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Friday evening the place in front of the Kotel, the Western Wall in the center of Jerusalem, tends to be overcrowded - an ambiance, even Hektor Maille could not escape.

Herzog's Gefilte Fisch

Carp Dumplings

There are very few dishes that are considered as much being «typically Jewish» as «Gefilte Fisch» is. The origin of the dish is unknown and there are recipes and variations in heaps. They differ mainly in two major respects. While one line of recipes prepares the fish with lots of sugar, other chefs use mainly pepper and salt. Recipes from Western European kitchens stuff the farce in a fish skin or into the belly of a whole fish – as seems to specify the name. The Eastern European tradition, however, considers the farce itself already as «Gefilte Fisch». Today, most cooks, even in Israel, prepare «Gefilte Fisch» in the form of round dumplings.

«Gefilte Fisch» is a classic Sabbath-starter – as the separation of meat and bones, inevitable when eating a whole fish, is already considered as an activity, which religious Jews on the Sabbath must not carry out (similar to the separation of chaff and wheat).

Our recipe, however, does not claim to have sabbatical values. We have got it out of the kitchen of the «Herzog's» in Port-Louis – a restaurant, about which Izak Boukman once wrote that «despite the menorah next to the entrance of the kitchen it is probably not quite kosher.»

Most recipes recommend to cook the dumplings in a broth with fish heads, fish bones and vegetables – for two hours. Cooking fish carcasses longer than 20 to 30 minutes makes the broth becoming gluey and gives it a bad taset. We therefore first prepare a light fish broth in which we can then simmer the dumplings.

The recipe presented here transforms a carp of about 1½ kilograms into dumplings and broth, respectively jelly. As you usually will ask your fish monger to fillet the animal, we have posted the recipe accordingly. If the decomposed animal gives less than 800 gm fillet, it can be completed by the meat of other carp or from another fish.

In the «Herzog's» restaurant the dumplings are always served with Chrain, a hot horseradish and beetroot sauce.

Ingredients (for the broth)

Head, fins, skins and bones of one big carp

1½ tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon white pepper, whole

12 corns allspice, whole

4 bayleaves

2 onions, cleaned with their skins

2 or 3 small branches parsley

3 carrots, sliced

1 cup green leek

Ingredients (for the dumplings)

800 g carp fillets

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

2 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 carrots, cleaned and coarsely chopped

3 eggs, slightly scrabled

3 teaspoons salt

4 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoons white pepper, ground

1 teaspoon allspice, ground

100 g matzah, crumbled

Preparation of the broth

  1. Slice the carp head in half and remove the gills. Wash head, fins, skin and bones well under running water.
  2. Put the carcasses in a large pot together with remaining ingredients for the broth (salt, sugar, pepper, allspice, bay leaves, onion, parsley, carrots and leeks). Cover with 1½ liters of cold water and slowly bring to a boil. As soon as the first bubbles start to rise, reduce heat so that the broth boils easily only. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool about 20 minutes.
  3. Pour broth through a sieve. Save carrot pieces and set aside (they are used later for decoration). Press with a wooden spoon a little on the fish carcasses to extract as much juice as possible.

Preparation of the dumplings

  1. Cut the carp fillets into large pieces.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, sauté onion and carrots in it slightly (but do not brown too much).
  3. Pass fish with onions and carrots through the meat grinder.
  4. Add eggs, salt, sugar, pepper and allspice, crumble matzah into it, mix well. Pass again through the mincer and then mix and knead by hand until the mixture appears homogeneous. Set aside in the fridge until use.

You can crush the matzah in a mortar or food processor before adding it to the mixture - so they can better mix with the fish.


  1. Heat the fish broth until it just boils easily.
  2. With damp hands, form small dumplings with a diameter of about 4 cm and carefully let the glide into the broth. Cook gently for two hours, occasionally returning them.
  3. Allow to cool the dumplings in the broth for at least 12 hours in the fridge. The broth should be transformed during this time into a jelly.
  4. Using a spoon remove the little white layer of fat that has formed on top of the gelatine. Carefully pick out the dumplings from the gelatine.
  5. Set the dumplings in whole or in halves on a plate, garnish with the cooked carrots, add some of the jelly and some Chrain.

The dumplings taste better when they are taken out of the fridge for some time before serving, allowing them to can almost reach room temperature. The jelly, by contrast, must remain in the cool - otherwise it becomes liquid again.


You can prepare «Gefilte Fisch» with other fish, just cook the dumplings in salt water or vegetable broth, you can use old bread instead of matzah, season more or less, add more or less sugar… Carp in certain areas is not very popular and so difficult to get. Once we have prepared the dumplings with a kind of hake and cooked them in a light vegetable broth with a little sugar, allspice and peppercorns. Finally, we have reduced the broth a little bit and gelled it with agar-agar. As far as the dumplings were concerned the result was almost indistinguishable from the original recipe - the jelly though was much less interesting. The variant made much less work (but of course the craftsmen pride was not quite as big). We have also frozen some dumplings, than defrosted them quite abruptly in a little boiling fish broth and served lukewarm, which pleased us very well.

«Gefilte Fisch» – just classic: A sliced dumpling, decorated with soft-boiled carrots, with «Chrain» and some from the jelly fish sauce.
The ingredients for the carp-broth: carp head, bones and skin, vegetables and salt.
The dumplings are best formed with slightly moistened hands.
On cooling, the fat rises to the surface of the jelly as white layer. It can then be easily removed.
A place for carp – especially on a Friday: fish monger at the Ha Sheqqed street on the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Picture taken on July 23, 2010.
«Gefilte Fisch» for fearless friends: Elisabeth Ritschard, Lena Eriksson, Reinhard Storz, Monika Studer and Christoph van den Berg on HOIO's menu-test for Episode 16 of «Mission Kaki», December 5, 2010 in Basel.
Carp in festive dress. HOIO's menu-test for Episode 16 of «Mission Kaki», December 7, 2010 in Zurich.
Skeptical views of strange dumplings. Franziska Altermatt, Geri Hofer and Judith Albert on HOIO's menu-test for Episode 16 of «Mission Kaki», December 15, 2010 in Zurich.
In Jewish grocery stores or in the kosher sections of larger supermarkets «Gefilte Fisch» can also be found canned – mostly it's bigger glasses, where the dumplings lay in jelly. For some reason, these glasses are almost always dusty, which has already been noticed by Hektor Maille. We only have tasted one of these cans (dumplings of the brand «Meal Mart») and found the taste a little strange, somehow elderly - which however shall not be a general verdict of this preserve.

More about the travel adventure of Secret Agent Hektor Maille:

After a failed metamorphosis, a hungry Hektor Maille traipsed through the streets of Jerusalem, his head full of fishy thoughts, but ended up with only a couple of chickpeas on his plate. We have therefore requested the restaurant «Herzog's» in Port Louis to put together a small fish menu for us:

And also:

First Publication: 24-12-2010

Modifications: 20-6-2011, 16-11-2011, 19-12-2011