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9 Traditional Hunakkah Foods You Can Enjoy in Modern Times

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  • Digital Team 

The events that inspired the Hanukkah festival occurred in the second century B.C., when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of Judea (now known as Israel), outlawed Judaism and compelled Jews to worship Greek gods.

Antiochus and his soldiers massacred Jerusalem in 168 B.C. Thousands of people were killed, and the city’s holy Second Temple was desecrated with a Zeus statue and pig sacrifices within its sacred walls.

A massive insurrection organized by a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons helped the Jewish people in regaining their liberty.

The insurrectionists reconstructed the altar and scrubbed the Second Temple. They set a menorah on the altar, and despite only having enough oil for one night, the candles remained ablaze for eight.

This miracle inspired the Hanukkah tradition of lighting the menorah during the eight-day holiday.

Today, Jews are dispersed around the world, and many cultures and countries have altered traditional meals, making them even more wonderful. When it comes to Hanukkah, there is something for everyone.

Are you looking to try out some Hanukkah food? There are many options you can go with. The common ones include:

Potato pancakes

Potato pancakes, also known as latkes or levivot, are perhaps the most common traditional Hanukkah foods found on Jewish households’ tables.

To honor the oil that lasted for eight days, Jews filled their holiday spreads with oil-fried dishes.

But why potato pancakes in particular? The practice of including potatoes in these pancakes is typically connected with Ashkenazi Jews, who immigrated from Eastern Europe and had easier access to staples like onions and potatoes during the harsh winter months.

The most significant question for most latke fans is whether they should be topped with sour cream or applesauce. Well, the choice is yours.

For the best outcome with the latkes, make them ahead of time and freeze them in airtight containers for up to two weeks, stacking them between wax paper.

Before serving, bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (do not fry). Dry with paper towels.

Combine the grated potatoes with other shredded veggies, such as carrots or parsnips, to decrease the starchy calories.

Doughnuts

With doughnuts, fried delicacies take center stage at the Festival of Lights. Although most American Jews are familiar with the popular jelly doughnut, Sephardic Jews (Jews who were exiled from Spain and Portugal and eventually moved to sections of Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa) consume a variety of deep-fried donuts.

Sufganiyot, donut hole-like bunuelos, delicate sfenj, and funnel-cake-like jelebi are popular oil-fried doughnuts and cakes you can try.

Kugel

Kugel is an egg noodle pudding or casserole traditionally served as a side dish at Hanukkah. The dish’s beauty is that you can have it salty or sweet. It’s all up to you.

You can add dried fruits, honey, cinnamon, and even cereal to kugel on top of the standard egg noodles, sour cream, eggs, butter, sugar, and cottage cheese.

Most people like this sweet recipe from Savory Simple, which has a pecan topping.

Cookies

Though there is no traditional connection between cookies and Hanukkah, many families decorate Hanukkah sugar cookies shaped like Jewish stars and dreidels (a spinning top used in a traditional Hanukkah game) or serve rugelach (a rolled cream cheese-based cookie filled with chocolate or jam) as a dessert after the meal.

You can prepare the cookies from scratch or order an already prepared mix from a reputable company such as Manischewitz.

Manischewitz has been at the forefront of kosher culinary offerings for nearly a century. As America’s leading brand of gourmet kosher products, Manischewitz is reviving the Hanukkah sugar cookie tradition with various delectable cookie kits.

The kit, which includes sugar cookie mix, color powders, sprinkle mix, piping bags, and a unique sweater cookie cutter, offers a blend of fun, tradition, and flavor.

If you value convenience without compromising on fun, this kit is for you.

Cheese foods

Many Jews include dairy products in their Hanukkah dinners to remember a separate story from the Maccabees’ fight for freedom.

A Syrian-Greek warrior named Holofernes attacked Bethulia in the Book of Judith. Judith befriended the warrior and deceived him into eating bread, cheese, and wine to make him inebriated to save the village.

She killed him while he was drunk and saved the people of Bethulia.

During Hanukkah, you eat cheesy delicacies like cheese pancakes, blintzes, or cheese danishes in honor of Judith.

Some of the most popular cheese foods that you can take are blintzes. Blintzes are thought to have descended from the Russian pancake blin in Slavic countries.

Consider a crepe fried over a sweet, creamy filling (often farmer’s cheese) when eating the food.

Syrian Jews celebrate Hanukkah with atayef, which is filled with rice and ricotta and resembles fluffy cannoli. They’re traditionally dipped in rose or orange blossom water-infused syrup. ​

Cassola

Many people believe cheese pancakes were the first latkes, but when Jews’ access to dairy altered over time, the iconic potato latkes were formed.

This delectable ricotta-filled Italian cheesy pancake (also called a cheesecake) is still served in many Italian Jewish homes.

Chocolate Gelt

Gelt is the Yiddish word for money, and children were frequently given coins to donate during the festival to teach them about compassion and giving.

In modern times, youngsters enjoy the chocolate coins as a traditional Hanukkah meal and give them in gift bags to friends and relatives.

Pollo Frito

This fried chicken is a traditional Hanukkah dish for many Italian Jewish families. The meal is spiced with cinnamon for a sweeter bite and omits the traditional buttermilk to comply with dietary restrictions prohibiting mixing milk with meat or poultry.

Leeks

Leeks have long been connected with Jews from Spain, while the onion accompanied them throughout the Ottoman Empire.

One of the most famous recipes is fried leek patties in oil, quickly becoming a favorite traditional Hanukkah snack for many Sephardic Jews.

Parting shot

These are some of the Hanukkah foods that you can prepare and eat. When preparing the foods, be cautious of the oils you use. As a rule of thumb, avoid cooking with saturated fat-rich tropical oils like coconut or palm.

Instead, use healthy oils high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive, canola, and peanut. 

Corn, soybean, safflower, and grapeseed oil are other excellent options that you can go for.

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