Hanukkah is celebrated in many ways, but most importantly (and deliciously), it’s celebrated by eating fried food.
The story of Hanukkah starts with the Maccabees defeating Antiochus, ruler at the time, who had prohibited the practice of Judaism and was trying to destroy the Holy Temple. This temple housed a menorah (candle holder) that was meant to stay lit every night.
Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights because, as the story goes, a tiny amount of olive oil (only enough to burn for one night), kept the flame burning in the reclaimed temple for eight nights, until more oil was brought. This oil is represented throughout Hanukkah with the lighting of the candles on the hanukkiah (a menorah with eight candle holders, plus one for the shamas, or lighting candle) and by eating lots and lots of oil-fried food.
Traditional fried foods eaten throughout Hanukkah include latkes (shredded potato pancakes) and sufganiyot. Although they're usually made with potatoes, latkes of all kinds have become popular, particularly paleo varieties like carrot or zucchini. The key to great potato latkes is wringing out the shredded potatoes in a clean dish towel before you mix in the egg, matzoh meal, and/or seasoning. Sufganiyot are fried doughnuts, often stuffed with jelly and rolled in sugar.
Deep-frying is simple. Unless you have a deep fryer (which is awesome, and if so, rock on) you’ll need a large pot, a deep-frying thermometer, and frying oil. A thermometer will accurately give you the temperature of the oil and help you avoid burning the food if the oil is too hot or letting it soak up too much oil if it's not hot enough. Peanut and canola oils are best for deep frying because they have a high smoke point, meaning they’re less likely to release possibly toxic compounds or burst into flame at the temperatures needed for frying.
Pan frying is even simpler. Heat oil (you’re still going to want to use oil with a high smoke point) until shimmering, but not smoking, and then add the food to the pan. When you can see the sides starting to turn golden brown, flip to cook the other side.
Whether you're going traditional with latkes and jelly doughnuts or want to add some flair to your fried food options this holiday season, we've got recipes for a different fried dish for every night (or day) of Hanukkah.
1. Challah French toast
The only thing better than French toast is challah French toast that’s been soaked in rum. Fry and top with maple syrup for a festive breakfast.
2. Blinis with smoked salmon
Make a huge batch of blinis (little buckwheat pancakes) fried in clarified butter for your Hanukkah party and keep them in a warm oven to serve hot.
3. Sweet-potato chips
These sweet-potato chips get a shallow fry before heading into the oven. Slice sweet potatoes by hand for a rustic chip or carefully on a mandolin for a more refined version.
Latkes are synonymous with Hanukkah. Prep them, fry them, and then devour them while they're still hot. Serve with homemade applesauce and sour cream for ultimate fried happiness.
Discover more delicious foods to fry up for Hanukkah this year.
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