made huge batches of noodles for our Holiday celebrations, huge amounts and we gobbled them all up!
Now we have started to branch out again, my Mama had 3 daughters, I am now the noodle maker for my brood. It turns out that not everyone in my brood really enjoy them like my sisters, Mother, cousins and I do. Hmmmmm quite interesting, I think this was really our own family tradition that we each have tried to pass on to our own broods. Nonetheless, I still make a small pot for the few of my family like them to go onto their mashed potatoes.
After we moved to North Dakota, I realized pretty much immediately that this was a different culture of people, food, origin, etc. We had been here for a few years and I kept hearing about this soup called “Nefla” soon realizing that it was a German dish and that it isn’t spelled that way, it’s “Knoepfla”.
When I learned what it was, I started laughing and told my husband that’s NOODLES!!!!! Well Kinda, but not, very similar to them anyway. I called my mom and told her that Noodles are really called Knoepfla and it’s a German dish. She wasn’t surprised because Grammy (AKA Edna Pauline Lyle Church) was of German descent. I knew she had some German blood but things like that were just never really discussed.
So, I found these 2 recipes in the “Taste of History” Watford City Centennial Cookbook. I did combine them however I did leave out or added a few ingredients. I did not add the evaporated milk & I did make the Knoepfla from scratch. It was so much like a chicken, potato soup without the Knoepfla that it could have stood alone, however when I added the dough, it was just the right finishing touch. Man it was good! Sort of like our noodles, but not!
I set this down in front of my husband, he gasped and said that his mom used to make this for him when he was little! I started laughing, this would be my “German/Russian husband. Then he told us stories of different times he ate this soup.
I realized then, that this one humble meal has gone through different cultures, from old to young. While we all have our own variations of recipe’s. It consistently does one thing with each beat of the fork as the Knoepfla is made they are made, it is clear that we all have a heritage, one that we might not even know we had.
Try These Soup Recipes
Sandy’s recipes can be found in this recipe book, A Taste of History by the Watford City Centennial Committee. It’s available for purchase at the Long X Visitor Center in Watford City, North Dakota.
And There’s More Than Soup!
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