The Holy Land
Find out how Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is celebrated in Israel with a Holy Land-inspired menu. From fried sweet potato pancakes to jelly donuts, get recipes to inspire you.
Although latkes (fried potato pancakes) are the most emblematic Hanukkah food in America, Israelis celebrate with a vast array of fried foods. Drawing on Jewish traditions from around the world, as well as creating new ones, Hanukkah in Israel is an international fried feast.
Tip: Get the recipe for batata levivot (sweet potato patties) below!
Tel Aviv’s popular Orna and Ella restaurant probably didn’t invent these savory sweet potato patties, but they certainly popularized them. As opposed to typical latkes, which are made with shredded potatoes, this unique recipe calls for mashed sweet potatoes that are flavored with a dash of soy sauce and fried as patties.
OK, so it’s not fried, and it’s not Hanukkah-specific, but no meal in Israel is complete without a big bowl of freshly made hummus on the table. To prepare the real deal, start with dried chickpeas, which are soaked overnight. Just this tiniest bit of extra effort makes a world of difference in the flavor.
A Middle Eastern favorite in Israel year-round, fried kibbeh are particularly popular around Hanukkah. In this dish, fine bulgur wheat is wrapped around a spiced, ground meat filling and baked or fried. Of course, for Hanukkah, it’s all about the fried food.
Get the recipe for kibbeh >>
Hebrew for donuts, sufganiyot are the single most popular and iconic Hanukkah food in Israel. Elaborate donuts, filled with chocolate, cream or jelly, begin appearing at bakeries and markets at the beginning of December and taper out soon after the holiday. Other variations on donuts, like Moroccan sfenj and Spanish bimuelos are also popular.
Get the recipe for sufganiyot >>
Batata levivot (sweet potato pancakes) recipe
Makes 32 pancakes
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup flour
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat slightly and simmer until softened. Drain and let cool.
- Put the cooked potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add the soy sauce and mix gently (it should be a little sticky).
- Add salt, sugar and flour and mix until thoroughly combined (don't over mix).
- Let the mixture rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Heat a good amount of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
- Dampen your hands to prevent sticking and form small balls of the batter, carefully dropping them into the hot skillet. Spray the back of a spatula with nonstick cooking spray and gently flatten the pancakes.
- Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, fry for 4 to 5 minutes, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides.
- Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven. They can also be made ahead and reheated in a hot oven (but not the microwave or they'll get soggy).
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