It’s all about oil, we’re told. Fried in oil, baked in oil, whatever, as long as it has oil. The tradition comes from an old story about a band of Jewish soldiers, who won a battle to retain their religion against an oppressive Greek king. Their temple, left in disrepair after the battle, has only a small urn of oil left to light the menorah (an Jewish candelabrum with 9 holsters), but a miracle occured and the oil burned for eight days and nights.
Two of the most popular, and oiliest, foods to eat during the eight days of Hanukkah are latkes, pancake-like potato fritters, and doughnuts known as soufjanyiot (also known as ponchkes). There are a number of delis and bakeries in Sydney that make both, but few do them exceptionally well. Here are our picks.
Bianca’s Grub Store
Barry Borer and Brenda Coburn have been running Bianca’s Grub Store for 16 years. “I run the front of the shop. She does the back end stuff. All the cooking and that kind of stuff,” says Borer, seemingly content in his ignorance of whatever it is his mother in law does back there. At this time of year, a lot of her time is spent preparing and frying both jam doughnuts and latkes daily. “[Latkes] are eaten on every day of Hanukkah,” Borer says, adding that a traditional Jewish family will eat them with almost every meal during the eight days, just as they’ll have doughnuts every night after dinner.
Many families will make the latkes at home, but the doughnuts usually come from Bianca’s or other delis. The ones here are some of the best; soft with a slightly brittle crust and a strawberry jam filling that’s not overly sweet. Unlike many jams used in doughnuts, this one is still reminiscent of the actual berries it’s made from.
The store is also known for is its range of South African and Jewish groceries. During Hanukkah, one of the most popular items is the chocolate coins. “For want of a better term, Hanukkah is like Jewish Christmas. People give presents and money. For kids, you give chocolate coins,” says Borer.
532 Old South Head Road, Rose Bay (02) 9371 6022
Hours: Mon to Thu 8:30am – 6pm Fri 8am – 6pm Sat 8:30am – 4pm Sun 8:30 – 3pm
Kensington locals will probably know Grandma Moses as a store that does just about everything – sushi, pasta, an entire cafe menu and even a small grocery section. The Eastern suburbs Jewish community, however, will know it for the baking, particularly those who remember the original Grandma Moses store in Rose Bay. “We are kosher bakery. That’s what we do,” says owner Lawrence Hoffman. Most weeks that means bagels, sourdough and, on the Sabbath, challah (braided brioche loaves). In the lead up to Hanukkah, most orders will include a few jam doughnuts as well.
“The original ones were just doughnuts. Jam was something that became romanticized later,” says Hoffman. The doughnuts here are filled with a complex raspberry and strawberry jam that Hoffman says contains a mix of treacle, molasses and fresh fruit. “It’s quite different from normal jam,” he says.
The latkes are a more simple mix of mashed potato, carrot, onion, matzo flour (course wheat flour used for matzo balls) and egg. “They’re like hash browns, but hash browns are more stringy, these are more solid,” Hoffman says. “You can have chilli or even cinnamon on top, but most people will eaten on their own. “
105 – 109 Anzac Parade, Kensington (02) 9371 0874
Hours: Sun to Fri 7am – 6pm