Hanukkah is a tough holiday for a restaurant where fried foods ordinarily are on the “no fly” list.
“We generally don’t fry things at Village Green, but since the whole motif of Hanukkah is oil, we do make latkes,” says the well-known Jerusalem vegetarian restaurant’s owner, Barry Sibul.
The secret of these extra-yummy potato pancakes, called levivot in Hebrew, is the red potatoes called for by Sibul’s late mother’s recipe (below). “When you fry red potatoes, they get softer inside much quicker than regular white potatoes, which have to fry longer on lower heat to get softer,” Sibul explains to ISRAEL21c.
Aside from latkes, the other fried Hanukkah staple is jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew). Saidels Bakery in Karnei Shomron is one of several places offering hands-on doughnut-making workshops before and during the eight-day Festival of Lights holiday.
“We figured people like getting their hands dirty with sprinkles, chocolate and blueberries,” owner Les Saidel tells ISRAEL21c.
“But anybody can decorate sufganiyot at home. We want to give the experience of making the dough, cutting out shapes — solid and with holes in the middle — frying them and then decorating them. It’s the lifecycle of a doughnut from beginning to end.”
The two-hour session, geared to both Hebrew-speakers and English-speakers, yields American-style (read: lighter and less oily) treats filled with chocolate, vanilla, blueberry, Boston cream and apple strudel.
“The best fun they have is eating the thing at the end,” Saidel says with a laugh. “A close second is doing the decorations, putting in fillings and dunking them in chocolate.”
He will not divulge his doughnut recipe, but he shared with ISRAEL21c a recipe for a related Sephardic Hanukkah delicacy, bimuelos. “They’re like a fried honey puff, similar to a doughnut but the batter is more liquid. When you put them in the oil, they take on a random shape.”
2 teaspoons dry instant yeast
1 cup warm water
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup honey
¾ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Mix batter ingredients until smooth. Leave covered for one hour to rise. Meanwhile, put syrup ingredients in a skillet and bring to a boil. Stir only until sugar begins to dissolve, then lower the heat and cook five minutes more. Put aside to cool.
When the batter is ready, stir down to deflate. Fill a wok or pan with oil 3-5 centimeters (1-2 inches) deep. Heat oil to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F), dip a tablespoon into the hot oil. Scoop up batter with that spoon and drop it into the oil, as many as will fit in the pan. Each bimuelo puffs to about twice the size. Fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper toweling. Dip each one into the syrup mixture completely, then lift to let excess syrup drain off. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and eat while warm.
Yield: 15-20 bimuelos
Village Green latkes
Peel and grate:
6 red-skinned potatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 cup finely ground whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Shape the batter into pancakes and deep-fry in oil. Garnish with applesauce or sour cream.
Yield: 12 large latkes