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What are traditional Hanukkah foods?



Most people associate latkes, those golden brown, crisply fried potato pancakes, with Hanukkah. But actually, latkes are really only traditional for Jews of Ashkenazi--or Eastern European--descent. Jews have historically lived around the world, and so they adapted local foods to Jewish dietary laws. 

So while no one dish can be considered the symbol of Hanukkah, there are a couple of ingredients that do symbolize the holiday: oil and cheese. Oil represents the miracle of one day of oil lasting eight days during the historic Maccabean revolt in Jerusalem. Cheese--or dairy--is incorporated into dishes to honor Judith, a Jewish heroine who saved her village from the invading Assyrian army. According to the story Judith plied Holofernes, the Assyrian army general, with salty cheese and wine. She beheaded him with his own sword after he passed out, thus enabling the Israelites to launch a surprise attack on the Assyrians.

In Israel sufganiyot--or strawberry jelly donuts--are traditionally served on the holiday. Many Greek Jews cook fried fish served with ajada, which is similar to garlic mayonnaise, as well as fried-apple rings and apple fritters.

In India, Cochin Jews celebrate the holiday with neyyappam, a fried sweet cake made of semolina, almonds, cashews, dates, apricots and cardamom. Bonda--fried potato fritters coated in chickpea flour--are also popular. Frittelle di Chanukah, yeasty fritters flavored with notes of anise, might grace a table in Italy.

Sephardic Jews (those whose ancestors came from the Iberian peninsula) eat ojaldre, a type of puff pastry with cheese or burmuelos, a sticky dough fried in hot oil and then drizzled with honey. And Jews of Moroccon and Libyan descent often serve atayef, deep-fried pancakes stuffed with cheese. 

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