Hanukkah: The Food and Traditions

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Learn more about the Jewish Festival of Lights and the traditional foods prepared in celebration.

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Hanukkah, a festival commemorating deliverance from religious oppression and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, is a beloved Jewish holiday. Deep- or shallow-fried dishes like jelly doughnuts and potato latkes abound, serving as a delicious reminder of the "miracle of the oil" at the heart of the Hanukkah story, when a single day's worth of oil kept the Temple flame alight for a full eight days. While every family's tradition is different, brisket is a go-to standby, often enjoyed while children spin the dreidel for gelt, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.

Region of origin plays an important role in what makes up the traditional Jewish table. Whether food is smothered in onions and sprinkled with paprika, or flavored with lemon, garlic and mint, it'll most likely reflect the host's ancestry. A little more on each style:

Ashkenazic Jewish Cooking (Central and Eastern European)

Sauteed onions, sweet and sour sauces, chicken noodle soup, and braised beef brisket are typical of this region. Simple seasoning and minimal use of herbs and spices create dishes that are sometimes delicate, but never bland. Potatoes appear in many forms: cooked with meat, fried as pancakes, baked in kugels (casseroles). Challah is the bread of choice, and luscious strudels, creamy cheesecakes, honey cakes, babka and blintzes satisfy the sweet tooth.

Sephardic Jewish Cooking (Mediterranean)

Sephardic cooking, in the term's current use, broadly encompasses the worlds of Judeo-Arab (Middle Eastern), Judeo-Spanish (Iberian) and North African Jewish cooking. These diverse styles share much in common. Cumin, coriander and cinnamon are the seasoning stars. Rice and chickpeas are staples. Dishes are pungent and aromatic, heady with garlic, herbs, lemon and pomegranate. Lamb is the meat of choice, frequently stewed in tomato-based sauces. Artichokes, eggplants, spinach, okra, olives and peppers accompany the meal, often in the form of olive oil-drenched salads. In households with origins in the eastern Mediterranean, pita bread and tahini-based spreads are common, and bulgur and lentils are additional pantry staples. Desserts are based on pistachio and pine nuts, honey, and filo dough.

Celebrate the Festival of Lights with Food Network's best Hanukkah recipes.