What Do Jewish Chefs and Cooks Eat During Hanukkah?
I don’t know a huge amount about Jewish culture but I do know that I’m a fan of any religious holiday that encourages you to eat huge amounts of fried food and oil-based dishes. Latkes, sufganiyot, and fritas de prasa are just a few of the dishes customarily eaten during Hanukkah. Not everyone, however, celebrates the holiday in the same way. Jewish families in New York will celebrate differently to Jewish families in Birmingham who will celebrate differently to Jewish families in Seoul. And so on and so forth. In Romania, you'll find people constructing menorahs out of potatoes while in the region of Avignon in France they're all about opening up a fancy bottle of wine to mark the occasion.
The world is a vast, expansive, and often terrifying place but being able to see how culinary traditions are shared (yet altered to suit each specific culture) around the globe can be a truly beautiful thing. It's a reminder of the innate joy we can all get from eating a meal and sharing time with each other.
In order to find out a bit more about Jewish culture – and find out what all the cool kids have got on their dinner tables at this time of the year – I asked some super talented chefs and cooks what they eat during Hanukkah.
There’s no Hanukkah without Latkes. Sorry perhaps that’s boring but it’s the way it goes when you grow up in an Ashkenazi household eating the same thing year after year. I take mine classic yet elevated - finished with a hanged creme fraiche we make in-house and topped with the finest Sqirl Gravenstein Apple Butter. I have trout roe on standby, but I usually bypass it and go for some herbage instead (dill/tarragon/parsley/radish mix) to cut the fat.
Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer
A holiday that celebrates frying loads of things is a holiday I can get on board with. Growing up, that was piles of latkes and doughnuts. Now, come Hanukkah, we cook up batches and batches of doughnuts in our pastry kitchen and fill them with all the fillings we can think of – Nutella, lime curd, jam of course. Then there are the fritters; potatoes and onions fried up together – honestly what’s better than that? We add a bit of feta to the mix and drizzle with honey. They have a lot going for them: salty and sweet, crispy and tender, slightly naughty but plenty nice.
"With eight nights to fill with treats, I typically go big on Hanukkah - at least for the first few nights. I always make regular potato latkes and then some kind of alternative latke (like the beet and carrot latkes from my book Modern Jewish Cooking). One night I'll make a fried sweet, like sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and then I often make fried pickles and olives another night. Those last two aren't traditional Hanukkah foods, but my kids love all things briny. Around night 4 or 5, we are usually fried out, and switch back to regular dinners and lots of sauteed greens and leafy salads to reset."