The Laws That Make Jewish Cuisine Unique
When we think about the traditional Jewish cuisine menu, we’re intrigued by how unique some of the dishes are. However, the traditional cuisine is, like other cultures, a blend of many different cultures that have come together.
The reason why Jewish cuisine stands out as so distinct against other cultures is due to the rules and laws that are followed with meal preparation. For instance, Jewish individuals who follow their Torah do not eat any type of insect or non-kosher food.
Basically, any food that hasn’t been properly bled out or killed according to the Torah is considered non-kosher. Now any type of food can be kosher, it just means that the food has to be prepared in accordance with Jewish law. Generally, meat and dairy cannot be eaten together, fruits and vegetables must be inspected for insects, blood must be drained from animals, and certain animals are not permitted at all like predator birds and pork.
Jewish Cuisine Facts and History
There are several distinctive styles of Jewish cuisine which include: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, Persian, Yemenite, Indian and Latin-American.
Now just like other cultures, the Jewish cuisine menu goes through several changes as new foods were introduced into their diet. For instance, during the Biblical era the Israelites mainly ate bread, cooked grains and legumes with goat and sheep as well as dates, butter, cheese and goat. All of the food was eaten fresh and was determined by the climatic conditions that they lived in.
However, during different periods such as the Roman and Hellenistic periods more spices became available and rice and sugar cane were introduced. Despite going through several changes over the centuries, Jewish cuisine still maintains that foods must be kosher and must be prepared as stated in the Torah.
Jewish Cuisine Menu
Traditional Jewish breakfast that is kosher may include any of the following items.
• Bagels (with cream cheese or salmon)
• Pancakes or latkes (potato pancakes)
• Matzo (bread fried with eggs)
• Shakshuka (eggs with onions, tomatoes and spices like turmeric and chili powder)
• Smoked salmon waffles
• Goat cheese blintzes
• Whole wheat challah with apricots (or other fruit)
• Waffles/French Toast
• Kasha (cereal)
It is important to note here that breakfast never includes any type of meat unless it is fish as meat is never mixed with dairy dishes. Pork is completely forbidden for the Jewish who follow kosher dietary restrictions.
• Turkey meatloaf
• Grilled salmon,
• Noodle kugel,
• Miso glazed cod,
• Potato and carrot latkes,
• Matzo balls,
• Chicken soup,
• Hot deli sandwiches.
• Borscht (soup).
Snacks: a small selection includes:
• Knishe (pastry with filling like potato, meat, etc.).
• Kichel (cake cookie)
• Blintzes (thin pancakes)
• Rugelach (mini croissant pastry)
• Roasted chicken with vegetables,
• Braised short ribs,
• Meatball curry,
• Herb roasted chicken,
• Matzo balls,
• Fish dishes (Gefilte – most popular)
• Braised lamb shanks,
• Corned beef,
• Pickled herring,
• Kugel (flat casserole)
• Apple fritters,
• Apple Kuchen (coffee cake),
• Sufganiyot (jelly filled donut)
• Cupcakes and Muffins,
• Pies and pastries,
• Fruit desserts.
• Hot chocolate,
• Iced coffee,
• Apple drinks,
• Hot coffee
Holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. This holiday is observed for eight days and eight nights. Traditional food is often latkes which is a potato pancake made with salt and pepper, eggs, potatoes and flour.
Holiday that commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Traditional dishes may include: ratatouille, salmon patties, sweet and sour meatballs, latkes, chocolate cake, chicken soup, vegetable cutlets, veal with peppers, meat loaf and toasted matzo farfel.
Holiday that celebrates the triumph of Queen Esther over Haman. Traditional dishes include: broccoli in white wine, brisket of beef in wine, cherries in rum, cinnamon wine soup and hamentaschen cookies.
Holiday that marks the beginning of the new year in the Jewish calendar. Traditional dishes may include: baked apples with almonds and raisins, stuffed veal breast and white bean soup.
It is the seventh day of the Jewish week where many Jewish eat more lavishly, rest, and pray. It is the most important observance and traditional foods may include: chicken soup, challah, meat cholent and kneidelach.
Holiday that celebrates the giving of the 10 Commandments and is a holiday that celebrates the harvest of the first fruits of the year. It is a feast that falls seven weeks after Passover. Traditional foods may include: pumpkin cheesecake, bread, and many dairy dishes.
Other holiday foods may include: butternut squash latkes, matzoh ball soup, noodle kugel, string beans with pickled shallots, brisket, roasted chicken, stew and apple cake.
Most Popular Jewish Dishes
If you’re looking for traditional Jewish dishes that are among the most popular, then definitely consider:
• Challah: is a sweet, golden, eggy bread that is braided to look like it is knotted. It is usually used as rolls on holidays but it can also be used for sandwiches.
• Matzah Ball Soup: is a thin chicken broth soup that comes with matzah balls (dumplings). The matzah balls can be soft and light or firm and heavy and is served with carrot and celery. The dish is served all year long.
• Kugel: is a pudding type dish, but is more of a breaded pudding dish rather than a gelatin dish. It is often served as a side or as a dessert item and can be made with potatoes and eggs or with noodles and fruit.
• Holishkes: are cabbage leaves that are stuffed with sweet and sour meatballs. These are usually served on holidays.
• Blintzes: is a thin, flat pancake that is rolled around a filling. They can be filled with mashed potatoes and onions or with cottage cheese. They can also be filled with fruit, apple sauce or sour cream.
Most Used Ingredients
Meat/Fish: Fish that are kosher include: anchovy, bass, cod, carb, dace, flounder, haddock, halibut, hake, kipper, herring, mackerel, perch, mullet, roach, salmon, sardine, sole, trout, tuna, whitebait, and sprat. Meat includes: any animal that has cloven hooves and chews cud, which means cows, goats, sheep and dear are allowed. In terms of fowl, only domestic species of chickens, ducks, geese, and turkey are to be eaten (no predatory/scavenger birds). Finally, fish and seafood: only that which has fins and scales. This means that crabs, shellfish and lobster are NOT to be eaten.
Vegetables: Carrots, onions, potatoes, peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, corn, squash. You may also encounter: celery, leaks, and peppers.
Fruits: Apples, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, bananas, grapes, limes, lemons, pears, oranges, pineapple and melons.
Other: You will come across a lot of spices like turmeric and chili powder as well as nuts like almonds, cashews, peanuts and walnuts.
Travelling Foodies: What to Eat When You Travel to Jewish Communities
If you’re planning on travelling to a Jewish community or to a Jewish home that is indeed orthodox or follows the kosher rules and guidelines, then you must try out some of the traditional food that they make. For instance, having their challah is a must as it is a savory sweet bread that can be used with hot deli sandwiches. Another would be their delicious matzah soup which is a dumpling soup that uses a thin chicken broth. Finally, if you’re looking to try out some authentic desserts then going for a dessert kugel dish or apple cake will always be tasty must have options.
Are you Jewish? Maybe you know some interesting things about kosher food that I forgot to mention? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Jewish food.