Purim Foods around the World
Hamentashen are old hat. Try some lesser-known Purim treats.
This week, Jews around the world celebrate Purim, the festival commemorating our triumph over the wicked Haman. In much of the world, we eat the popular treat Hamentashen to symbolize our victory.
Here are some lesser-known Purim treats from around the world. Try some in your “Mishloach Manot” (the gift baskets Jews traditionally give one another on Purim), or try incorporating them in your meals this Purim for a special holiday feast!
In Jewish communities in Russia, it was customary to bake long, sweet challah loaves that resemble ropes, to commemorate the rope that Haman wanted to hang the Jewish leader Mordechai on (and on which Haman was hanged instead)!
- ½ cups warm water
- 1 T dry yeast
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ t salt
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 3-4 cups flour
- Sesame seeds for sprinkling
Pour water into mixing bowl, and sprinkle with yeast and sugar. Wait ten minutes until bubbly.
Add 2 eggs, salt, oil and half the flour. Mix (by hand or with an electric mixer with bread hook attachment) until combined. Add more flour, a little at a time, until dough is smooth and elastic.
Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise one hour. Briefly knead dough, then let rise, covered, for another hour.
Divide dough into six parts, and roll each into long strands. Pinch together at one end, then braid the strands. (Alternate crossing the right strand over the three to its left, then the left strand over the three to its right.) Pinch together at the bottom when done.
Place on a cookie sheet, cover, and let rise one more hour. Beat remaining egg, and brush it over the loaf to glaze. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Preheat oven to 350 F, and bake approx. 45 minutes, until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Makes one large loaf.
Recipe adapted from Angels at the Table: A Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat by Yvette Alt Miller (Continuum 2011).
Boyoja Ungola Di Purim
This is a Moroccan Purim bread. Hard boiled eggs represent Haman’s eyes.
- Challah dough (use Kulich recipe, above)
- 2 T sesame seeds
- ¼ cup chopped almonds
- 4 hard boiled eggs
Make the challah recipe as above, but add the sesame seeds and chopped nuts to the dough.
Instead of braiding the dough, tear off a small piece, then divide remaining dough into four. Form round challahs out of dough, and using a sharp knife, cut egg-sized slits into the side of each loaf.
Push one hard boiled egg into each loaf. Divide the small piece of dough into eight, and roll the pieces out to form “X” shapes: put an X over each egg, and press down to seal.
Glaze and bake as above.
Yields four small loaves.
The Jewish community of Rhodes also incorporated boiled eggs into special Purim challah loaves. Their “folares” loves are meant to look like a cage, with hard boiled eggs – symbolizing Haman – trapped inside!
- Challah dough, as above
- 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
- (Optional: add food coloring to the water when you boil the eggs, to dye them the color of your choice. Blue was a traditional color used for Folares.)
Make challah dough as in kulich recipe, above. Instead of forming loaves, divide the dough into four parts.
Take each part and divide it into three more pieces. With one piece, form a bottom nest, and place a hard-boiled egg on it. Roll the other two pieces into ropes, and cross them over the egg, forming a cage. Pinch the bottoms of the cage to the base to seal.
Glaze, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake as above. (The baking time will be shorter than for a full loaf, about 20-30 minutes.)
Makes four loaves.
Caveos di Aman
For many Jewish communities, pasta has long been considered a traditional Purim dish. Here is a traditional Bulgarian Purim meal; it name means “Haman’s Hair”.
- 1 lb. vermicelli or spaghettini
- 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 30 black olives
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, cut in wedges
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until done al dente. Drain, and dress with the olive oil and lemon juice beaten with salt and pepper. Mix in the olives and garnish with hard-boiled eggs cut in wedges. Serve at room temperature.
Recipe from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden (Alfred A. Knopf 1996).
There are many secrets in the Purim story. For instance, Esther, the Jewish queen, disguises her identity. She even has a secret name in addition to Esther: Hadassah. Most notably, God Himself is hidden in the Purim Megilla: even though it was God who saved the Jews, His name is hidden in the text.
This theme of disguise is carried over into other areas of Purim: we dress up in costumes, and it is customary to eat “hidden” foods, such as kreplch and ravioli (where the filling is covered up with dough) on Purim.
For kreplach dough:
- 2 cups four
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 T plus 1 t lukewarm water
Put the flour and salt in a bowl, make a well and add eggs and water. Knead until smooth and non- sticky.
For the filling:
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 lb. beef, cooked and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper
Pulse the onion and meat in the food processor until minced. Add egg and seasoning and pulse 3 seconds more.
