Hanukkah and Aleppian Cuisine

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Author Poopa Dweck celebrates Hanukkah and Syrian Jewish cuisine in her book Aromas of Aleppo. This Jewish community no longer exists in Aleppo and has dispersed to smaller communities in New York, New Jersey and Latin America.  Poopa has made it her life's mission to preserve her community's legacy and cuisine.

Ataiyef  - Stuffed Syrian Pancakes
(Courtesy of Poopa Dweck’s Aromas of Aleppo)
Makes about 4 dozen pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup shira (Fragrant Aleppian Dessert Syrup, p. 249)
1 cup pistachios, shelled, blanched, peeled and finely chopped

1. Preheat a griddle pan over medium heat. Wipe the pan with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg and water to the mixture. Stir the mixture until the batter is smooth and there are no lumps.

3. Make the pancakes by pouring the batter, 1 tablespoon at a time, onto the griddle. Shape the batter into 3-inch-wide pancakes, much like a thin crepe. Cook on one side only. Remove the pancake when bubbles appear on its surface. Keep the cooked pancakes moist by covering them with a clean towel.

4. Place 1 teaspoon ricotta cheese in the uncooked center of each pancake. Fold the pancake in half and pinch the sides firmly closed. Fill the pancakes as quickly as possible so they do not dry out. (At this point, the pancakes may be frozen for later use.) 

5. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil until it sizzles upon contact with a drop water. Deep-fry the filled pancakes in batches for 3 minutes or until brown. Coat the fried pancakes in cold shira. Dip the point of each pancake in pistachio nuts. To ensure a crispy texture, place the pancakes on a tray in a single layer; do not stack or cover them.


For a non-dairy version, combine 2 cups finely chopped walnuts, ½ cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and substitute for the ricotta.

Music break: Memories of You by George Barnes & Carl Kress