If there's one thing I know about Jews, it's that we've got arguably the best cuisine around. I didn't always know how good I had it growing up eating traditional Jewish foods, and after meeting too many people who've never heard of rugelach, I knew I had to do my part for the uniformed public who don't even know what they're missing.
If there's one thing you should know about Jews before reading this article, it's that we love our food.
Holla for challah! When talking about Jewish foods, challah bread is la crème de la crème. From its shiny, golden-brown and beautifully braided exterior to its slightly sweet and chewy interior, there's no way your mouth isn't watering just thinking about it.
Challah is an egg bread, which is thought to be wealthy men's food, so it's eaten every week for Shabbat dinner to make everyone rich. Different variations are made for other holidays, like the round challah with raisins eaten during Rosh Hashanah. No matter how you enjoy it, everyone should know about the edible joy that is challah.
#SpoonTip: Even though Challah is traditionally eaten by tearing off chunks (not slicing it), the ultimate brunch meal that you need to try ASAP is Challah French Toast.
Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah are all well and good, but charoset, eaten at Passover, is apple in its best form. Charoset means "clay" in Hebrew, and symbolizes the bricks the Jews made for the Pharaoh while slaves in Egypt.
This sweet and sticky dish is made of chopped up apples mixed with nuts, cinnamon and some red wine—usually Manischewitz. Cinnamon makes everything better, so you can imagine how delicious this wine-soaked, cinnamon-coated dish is.
3. Matzo Ball Soup
Every good Jewish mother knows that Matzo Ball Soup is the ultimate cure for every ailment. Sick? Matzo Ball Soup. Sad? Matzo Ball Soup. Just hungry? Matzo Ball Soup. If you've never had it, imagine the taste of pure happiness, in the form of a piping hot bowl of chicken soup with soft, dumpling-like balls.
Originally named "knoedel" (the German word for dumpling), the matzoh balls in the soup originated from using the leftover crumbs of matzoh—the unleavened "bread" eaten during Passover. If you just happen to fall in love with matzoh after having this soup, check out these other tasty ways to stuff your face with it.
It's hard to go wrong with carbs, eggs and fat, which is why kugel is one of the most widely adored Jewish foods. Tell us that there'll be kugel and we'll be ready, forks in hand, before you can say Mazel Tov.
Best described as a noodle bread pudding, kugel is comfort food at its finest. The word itself means "sphere," referring to bread dumplings that used to be made in stews, but overtime kugel transformed into the casserole-like dish we know and love. For more recipes that invoke those homey feelings, check out these creative takes on bread pudding.
No, they aren't just mini croissants, but they are just as delicious. A cross between a cookie and a pastry, these little coils of tastiness are usually filled with chocolate or cinnamon-sugar and nuts.
They're descended from the German Kipfel pastry, but the name comes from the Yiddish word for "royal"—although it can also mean "little twist". When the recipe calls for cream cheese in the dough, you know it's gonna be good.
These triangle-shaped bites of goodness are traditionally filled with a sweet poppy seed mixture, but can also have different jams or chocolate. They're eaten during Purim, a holiday that celebrates the defeat of Haman, who wanted the destruction of the Jewish people.
The triangle shape is thought to represent the three-cornered hat that he wore and the holiday itself is essentially just a big carnival where everyone dresses up. As you can tell, us Jews know how to have fun (food + costumes = a blast and a half).
If you want to be creative and go wild with your hamantaschen, look no further than these nineteen variations on the classic.
Deep-fry anything and you're practically guaranteed to have something good, and falafel is arguably a health food thanks to the fact they're made from garbanzo beans.
They're thought to have originated in Egypt for those who weren't allowed to eat meat during holidays. Overtime, the Jews created their own variation and changed the traditional fava beans to chickpeas.
8. Gefilte Fish
Don't get me wrong, just because gefilte fish are on this list, I am in no way suggesting you eat them. Gefilte fish are just one of the strange food traditions belonging to the Jews, and I don't think I'll ever understand the appeal of these patties—or blobs, if you will—of ground-up fish, eggs, onion and matzoh crumbs sitting in a jar full of fish gel.
Born largely out of financial necessity, poor Jews would stretch cheap fish by grinding them up with fillers, forming them into balls and steaming or boiling them. If you ever are offered some, make the leap and try 'em out, but I make no promises that you'll like what you get.
Naturally this list must end with arguably the most infamous of Jewish foods, the latke (pronounced lot-ka, not lot-key). Pretty much just a hash brown pancake, these are traditionally served with sour cream and applesauce—but I personally love them with hot sauce instead.
Brisket and lox are just a couple more interesting toppers that can spice up this fan favorite. These are served during Hannukah, a holiday that incorporates a lot of fried foods because of the miracle that occurred when one night of oil lasted for eight nights, instead. The use of potatoes is actually not traditional at all—latkes originally were fried cheese pancakes.
Now that you know some of the most important staples in Jewish cuisine, I hope you go out and try them for yourself. I promise it's worth it to sit through a four-hour Passover dinner (brisket, anyone?), and you're guaranteed challah if you go to a Shabbat dinner (they're every Friday night, so you've got no excuse).
And, if you get nothing else from this article, just remember—don't underestimate the power of a big bowl of matzoh ball soup.