If you could walk through the streets of Jerusalem, or anywhere in Israel this time of year, you’ll catch a distinct whiff in the air of foods frying in oil. Mixed with sweet or savory flavors, it’s one way to whet your appetite and warm your soul in the cold winter. When your mouth finally gets to participate, a few bites and your taste buds are drenched in crispy fried goodness. It’s of course Hannukah, a time when oil fried foods are the king of the plate for eight days (sometimes even for weeks prior). And for many observing traditions, dairy products such as cheese pancakes or rugelach cookies are also on the menu.
Traditional foods eaten on this joyous holiday include the ever popular potato pancake, levivot in Hebrew, latkes in Yiddish. Sufganiyot, from the word ‘sponge’ in Hebrew, yeast based doughnuts are typically filled with jelly or dulce de leche and are a huge treat. In more recent years bakeries throughout Israel have come up with wildly creative flavors (similar to the cupcake phenomenon in the United States). I agree with Cafe Liz though, they’re a bit too sweet for my taste and on this holiday I prefer a little more traditional flavors (at least when it comes to doughnuts). But if you enjoy something less vanilla (or in this case very vanilla) doughnut flavors range from pistachio to rose petal to chocolate orange and are fun to experience (at least once).
Another doughnut that’s a real treat and made in Moroccan households over the holiday is called sfinj. My mother in-law dusts sfinj with powdered sugar when they’ve cooled a bit, but usually we’re hovering around the frying pan so they never even make it to a plate. Serve, as with most Moroccan dishes, with hot mint tea.
Even if you don’t celebrate Hannukah (also spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah or Chanuka), the Festival of Lights is a time your taste buds can celebrate the traditions and hopefully you can experience an evening of good food, friends and candle lighting no matter where you are in the world.
Explore more details about the history of the foods enjoyed over Hannukah, and try these great recipes:
Go Jerusalem | Why Eat Dairy and Oily Foods on Chanukah
Epicurious | Encyclopedia of Jewish Foods
L.A. Times Food | The little pancake with a big history
The Shiksa In The Kitchen on PBS | Discover the History of Latkes During Hanukkah
OMG Yummy | Eight Potato Latke Recipes
Food Bridge | Leek Patties and Hannukah, Time for Cauliflower Fritters
Tablet | Video: Joan Nathan Makes The Ultimate Latke
NPR | Beyond Latkes: Eight Nights of Fried Delights
Epicurious | How to Make Rugelach
Food 52 | Moroccan Donuts – Sfinj
SF Gate | Hannukah Sufganiyot a Simpler Approach
Karin Goren | Bakery Style Sufganiyot (in Hebrew)
In Hebrew we say “b’tayavon” bon appetite and “hag samech” Happy Hannukah!