The Jewish cuisine is influenced by many culinary cultures. Depending on the regions in which the dispersed Jewish community lived, three varieties of this cuisine can be distinguished: Middle Eastern, originating from the Iberian Peninsula and Ashkenazi. The first two are similar to each other on what concerns the taste, the third one is related to Polish traditional cuisine. Krakow was the cradle for the Ashkenazi Jews identity. That is why their kitchen combine oriental influences in the form of aromatic, spicy ingredients, but also Central European elements in the form of flour and potato dishes.
Baclava, baklawa and baklawah – these three names are used interchangeably for a very sweet cake. Its base is a filo pastry made of flour, water and a small amount of fat, which is layered with roasted wheat and nuts in honey with the addition of aromatic spices. The whole piece is crowned with a layer of chopped nuts.
Chickpeas in the main role
Several cuisines like to impute themselves the origin of hummus. In Arabic this word means literally “chickpeas”. As a dish, this word means a well-worn paste made of chickpeas, sesame paste tahini, olive oil, water, a little bit of lemon juice and the possible addition of garlic or chilli. In Israel, it is eaten as an addition to shoarma or a separate snack – both hot and cold, often accompanied by pita bread.
Falafel, or vegetables in a different way
This dish, having the form of fried vegetable balls connects the entire Middle East. It is based on chickpeas, but also includes, among others, onions, garlic, peppers and numerous expressive herbs, such as cumin and coriander. The dish is served in pita bread with the addition of marinated vegetables and spicy sauces, as well as with tahini paste from roasted sesame.
The Jewish challah differs slightly from the sweet baking available in Polish bakeries. It is a dry, salty but fluffy wheat yeast cake formed into a braid. Milk and butter in the recipe is replaced by water and oil, and the whole – instead of crumble – is sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds. Traditionally, the challah is baked on a Friday evening and served on Shabbat, meaning the time between Friday and Saturday sunset.
The first association with Jewish cuisine is usually kosher and ritual slaughter, required in the case of meat. However, in reality, it is a rich culinary space with many distinctive spices and products. It is strongly associated with religion and tradition, but also friendly to vegans and vegetarians. It is a kitchen that takes and gives – many regional dishes have been adapted for its needs, but also many dishes considered traditional in some regions originate from it.