Cuisine of the Mizrahi Jews

Iraqi Jewish cuisine: Kubbeh matfuniya
Moroccan pickled lemons

The cuisine of the Mizrahi Jews is an assortment of cooking traditions that developed among the Jews of The Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and Arab countries. Mizrahi Jews have also been known as Oriental Jews (Mizrahi is Hebrew: Eastern or Oriental). Jews of the Mizrahi communities cook foods that were and are popular in their home countries, while following the laws of kashrut. The cuisine is based largely on fresh ingredients, as marketing was done in the local souq. Meat is ritually slaughtered in the shehita process, and is soaked and salted. Meat dishes are a prominent feature of sabbath, festival, and celebratory meals. Cooked, stuffed and baked vegetables are central to the cuisine, as are various kinds of beans, chickpeas, lentils and burghul (cracked wheat). Rice takes the place of potatoes.

History

Tahina with lemon and garlic, a staple of Mizrahi Jewish cuisine as a dip or cooking sauce

Mizrahi Jews are the Jews of the Middle East, and points south and east, largely along the Mediterranean coastal areas and the Levant. In some countries, there was much mixing of populations after 1492 when the Jews were expelled from Spain.

Cuisine of the Mizrahi Jews includes the cuisines of the Jews of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran (Persia), Afghanistan, Bukhara (Uzbekistan), Egypt, the Berber communities, Kurdistan, Eastern Caucasus and Georgia. Some of these communities and cuisine styles overlap with Sephardic communities who fled to many Eastern, Middle Eastern, and North African countries after the Spanish expulsion.

Coming from the Mediterranean and "sunny" climes, Mizrahi cuisine is often light, with an emphasis on salads, stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, olive oil, lentils, fresh and dried fruits, herbs and nuts, and chickpeas. Meat dishes often make use of lamb or ground beef. Fresh lemon juice is added to many soups and sauces. Many meat and rice dishes incorporate dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and raisins. Pine nuts are used as a garnish. Pomegranate juice is a staple of Persian Jewish cooking. Kubbeh, a meat-stuffed bulgur dumpling, features in the cooking of many Mizrahi communities. It is served in the cooking broth, as a kind of soup.