To form kreplach, roll out dough until it is paper-thin. Cut into 2 inch squares. Put a teaspoon of meat filling into the center of each square, pressing down the edges securely to seal.
Cook for 15 minutes in a large pot of boiling water (cook it in batches, not all at once). Serve either in soup, or fry for a main course.
Makes approx. 48.
Recipe from The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook by Evelyn Rose (Robsson Books 1997).
Turkey and Bean Soup
Turkey and beans are also traditional Purim foods. According to the Purim Megilla, King Ahashverosh ruled “from Hodu to Kush”, from modern day India to Ethiopia. In Hebrew, turkey is called tarnegol hodu, or “Indian chicken”, so it’s become popular to eat it on Purim.
The custom of eating beans on Purim is much older. Queen Esther disguised her Jewish identity when she lived in Ahashverosh’s palace, but she never compromised her commitment to keep kosher. Thus, while everyone else in the palace ate non-kosher foods, Queen Esther ate mostly beans.
Here is an bright, hearty soup that combines both these symbolic ingredients, from one of the greatest Jewish food writers today.
- 1 cup dried white beans
- 6 cups turkey or chicken stock
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ t dried thyme
- 5 sprigs fresh parsley (optional)
- 3 fresh dill stems, plus 1-2 T chopped leaves, reserved (or 1 t dried)
- 3 fresh cilantro stems plus 3-4 T chopped leaves, reserved
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lb. package frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green and lima beans, peas)
- 2-3 cups thin strips of cooked turkey
If you wish to shorten the cooking time, soak beans in a large bowl of water overnight. Drain and rinse.
In a large pot combine beans with stock, onion, thyme, parsley, dill, cilantro, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 ½ - 2 hours. Remove herb sprigs.
Add frozen vegetables to pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in turkey and heat through. Add chopped dill and cilantro just before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
Recipe from 1,000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy (IDG Books 2000).
Debla means “Rose”. This delicious Purim dessert is a classic of the Jewish community from Libya.
- 5 large eggs
- 1 t baking soda
- 2 ½ cups to 3 cups flour
- Vegetable oil for deep-frying
- 2 cups sugar
- ¼ t lemon juice
- ¼ t orange flower water
- 1/8 t vanilla
- 1 ½ cups water
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the baking soda and 2 ½ cups of flou, mixing well to form a firm dough. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour.
Sprinkle a little flour over a work surface or pastry board and rolling pin. Separate the dough into 5 pieces and roll our each in paper-thin strips.
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan
Cut the large strips into strips 2 inches wide and about 12 inches long, and prick the dough with a fork. Carefully begin wrapping the strip around the prong of a wide fork while frying it. This forms a “rose”. Keep rolling (or coiling) it around itself as it fries and fry until lightly prowned. Remove from the oil and drain in a paper towel-lined colander.
Repeat with remaining dough.
Prepare the syrup by combining ingredients and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to thicken the syrup. Stir and remove from the heat.
Dip the debla into the heated syrup, soaking it well, and drain in a colander. If the syrup becomes too thick, add 1 or 2 T of warm water.
Makes 10 “roses”.
Recipe from Sephardi Israeli Cuisine by Sheilah Kaufman (Hippocrene Books, 2002).
In many communities, seeds such as poppy seeds or sesame seeds are added to Purim delicacies, to symbolize “Haman’s fleas”. This delicate dessert, decorated with poppy seeds, is a traditional Persian Purim treat.
- 1-2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 T rosewater
- 1 ½ cups rice flour (approx.)
- Poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
In medium bowl, combine eggs and sugar with wire whisk or electric mixer at low speed. Whisk or beat until pale yellow. Stir in oil, then rosewater, until blended. Stir in rice flour until soft dough forms, adding additional flour, if necessary.
With hands, form dough into rounds about 1 ½ - 2 inches in diameter. Place rounds on prepared cookie sheets. With teaspoon, make an indentation on top of each; sprinkle poppy seeds into indentations, making designs, if desired.
Bake cookies 15 – 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. With spatula, remove from cookie sheets and let cool on wire racks.
Makes 3 dozen cookies.
Recipe from The International Kosher Cookbook, ed. by Batia Plotch and Patricia Cobe (Fawcett Columbine 1992).
Orecchi di Aman
There is a popular Midrash that says Haman had oznayim mekutefot, or “twisted” ears. Thus, there are several Purim treats that purport to be Haman’s ears. (In fact, hamentashen in Israel are known as oznei Haman, or Haman’s ears!).
