Every Jewish holiday comes with a menu of special foods to eat. Even Yom Kippur’s day of solemn fast comes with a prescription for the food at the Break-Fast after sundown. So it should come as no surprise that there are special foods that are associated with Chanukah.
The Miracle of the Oil, where one day’s worth of oil in the Temple lasted for the eight days it took to prepare more, is the starting point for the foods of Chanukah. If it is all about the oil, then this is the holiday of “Fried Foods.” We did not say it was healthy food, just that it was traditional — and tastes good! And, remember, this holiday food, not “every day” food.
While fried foods in general are considered traditional, there are two of them that appear in every recipe list for Chanukah: latkes (a fried potato pancake) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts). Though they’re both fried, and traditional, they come from different Jewish cultural traditions — latkes from the Ashkenazi (or Northern European diaspora) and sufganiyot from the Sephardic (or Middle Eastern region).
Latkes have typically been made from potatoes, but you can find recipes that use sweet potatoes or other root vegetables, such as carrots. For this recipe the potatoes are grated. Nowadays that often means a food processor, but a hand grater works just as well — just make sure you don’t grate your hand! Once the potatoes are grated you have to work quickly. The starch found in potatoes will quickly go an unappetizing black color on exposure to air. To avoid this, I grate my potatoes into a bowl of cold water. After grating the potatoes, take them out of the water, wrap them in a kitchen towel, and squeeze as much water out of the as you can (even if you don’t grate into water, you should still dry them). Removing as much moisture as possible is a key step in making your latkes nice and crisp. Here’s a link to recipe for making classic latkes.
Once you have the latkes, you have to decide what to serve them with. Traditionally, they’re served with applesauce or sour cream — depending on which crowd you’re part of. While you can start a lively debate by claiming on is better, or “the” way, it’s probably safer just to serve them both! Some other possibilities to consider: kids often prefer ketchup or BBQ sauce; me, I really like Red Onion Jam on them. Get creative, it’s all part of the fun.
A sufganiyah (sufganiyot is the plural) is a fried donut. These are not the usual American version of a donut with the hole in the middle, but a jelly-filled, round donut (usually some sort of berry) dusted with sugar. You can generally find a local donut where you can buy some, but you can absolutely make your own. You can even make your own gluten free version! Those are hard to find in a store! This is a favorite recipe for regular sufganiyot and just in case you want to try your hand at them, this gluten free recipe works great!.
So enjoy the treats of the Chanukah season! And make some memories.