A kreplach is a small stuffed pasta also called a dumpling. They are often served in chicken soup or fried as a side dish to a main course. Kreplachs are part of the traditional cuisine of European Jews, also called the Ashkenazi. In accordance with Jewish dietary, or kosher, laws, which forbid mixing dairy with meat, a kreplach may be filled with ground beef or chicken, cheese or potatoes depending on what else is being served in the meal.
Kreplach dough is made from flour, water and eggs, which, according to kosher law, are considered neither meat or dairy and can be served with any other food. It is rolled out very thin and then cut into squares. The filling is placed in the middle of the squares, and then one of its edges is brought over the filling to make a triangle shape. Many historians of Jewish cuisine say the shape has several symbolic meanings. One is that the three points on the triangle are meant to represent the three biblical figures from the Old Testament—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Others say the triangle shape is similar to the three-pointed hat worn by Haman in the biblical story of Purim. Haman attempted to kill all the Jews in ancient Persia, but they were saved by the queen, Esther. Purim is celebrated today by making dessert kreplach and fried dumplings with jam fillings called hamentashen, and the eating of them is meant to symbolize freedom from persecution.
Meat or cheese kreplach is also traditionally served at Purim as well as the Jewish new year celebration known as Rosh Hashanah. On Yom Kippur, a day of prayer and reflection on one's actions over the year, observant Jews often abstain from eating food for a day. The last meal served before the fast, however, is considered festive, and kreplach is commonly served along with other traditional Jewish foods like challah, braided egg bread and chicken soup.
The origins of kreplach are thought to have come from Italian Jews in the 14th century who adopted parts of Italian cuisine, such as ravioli. Others say it was eastern European Jews who adapted Russian pelmeni, small stuffed dumplings boiled or fried and usually served with sour cream. Modern cooks who may not want to make kreplach dough from scratch often use wonton wrappers, which have the desired thin consistency and are usually available in most large supermarkets.