Bagels Around the World

Rachel Tepper Paley
June 6, 2014

What is a bagel, really? In the United States, bagels are rings of yeasted wheat dough that are first boiled in water, then baked. They’re roughly the size of an adult’s outstretched hand, and most commonly sliced length-wise and slathered with a schmear of cream cheese.

But around the world, decidedly bagel-esque rings of dough abound. Some are larger. Some are crispier. Some are boiled, and some are not.

Here are some of our favorites, and why you should care:

Photo credit: Finn O’Hara/Getty

Montreal-Style Bagels. This Canadian breakfast standard is bit smaller, sweeter, denser, and crisper than its American cousin. That’s because the dough contains egg (stateside, only specifically marked “egg” bagels do) and less salt. The rings are also boiled in honeyed water, which makes their surfaces sweeter. Unlike most American bagels, they’re baked in a wood-burning oven.

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Vesirinkeli. This Finnish treat has many things in common with our bagel—its dough is a yeast-leavened wheat bread, they’re often eaten for breakfast, and they’re also boiled in water, then baked.

Photo credit: maiakinfo/Flickr

Bubliks. One can find bubliks, rings of boiled and baked white bread dough, across Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania. They have a wider hole than an American bagel, and A crisper texture. Like American bagels, they’re sometimes sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds.

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Obwarzanek. Polish obwarzanek are bigger than traditional bagels—up to roughly seven inches in diameter—although they’re also boiled and baked. However, they’re never cut in half, toasted, or used for sandwiches, as we Americans love to do.

Photo credit: Joelle Icard/Getty

Simit. Hailing from Turkey, simits are more like a New York City pretzel than a bagel. They’re never boiled before baking, which yields a fluffier texture

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Kompyang. Not all bagel-like breads hail from Europe. In China, yeasty flour cakes with holes are called kompyang, or in the Jian’ou dialect, guang-biang. They come in savory and sweet varieties, and are, again, not boiled before they’re baked. The creations first appeared during the Ming Dynasty, and are named for its inventor, the Chinese military general Qi Jiguang, who sought to create a foodstuff that could be easily strung together and carried into battle.

The humble bagel doesn’t seem so provincial anymore, does it?