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Hanukkah – No latkes, no doughnuts! Part two


Last time, we said goodbye latke, so long sufganiya and presented other traditional Hanukkah foods from around the world. Today, eight more gastronomic goodies.


Riso coll’uvetta (Italian Rice with Raisins) + Pollo fritto per Chanukà (Hanukkah Fried Chicken)

Frank Fariello has designed a traditional Italian Hanukkah feast. Start with riso coll’uvetta, an ancient recipe from the Jewish community in Venice. The recipe calls for both garlic and raisins, and Fariello points out that “the combination of sweet and savoury in this risotto is quite unusual in modern Italian cookery—a sign, perhaps, of the recipe’s ancient origin… The addition of raisins in Italian cooking, however, is not all that uncommon, particularly in Venetian and Sicilian cuisines, usually being a sign of Moorish or Middle Eastern influence.”

You are now ready for Pollo fritto per Chanukà fried in olive oil. If you find that daunting, remember to use a small chicken and regulate the heat of the oil so that the chicken pieces cook at the right pace. As for the taste, Fariello writes, “I have to say, this Hanukkah Fried Chicken was quite a revelation. The taste was hard to describe—both familiar as an Italian dish yet somehow… different. Among other things, the nutmeg gave it an unusual, almost ‘oriental’ taste.” Leah Koenig’s version calls for “chicken pieces with a mix of lemon, garlic, cinnamon and thyme.”


How to make Zengoula (Jewish Funnel Cake)

Zengoula (jalabi) – (Iraqi funnel cake with lemon syrup)

Cookbook writer Amelia Saltsman (Iraqi father, Romanian mother) notes that “these crisp fritters, or funnel cakes, were adopted by Iraqi Jews centuries ago as the perfect fried food to celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah.” And then she gets to the mouth-watering part: “My cousin Elan Garonzik has vivid memories of our grandmother turning out perfect coils, which is how they’re sold at Arab bakeries like Moutran in Nazareth and Jaffa. That takes a bit of practice. Free-form Rorschach-like shapes—sea horses, dolphins, geese—that magically appear as they bubble up in the hot oil are just as delicious.”


Labneh (soft cheese made from strained yogurt)

Labneh is a staple in many Israeli kitchens year round. But what is its link to Hanukkah? As a dairy food, it has a connection that goes back thousands of years. “According to legend,” explains Ariela Pelaia, the heroine “Judith was a great beauty who saved her village from the Babylonians by charming her way into the enemy camp with a basket of cheese and wine. The enemy general, Holofernes, became drunk and passed out, and Judith beheaded him with his own sword. In this way, Judith saved her people. Eventually it became traditional to eat dairy foods in honour of her bravery.”

Do not try this at home (at least the part with the sword.) But you can safely try Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Mini-Latkes with Labneh and Smoky Harissa.


Qatayef (atayef or sweet cheese stuffed hotcakes)


Atayef (qatayef) (Stuffed Syrian Pancakes)

Let’s stay with the dairy theme as we sample atayef, a sweet dumpling filled with cream or nuts and then soaked in a sugary rose syrup. Also served as an Arab dessert during the month of Ramadan, Adeena Sussman tried her hand at the recipe provided by Jennifer Abadi, a Syrian Jewish cook based in New York. “Though atayef are labour intensive, their delicate and delicious flavour is well worth the time spent in the kitchen. The rosewater syrup is an acquired taste; you can replace it with orange flower water for a different, but equally delicious flavour.”


Neyyappam (unniyappam) (South Indian sweet fritter)

Writing in his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Gil Marks explains that “these balls are frequently served along with coffee and tea as part of the daily evening snack, as well as for celebrations. For special occasions, the fritter batter is frequently enriched with bananas or mangoes.” I came across a recipe that sounds most promising. It calls for basmati rice, brown sugar, over ripe bananas, black sesame seeds, cardamom powder, dry, chopped coconut and clarified butter.


Bimuelo by Sarah Aroeste

Buñuelo (bilmuelo, binmuelo, birmuelo, bonuelo, bumuelo, etc.) (Sephardic sweet fritter)

Did you know that “bunuelos” are mentioned in the Torah (sort of?) As explained in a fascinating article by Ty Alhadeff, the heavenly food manna is described in the Torah as having been “like sapihit in honey.” Translators have struggles with the word sapihit and in English it usually ends up as “wafer.” But Ladino Bibles translate sapihit as the mouth-watering “bunuelo” now known as a crunchy disk, dusted with sugar and cinnamon and fried in oil. Interestingly, the treat has taken root in Mexico where it can be found stacked high at markets and street stands.


Bhajis (Indian Onion and Chickpea Fritters)

Looking for an alternate way to fulfill your Hanukkah oil quota? Emanuelle Lee recommends bhajis, Indian fritters that are hot and crispy, “and still send that endorphin-inducing smell of oil around the house, but the zesty accompanying yogurt dip cuts the calorific guilt a little, thanks to its cool freshness.” Meat eaters, do not despair. The Jewish Chronicle has a recipe for chicken and onion bhajis.


However you decide to dine, have a wonderful Hanukkah!

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