Throughout history, Jews have lived around the globe. Consequently, their cuisine reflects the culinary influences of their host country. For example, stuffed grape leaves are popular with Sephardic Jews whose roots are in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. For Ashkenazic families who trace their roots to Central and Eastern Europe, a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal is not complete without gefilte fish. Lox and bagels, a popular American combination, was originated by impoverished Jewish immigrants to these shores because lox was inexpensive fare.
Therefore, only a few foods actually relate to Jewish religious ritual. These include matzoh and charoses which are required eating on Passover. Wine and challah are essential to the Shabbos and Yom Tov rituals. Latkes have become traditional Chanukah foods because they are fried in oil. In this case, the oil is the essential ingredient. Some have the custom to eat donuts (sufganiot in Hebrew), which are also fried in oil, instead of latkes.
A Blintz is a thin crepe-like pancake rolled around a filling of cheese or fruit.
Borscht is a classic beet soup served hot or chilled, pureed or chunky.
Challah is a sweet, eggy bread, usually braided, which is served on Shabbos or Jewish festivals.
Charoses is a mixture of fruit, wine and nuts eaten at the Passover seder meal. This condiment is symbolic of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt.
Cholent is a slow cooked stew (from the French chaud - hot/warm and lent -slow) which is served on Shabbos. Ingredients generally include beef, vegetables, beans and barley. Since it is not permitted to light a fire on Shabbos, and since Jews wanted to eat hot food on Shabbos, cholent became a popular dish. Cooking starts before Shabbos begins, and continues on a covered flame or in a crockpot on Shabbos.
Gefilte Fish is traditionally served on Shabbos, made with ground or chopped fish and shaped into balls or a loaf.
Holiptches is stuffed cabbage, a favorite Hungarian dish.
Kreplach are small squares or circles of rolled pasta dough filled with ground beef or chicken and folded into triangles. They can be boiled and served in soup or fried and served as a side dish. They are traditionally served at the Erev Yom Kippur meal as well as on Hoshana Rabbah and Purim.
Kugel is a casserole of potatoes, noodles or vegetables in an egg based pudding. Kugel is a traditional dish served on Shabbos or Yom Tov.
A Latke is a potato pancake, fried in oil, traditionally eaten during Chanukah.
See Matzoh in Passover Terms.
Tzimmes is a sweet stew containing carrots.