Unknown to many people, Morocco has a long history with Judaism. That being said tracking down Moroccan Hanukkah recipes was not easy and most of these are not necessarily traditional. I have always been interested in Moroccan Jewish holidays and traditions so it was a big research project.
The history of Judaism in Morocco dates back over 2,000 years to Amazigh Jews in the Atlas mountains. Even this many years back, these indigenous people of the region most likely converted to Judaism after having contact with others through trading routes. There were also two main waves of Jewish refugees who emigrated to Morocco.
The first group migrated after the destruction of the Second Temple and the second wave from Spain in 1492 after the Alhambra Decree. Until the late 1940s, at least 10% of Morocco’s population was Jewish – over 250,000 people.
Today there are fewer than 5,000 Jews living in Morocco. The majority of the population left for Israel in the late 1940’s. Today small pockets can be found in Casablanca and Fes. In recent years there have been more and more moving back and a small revival in Morocco’s Jewish heritage.
I decided to do this Hanukkah series after learning that Daniel Saraga of Haggis and Herring had passed away in September 2012. Daniel was a frequent reader and often emailed me with comments, family anecdotes, and thoughts on recipes. He was a Canadian/Moroccan Jew and shared so much with me about his family and their experiences in Morocco and Israel. I always looked forward to his comments and I truly was heartbroken when I heard of his passing.
After I learned of his death I wanted to do something to honor him. I decided to wait until Hanukkah, the festival of the lights, and dedicate all of these posts to his life and memory.
Moroccan Jewish Hanukkah food is nearly identical to traditional Moroccan food, though must also be kosher. Interestingly enough the majority of Moroccan recipes are kosher without needing any alternations. Meat and dairy are rarely if ever mixed.
It’s interesting to note that the foods and traditions of Ashkenazi (European) Jews and Sephardic (Middle Eastern) Jews are different. I’m not a Jewish scholar or expert on the subject but found this resource interesting and useful to understand the differences.
What are Moroccan Hanukkah Recipes?
You likely won’t find a latke on a Moroccan Jewish Hanukkah table (but you may find ma’akouda). Mofleta’s are common and in many ways resemble msemmen. Sfinge are also an important part of the holiday.
Couscous, dafina, tagines, and briouats (or pastellitos) are all potential meals for the week. It’s extremely difficult to find recipes that are Moroccan-Jewish. When MarocBaba and I asked my mother-in-law to get ideas she drew a blank.
We asked another, older, friend of the family if she had any idea, specifically about dafina. She started but couldn’t remember. I was afraid the project was going to be lost. Just recently I received the cookbook Grandma Elmaleh’s Moroccan Cookbook. It’s all Moroccan Jewish recipes! I’ve used it as a guide to writing some of these recipe posts.
My hope is to do justice to some of these foods, of which I’ve had limited exposure too. This blog celebrates multiple cultures and I think it’s important to recognize everyone.
Suggestions for Moroccan Jewish Hanukkah Recipes
More Sephardic Hanukkah Recipe Ideas
Here are a few more suggestions for Sephardic recipes from others available online.
Cassola – Ricotta Cheese Pancakes