Happy Hanukkah! Every year for Hanukkah we try to highlight some lesser known (at least in the US) foods of Jewish communities. One country with a rich tradition of Jewish foods that you may not think of immediately is Italy. There has been a Jewish community in Italy since at least 150 BC, and it has continued through to the present day. In Rome, the Jewish population was forced to live in a designated ghetto from 1555 to 1870, and in this period a distinctive Roman Jewish cuisine emerged.
Happy first day of Hanukkah – now it’s time for the treats! We wrote a little bit about the classic Sephardic Jewish dessert fritters, Buñuelos, in the past. However, we underestimated just how popular these little fried dough treats from Spain were. Though they are symbolic Hanukkah dish, and the frying of the dough represents the oil that burned for 8 nights, Buñuelos are also enjoyed as a Christmas treat. Buñuelos, (aka Bimuelos, Burmuelos, among other names) were initially created by Spanish moriscos centuries ago, but have since spread in popularity across Latin America.
There is a major tradition around eating fried food for Hanukkah, since oil is such an essential part to the Hanukkah story – a miracle that allowed one day’s worth of oil to light a menorah for eight days. Though we love the traditional fried donuts sfenj and sufganiyot – there is also another Hanukkah tradition we have just learned about – eating cheese! The origins of eating cheese on Hanukkah begins with the story of Judith, who is said to have given an enemy general salty cheese to make him thirsty, becase of this he became drunk, allowing her to later kill him. So that may be a little morbid… but the importance of cheese to the story has led to delicious cultural traditions of enjoying cheese at Hanukkah time! Though the tradition is not as big in the US – it has a stronger foothold in Europe. Popular ways to enjoy cheese on Hanukkah are tasty Italian ricotta latkes, cream cheese rugelach and cheese blintzes.
One of the classic activities for Hanukkah is playing Dreidel, where you spin a top and depending on how it falls, you give or receive chocolate coins, or gelt. You can buy chocolate coins in most any store, but they are kind of boring. Why not make your own with some chocolate molds – with some inventive flavors – like green tea (above) or dark chocolate sea salt. Or if you really want to put a twist on the game of Dreidel, how about a Dr. Dreidel?
Hanukkah is coming up – which means we are in prime babka season. Babka (aka Krantz cake) is a sweet Eastern European braided bread that has become a staple of New York City Jewish cuisine. I have tried a few babkas and I think I can definitively say I have tried my favorite in NYC so far – Breads Bakery (18 E 16th St, New York, NY 10003). Breads is the run by Israel-born, Denmark-trained baker Uri Scheft. At Breads, Scheft updates a variety of bakery classics including challah, rye, cookies, baguettes, croissants and even sufganiyot for Hanukkah, but the babka is the standout.
Breads’ version is different from the traditional babka since it is made with a hazelnut spread / chocolate filling instead of just chocolate. Despite not being the most traditional, there is a whole lot to love. Breads’ babka is soft, gooey and completely bursting with chocolate and hazelnut goodness. There is even a cinnamon version! We are not alone in our praise, and Breads also got a hat tip for best babka in NYC from Serious Eats and New York Magazine. Breads even makes a babka pie! We will definitely be back the next time we are NYC. Who makes your favorite babka?
[Via Metafilter] While the Israeli jelly doughnut Sufganiyot may be more commonly known in the US, Sfenj is Morocco’s answer to fried, doughnut-like Hanukkah treat. The Moroccan fried doughnuts have an unsweetened yeast dough, and are drenched in honey or sugar for sweetness. They may also be drizzled with date syrup. Yum! Sfenj are found throughout North Africa, and are often cooked up as a street food for breakfast for those of all religions. Here is a recipe for Sfenj from Shelly’s Humble Kitchen and the Toronto Star for those who are doughnut-inclined. Check out a video below of Sfenj being expertly prepared in Morocco.
Hanukkah starts tomorrow – so it’s about time to start prepping some holiday treats. One Hanukkah treat we detailed in years’ past was sufganiyot, the Israeli jelly doughnut associated with Hanukkah. However this year we can do one better – how about a huge sufganiyot cake? Food 52 has an inspired recipe for the sweet Hanukkah treat that’s perfect for sharing with the whole family.
While Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Hanukkah foods may be more well-known in the USA, Sephardic (Mediterranean) traditional foods are worth a second look if you are hoping to switch up your Hanukkah menu. The mix of Jewish traditions and Mediterranean flavors is definitely a good one. I am very interested to try Jessamyn’s Sephardic Challah Recipe, which seems different than its eggier Eastern European counterpart. Other traditional Sephardic Hanukkah foods include buñuelos, a Spanish cousin to sufganiyot, and even fried turnips. Buñuelos, (aka Bimuelos, Burmuelos, among others) were initially created by Spanish moriscos, but have since spread in popularity across Latin America.
Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah in America is often associated with latkes, however, an equally delicious treat is popular for Hanukkah in Israel – Sufganiyot – a type of a jelly doughnut. There has long been a tradition of associating fried foods with Hanukkah due to the importance of oil to the holiday, and Sufganiyot is a mash-up of North African and European traditions. Here is a recipe for Sufganiyot, with a classic jelly filling – though you might find them with any manner of exotic fruit or cream fillings. For another twist, try these Sufganiyot-inspired cupcakes.
The delicious holiday of Hanukkah is underway, and of course this means latkes! Being the starch lover – I am all about latkes, and am always on the hunt for a new spin on a classic dish. The New York Times presents a recipe for red latkes (thanks to the addition of beets). Flickr user TimTom.ch presents a matzo and cottage cheese recipe which sounds (and looks) great. Also at the NYT, Joan Nathan answers readers’ most pressing Hanukkah food questions – Q: What type of oil should you fry up latkes in? A: Olive oil is probably the historically correct way to cook latkes.
We’re two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.
To contact us for partnerships or just to say hi, email us at eating the world (at) gmail.com
Eating The World · We're two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.