Shanah tovah umetukah! Translation: Happy New Year! No you didn’t miss a few months, it’s the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Food is the center of many Jewish holidays, think Shabbat dinners, Passover Seder, and Rosh Hashanah is no exception.

This year is my first Rosh Hashanah away from home, so let’s run through all the amazing foods at Rosh Hashanah dinner to make me feel a little more homey.

1. Apples and Honey

apple, sweet
Sam Jesner

The most important food at Rosh Hashanah dinner, at least in my family, is apples and honey. Apples and honey describe our hopes for the new year. Part of the prayer said before eating apples and honey translates to “May it be Your will to renew for us a good and sweet year.” The honey represents the sweetness of the new year and is eaten with many foods at Rosh Hashanah dinner.

2. Challah and Honey

dairy product, cream, sweet
Sam Jesner

Challah is a type of bread served during Jewish holidays, most frequently at Shabbat. Challah is a sweet bread that normally contains honey or raisins.

To add extra sweetness, honey is drizzled over challah to represent a sweet new year, just like the apples. If I'm really lucky, my aunt will make her own challah. Homemade is the best no matter what. 

3. Brisket

Sam Jesner

 Brisket is a cut of beef that is slow cooked for hours until it is melty and juicy. Brisket can be served at any Jewish holiday. My family's brisket recipe comes from our neighbors, the secret: ketchup and coffee grounds.

In my family the best part of brisket is the challah brisket sandwiches for lunch the next day, if we are lucky enough to have any left. Soaking a thick piece of challah in the brisket sauce is the best part of the whole meal. 

4. Matzo Ball Soup

soup, ramen, vegetable, pasta, chicken, broth, noodle
Ariel Vaisbort

I am about to tell you my family's super secret matzo ball recipe that has been passed on from generation to generation. Are you ready? Take a seat. It's...The recipe on the back of the box. Matzo ball soup is a classic Jewish food most popularly featured at Passover. A good matzo ball should be moist and light, not dry and brick-like. That is a lot harder to achieve than you think.

In my cousin's family, matzo ball soup is served instead of chicken noodle soup whenever someone has a cold. While it is not a requirement of Rosh Hashanah dinner, it is a nice addition. 

5. Jewish Apple Cake

apple, pie
Mollie Simon

For dessert, it is customary to serve a sweet cake, generally a Jewish apple cake or honey cake. My family has always made Jewish apple cake from a recipe that is actually a family secret and traveled all the way from Romania to reach us here in the U.S. The apples represent a good harvest and the cake is another way to wish for a sweet new year. 

While foods differ from family to family, these are some basic building blocks of the feast consumed at Rosh Hashanah dinner. What I'm telling you is, if a friend invites you to Rosh Hashanah dinner, say yes and bring an empty stomach.