The holiday of Purim is associated with costumes, drinking, and giving charity but did you know that eating foods stuffed with hidden ingredients is also a time-honored Purim tradition? Stuffed foods lend themselves to remembering two important facets of the story of Esther, concealment and beating something up. Okay, so concealment you know…Esther concealed her Jewish identity until the most opportune time to save the Jewish people. To celebrate her cleverness we eat a variety of foods that conceal a hidden inside. But, beating something up? Yes, this is a tradition of Eastern European Jewry to serve meat and other ingredients that have been chopped, beaten and otherwise pulverized. The process of mincing or beating reminds us of either two things (depending on who you talk to): the annihilation the Jews narrowly escaped in the Purim Story (or conversely the pounding they eventually gave their enemies) or the noisemaking we make when we hear Haman’s name.
Here the most well-known foods of Purim you can chop, beat and stuff:
You could easily mistake gondi for matzo balls, since both are round, yellowish and served in a chicken broth, but that is where the similarity ends. Gondi are from Persian origin and are primarily made from chicken and chickpeas, so they are more like a meatball than a dumpling. For Purim, raisins are hidden inside the gondi to echo to the Purim theme of concealment. I don’t see any reason why you can’t stuff a matzo ball with raisins but to give gondi a try, here is Einat Admony’s recipe…but don’t forget the raisins for Purim.
Hamentashen are the most well known of all the Purim foods. In addition to being filled like all the rest of these foods, hamentashen have the additional association with Haman’s ears, triangular hat or pockets, depending on your tradition.
You may think you don’t want to eat something called Haman’s fingers and indeed it is a gross name particularly when you see the shape of the food, but Haman’s fingers are a tasty treat similar to baklava. In fact, it comes from the same home…Greece and Turkey. A chopped center of nuts and cinnamon are wrapped in phyllo dough. The Weiser Kitchen has a classic Haman’s Fingers recipe.
Filled with either meat, cheese or potato, kreplach is the quintessential Jewish dumpling of Eastern European Jewry. It is unclear when it became a traditional food of Purim, but it has many qualities which many have associated with the Purim story: it is stuffed, it is often triangular, and can be filled with minced meat. Tori Avey’s chicken kreplach recipe cleverly uses the chicken for the soup in the kreplach itself.
Stuffed cabbage is another tradition of the Eastern European Jews. It consists of minced beef and rice rolled into cabbage leaves and served with a sweet and savory tomato sauce. It is one of my all time favorite Jewish foods. I luuuv stuffed cabbage. Ina Garten’s stuffed cabbage recipe has the perfect sweet and sour combination of flavors if you want to try and make it yourself.
So now you know about many of the hidden foods of Purim. Don’t worry if you can’t master cooking any of them…you can always focus on mastering stuffing them in your mush. It’s a Purim tradition!