Lithuania’s National Dish – Cepelinai (Zeppelins) Potato-Meat Dumplings

July 4, 2011 , In: Mains , With: 7 Comments

Lithuania’s National Dish is Cepelinai (or Zeppelins) which are Potato-Meat Dumplings.  This dish was cited pretty much unanimously on the web as the National Dish of Lithuania.  Perhaps now everyone can see why I was putting this one off.  On a hot summer day, heavy potato dumplings don’t really come to mind.  Plus, I am pretty sure I have eaten this exact thing already, except it was Norwegian and called Klub.  So, I know what to expect!

Lithuanian Cepelinai (Potato-Meat Dumplings)
Adapted from an amalgamation of various recipes on the web but mostly from About.Com
This represents a 1/2 recipe

4 large Idaho potatoes, peeled, grated, and blended into a mush (applesauce consistency)
1 large Idaho potato, peeled, boiled and riced
1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 pound ground pork
1 small onion
1/2 tsp salt
little pepper
1 small egg

1/4 pound bacon, diced
1 small chopped onion
1 cup sour cream
pepper to taste

1tbsp cornstarch

  • Mix all meat ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Add a drop or two of lemon juice to the grated and mushed potatoes so they don’t turn brown.  Place in a cheesecloth or cotton dish towel and twist to get rid of excess water.  Do this in small batches.  I did about 1/2 potato per squeeze.  Pour off water, and reserve the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Unwrap cheesecloth and place potatoes in bowl with potato starch, riced boiled potatoes, grated onion and salt.  Mix well.
  • Put a large stockpot of water on to boil.
  • To form Cepelinai, take about 1 cup of dumpling mixture and pat it flat in the palm of the hand creating a disk.  Place 1/4 cup meat mixture in centre and using slightly dampened hands fold the potato mixture around the meat into a football shape sealing well.
  • Carefully lower dumplings into salted, boiling water to which 1 tbsp cornstarch has been added (to prevent dumplings from falling apart).
  • Make sure water returns to the boil and continue boiling for 45 minutes.  Gently turn as they cook to try.  Remove dumplings and drain on a clean dish towel.
  • While dumplings are boiling make the gravy.  Fry the bacon and onion until tender.  Drain and combine with sour cream and black pepper. Thin with 1-2tbsp milk if necessary.
Sauce 8/10 – C’mon, it’s bacon, onion and sour cream!
Ceplinai 1/10 – Probably the least appropriate thing to make for what is so far Montreal’s most humid day of the year – or does it just feel like that after standing over a pot full of boiling glutinous balls of potato?  The texture is really horrific, and without the sauce I am going to say it is pretty much inedible.  And yes, it’s pretty much the same as the Norwegian Klub.  It took ages and squeezing out all that potato water was an absolute mess.  Never again…
    • Anonymous
    • August 5, 2011

    well, I’m from Lithuania and i can say that those zeppelins look really poor. I personally think that your verdict would be allot better, if you tried a real thing, Mr./Mrs chef 😉

  1. Reply

    I don’t doubt it! If I ever make it to Lithuania, I would definitely like to try the ‘real’ version!

    • Anonymous
    • December 14, 2011

    My grandmother and my father made them and they were the best thing ever I wish I would have gotten the recipe when I had the chance they were firm and the filling she used was cheese with bacon and onion covered in fried bacon and grease brings me back many years if you made them and didnt like them you did it wrong

  2. Reply

    Yes, I have no doubt there are better versions of these out there. If anyone has a more detailed recipe with step by step explanations I would be willing to try these again as due to the comments received I seem to have really missed the mark. I may have to eat my words.

  3. Reply

    I am Lithuanian too. No offense, but your zeppelins look really poor… they are actually delicious, but they is a slippery things…

  4. Reply

    I’m not Lithuanian, but had quite a few Lithuanian friends when I was in England couple of years ago, and even went to visit them once. Your Cepelinai looks disgusting…sorry to say… but it does 🙂 I got the recipe from my friends’ mother and had it for the first time in more than 2years last week. It really is delicious if you make it right!

  5. Reply

    Try the Zeppelini test for Lithuanian visitors. If you can eat more than one at any meal then it proves you are a real man. I never witnessed a two Zep eater – very heavy going .

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Michelle Little

Writer & Photographer

Originally from the prairies and now in Montreal, I love exploring new places, eating great food and modern design. I'm mom of two wild things and paper and cake make me happy. Photographing your cutie family would make me very happy.

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