Orecchi di Aman, or “Haman’s Ears” is a classic Italian Jewish Purim treat.
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ t slt
- 1 t freshly grated lemon rind
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 2 T rum or brandy
- 2 ½ unbleached flour
- 1 cup olive or other vegetable oil for frying
- Vanilla-flavored sugar
In a small bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks with the sugar, salt, lemon rind, 2 T olive oil, vanilla extract and rum.
Gradually add enough flour to form a rather soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute. Roll very thin. With a pastry cutter, pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut into strips 1 inch by 4-7 inches.
Slowly heat the oil in a small saucepan. Oil is at the right temperature when a small piece of dough dropped into it floats to the surface and begins to sizzle. Fry a few strips at a time, twirling them to give them odd shapes, until lightly golden. Drain and place on paper towels.
When all the ears are done, mound on a large serving plate, sprinkling each layer abundantly with vanilla-flavored confectioners’ sugar.
Makes 3-4 dozen pastries.
Recipe from Classic Italian Jewish Cooking by Edda Servi Machlin (Ecco 2005).
This French Jewish dessert is also meant to evoke the misshapen ears of Haman. Here is a super-easy recipe.
- 17.3 oz. box of puff pastry sheets
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Sprinkle a work surface with some of the sugar and roll out the pastry to about ¼ inch thick, in a strip about 4-8 inches wide.
Fold the short ends of the pastry in so that the two edges meet in the middle, in a double-roll shape.
Cut the pastry into slices ½ inch thick. Open the slices out slightly to form ear shapes.
Sprinkle the baking sheet with sugar and put the palmiers flat on the sheet. Bake the palmiers for 15-20 minutes, turning them over once during cooking.
Recipe adapted from I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot (Phaidon 2003).
Sesame seeds are a popular ingredient on Purim, when they are said to symbolize “Haman’s fleas”. This is a classic Syrian Jewish candy.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- 1 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch of ground cloves
Combine sugar and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the sugar with caramelized. Stir in the sesame seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon juice, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Pour the sesame mixture onto a wet, smooth work surface, or onto a greased baking sheet. Spread out to a thickness of 1 inch. Using a sharp knife, cut the mixture into diamond shapes or let it harden and then brake into chunks.
Makes 30 pieces.
Recipe from Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews by Poopa Dweck (Ecco 2007).
Finally, here is a classic recipe for hamentashen, originally from eastern Europe but now enjoyed the world over.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup orange juice
- Zest of one orange, minced
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 4 cups flour (approx.)
- ½ t salt
- 1 ½ t baking powder
- ¼ t baking soda
In a large bowl, blend together the sugar and oil. Mix in the orange juice, zest, vanilla and eggs. Fold in the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder and baking soda to make a soft but firm dough. Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
Work with half the dough at a time. (Cover the remaining dough with a tea towel.) Roll it out on a lightly floured board to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Using a glass, cut out as many 3 inch circles as you can. Brush one side with egg wash (made by mixing one egg, one yolk, 1-2 T water and a pinch of sugar).
Fill the hamentashen with a generous teaspoonful of your favorite jam. (You can also use prepared poppy seed filling, available in the kosher aisle of many supermarkets.)
Bring the three sides or flaps together to form a triangle. Brush the pastries with additional egg wash.
Bake until lightly golden (18-25 minutes).
Makes 4-6 dozen pastries.
Recipe from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman (Doubleday 1998).
In Jewish communities from Greece and Turkey, Purim is celebrated by eating wicked Haman's "fingers". Here's a recipe for this rich pastry.
- ½ pound phyllo dough (defrosted)
- 1 ½ cups almonds
- 3 T sugar
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- 1 t grated orange rind
- 6-8 T margarine, melted
- Powdered sugar
Chop almonds with sugar in food processor until course. Stir in cinnamon and grated orange rind.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them. Remove phyllo sheets from their package and unroll them on a dry towel. With a sharp knife, cut stack in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Cover phyllo immediately with a price of wax paper, then with a damp towel. Work with only 1 sheet at a time, keeping remaining sheets covered so they don't dry out.
Carefully remove one pastry square from stack. Brush it lightly with melted margarine. Put about 2 t filling at one end of a phyllo square so it extends all along edge. Fold the two ends of dough in, slightly over filling, then roll uptightly to form a thin finger. Transfer to a baking sheet. Make more phyllo fingeres with remaining dough and filling.
Bake pastries 15-20 minutes or until very lightly golden. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.
Makes about 30 pastries.
From 1,000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy (IDG Books 2000).