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Sweet and Spicy Sambusak For Purim

 

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Curry leaves, fenugreek, and multi-colored mustard seeds aren’t part of every day Ashkenazi fare. Integral to Indian foods, they are all part of the vast sweep of Jewish cuisine that includes distinct Indian- Jewish communities.

Kolkata (Calcutta), Cochin and Mumbai (Bombay) were home to the largest Jewish communities for centuries, and yet were relatively unknown to the West. There were smaller Jewish communities dotted throughout the Indian subcontinent. They developed foodways deeply influenced by their neighbors, from spices to techniques.

The communities, all located in different states, arrived at different times.

In Cochin, Jews settled over a thousand years ago. Calcutta’s original community arrived as merchants in the 17th century but in the 19th century there was a consequential influx of Jews from Baghdad and other countries of the Middle East. The foods they ate remain distinct from one another. The Baghdadi Jews strongly influenced the food of all of their neighbors of every faith.

The Benei Israel of Mumbai left ancient Judea in the time of King Solomon, on a merchant ship. The boat was shipwreck on the shore. The survivors set upon creating a new life, isolated from all Jewish contact. Yet, they continued to observe the Sabbath, eat no pork or shellfish and follow ancient traditions to the curiosity of their neighbors. There was great doubt that they were truly “Jewish” but DNA testing proved they were indeed exactly what the claimed- to be from the line of Judah.

Today, Jewish style dishes often crop up at family meals and at Indian restaurants.

Indian-spiced Apricot and Mango stuffed Sambusak Purim Cookies are a new kind of Purim treat. They are a cross between Purim’s traditional hamantaschen, the savory filled empanada-like pastry known as Sambusak, and the malpua, a sweet stuffed pancake enjoyed by the Bene Israel, India’s Jewish community. The traditional malpua is a sweet stuffed pancake made with pineapple, almonds and other fruits and nuts. This version also incorporates Silk Road flavors into its yummy filling. It’s a delicious way to introduce some new flavors–and to learn about a Jewish community with a storied past that is unfamiliar to most Jews. Be sure to allow 1 hour (or up to 1 day) for the dough to chill before you fill and bake. These will keep in a covered container at room temperature about for 2 days, but they are best the day they are made.

Get the full recipe.

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About Chef Tami Weiser

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Before starting The Weiser Kitchen.com, I was a cerebral yeshiva student from the Five Towns, an artsy thespian, and a Vassar College girl. I studied anthropology and archeology as an undergraduate, worked on digs and traveled in the Middle East, Western Europe, and the United States. I did graduate work in ethnomusicology and Jewish world studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and then attended Law School in Miami, working as an editor in on the Inter-American Law Review. I have started large non-profit music schools, taught Hebrew School, run adult education programs and taught global Jewish cooking from my travels and studies. I am proudest of my family—my three incredible teenaged kids, my wonderful husband, my parents, sister and muchatunim. After attending the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE) and graduating with highest honors and a leadership award, I worked as a recipe editor, writer, and ebook developer. I've staged at numerous restaurants in the New York metro area, ghost-written for high-end chefs (shhh!), and worked in the recreational division at ICE. I've taught private students and at local cooking schools. I've been catering large scale charitable events for many years. Notably, I study with the iconic writer, food editor and my friend, Molly O'Neill.

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