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Cepelinai, also known as Didžkukuliai, is a traditional Lithuanian potato dumpling that is typically stuffed with meat, mushrooms, or dried curd. The word Cepelinai means “zeppelin” in English; the dish is so named because its shape looks similar to the airship. It is one of the more savory versions of the many stuffed potato dumpling dishes common in several cultures around the world.
Preparing cepelinai is a time-intensive process. A typical recipe consists of three basic parts: the dumpling dough, the filling, and the sauce. In essence, the dough is stuffed with filling and formed into dumplings, which are then boiled for several minutes and served with or topped by sauce.
The filling for cepalinai is usually made first. A common recipe can include ground or minced meat, onion, egg, and simple seasonings such as salt and pepper. These ingredients are mixed together and set aside.
Next, the dumpling mixture is prepared. It consists of a base of boiled, peeled, and grated potatoes, which are squeezed in cheesecloth in order to remove excess moisture. They are then mixed with the onions and seasonings to make the dough.
Cepelinai dumplings are prepared by first making a small ball of dough. This is patted flat and the filling mixture is added to the center. Then the dough is folded around the filling and sealed closed. The completed dumplings are boiled in salted water.
Size of cepelinai dumplings varies across different regions. Versions in eastern Lithuanian counties are smaller than those found in the west. In general, a dumpling will measure about 4–7 inches (10–20 cm) long.
Once the dumplings have been boiled, cepelinai are typically served with a sauce made of ingredients such as pork rinds, fried bacon, and sour cream or milk. It can be served poured over the dumplings or on the side to be added as desired. The meats can also be used to garnish the dumpling.
Many other cultures also have a traditional potato dumpling dish. In Norway, a version called raspeball is made of half raw and half cooked potatoes and stuffed with salted pork or lamb. A Swedish version known as kroppkaka is typically filled with fried bacon or pork and onion and served with lingonberry jam, butter, or cream. There is also a version made by the French Canadian colonists known as Acadians called poutine râpée. It is usually filled with pork and served with sweet accompaniments such as fruit preserves, brown sugar, or maple syrup.
I have had cepelinais on a few occasions and love them. They are kind of like a calzone or a samosa. There are lots and lots of variations of the same thing. But there is something slightly different about cepelinais. I can't put my finger on it, but these are definitely my favorite variety.
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