For Hanukkah, the comforts of fried foods around the world
Tonight marks the start of Hanukkah, the eight day festival of lights. According to Chabad.org:
“In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in G‑d. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G‑d.
When they sought to light the Temple's Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah.”
Among the prayers and rituals that are a part of lighting the menorah and celebrating with family, is the food. Because oil plays a significant role in the festival’s origin story, fried foods too play a role in the festival’s celebration. Today, we highlight some of the friend food treats shared by Jewish families around the world during Hanukkah. If you are attending a holiday party this year, whether at work or a friend's home, consider bringing something other than gingerbread cookies or chips and dip. Why not bring one of the dishes below? They offer a chance to explain what they are and where they come from, and might even help a coworker or a friend feel more included in the holiday season.
Most people are aware of latkes, the potato pancake considered a staple of Hanukkah. But there are many other Jewish foods that are made around the world for the holiday, and whether or not you are Jewish and looking for some new ideas for dishes to share with your family, or a friend interested in providing something appropriate and different for a holiday party, here are some ideas.
We took a look at this list of Hanukkah fried foods that are popular in different countries around the world (go check out the link to look at pictures, too!):
- Bimuelos: Bimuelos are a Sephardi kind of fritter, traditionally eaten on Hanukkah. They are historically associated with Anusim, Sephardi Jews who, due to the Spanish Inquisition, were forced to hide their Jewish identities and live as Christians. Try these delicious desserts for yourself with this recipe!
- Sfenj: Sfenj are a Moroccan yeast doughnut, dipped in honey. They take a while to make, but they will be worth the hours you put in! Try out a recipe for sfenj at this link.
- Perashki Kartoshkagiy: Perashki Kartoshkagiy is a Bukharian potato turnover that is popular in Central Asian Hanukkah celebrations. Check out a recipe for how to make them yourself here! Other Bukharian Hanukkah treats to try include chebureki and samsi (similar to samosas). Learn more about Bukharian Hanukkah cuisine by reading this article in Tablet Magazine.
- Cassola: Want to infuse your Hanukkah with some Italian food? Look no further than the cassola. Make this traditional Italian Hanukkah dessert for yourself with the recipe accessible at this link.
- Keftes de Prasas: Keftes de Prasas are Sephardic leek patties. Although they are particular popular on Hanukkah due to the fried theme of the holiday, they are also eaten throughout the rest of the year. Give them a taste with this recipe (scroll down from this link to find it)!
- Kibbet Yatkeen: Potato pancakes aren't the only kind of pancake traditionally associated with Hanukkah -- kibbet yatkeen, popular among Syrian Jews, are pumpkin pancakes. In other words -- all the pumpkin flavors that we know and love from Halloween can come back in December if you make this recipe for yourself!
Other Hanukkah fried foods include the sufganiyot, a jelly doughnut popular in Israel, and prone to new innovations each year by Israeli chefs; pasta latkes, a Romanian Jewish treat that uses pasta instead of potatoes; and fritelle di riso, an Italian rice fritter.
And of course, there’s always the latke.