What To Eat For The Jewish Festival Of Purim
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Falling on March 16th-17th this year, Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of Jews from genocide in ancient Perisa. The Book of Esther says that a villain named Haman threatened to kill the people of the city of Shushan. Eventually, the Jews are able to conspire against their enemies and Haman was defeated. And so, the story of Purim is one celebrated by the Jewish community, because it symbolises hope for a minority often living in an unsympathetic majority culture.

Purim is celebrated on the 14 day of the month of Adar. The holiday is observed by people dressing up in costumes, much like Halloween. The Torah commands that observant Jews listen to the Purim story chanted from ‘The Scroll of Esther’ and pay attention to every word. Customs dictate that a loud noise be made with a ‘ra’ashan’ whenever Haman’s name is mentioned. It’s also part of Purim tradition to give gifts to the poor. 

Among family, friends and the community, food and goodies are exchanged. This is known as ‘mishloach manot’, which means ‘sending of portions’. Purim celebrations always involve alcohol. On Purim day, the Purim Seudah or feast is customary. Food served for the Purim meal must be symbolic of the Purim story. The most popular food item that Jews make and serve during Purim is hamantaschen, which are triangular pastries with a sweet filling. The three corners are supposed to represent Haman’s three-cornered hat. Sometimes, a special challah, called ‘keylitsh’, is also made. It is large in size and braided intricately. The challah braids are meant to be reminiscent of the rope used to hang Haman.

Kreplach or boiled triangular dumplings stuffed with ground meat signify the “beating” of Haman. They may be eaten on their own or served with soup. Purim festivities also sometimes include bean dishes, like boiled, salted beans with their skin on, and boiled chickpeas boiled with salt and pepper. These are meant to be reminders of Esther not consuming anything non-kosher at the court of King Ahashuerus and sticking to peas and beans. 

Sephardic Jews wrap pastry dough around an ornamental hard-boiled egg to imitate the shape of an animal or Purim character. After baking, these edible decorations called folares are displayed proudly and eaten. During Purim, some people even eat Turkey and Ethiopian dishes like lentils that symbolise the reign of King Ahasuerus from India to Ethiopia or “Hodu to Kush" (‘hodu’ means both "India" and "turkey" in Hebrew). Indian Jews like to eat puran poli (a sweet, stuffed bread) for the festival, which usually occurs close to Holi. 

While different Jewish communities eat different dishes on Purim, they remain united in the concept of the festival. Purim is meant to be a joyful celebration that signifies hope and the idea that no matter how dire the circumstances, everything ends well.