Jewish Soul Food

March 13, 2018
The Great Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook
April 14, 2018

From Minsk to Marrakesh, More Than 100 Unforgettable Dishes Updated for Today's Kitchen

by Janna Gur


Time • O: The Oprah Magazine • Bon Appétit • Eater

For more than two thousand years, Jews all over the world developed cuisines that were suited to their needs (kashruth, holidays, Shabbat) but that also reflected the influences of their neighbors and that carried memories from their past wanderings. These cuisines may now be on the verge of extinction, however, because almost none of the Jewish communities in which they developed and thrived still exist. But they continue to be viable in Israel, where there are still cooks from the immigrant generations who know and love these dishes. Israel has become a living laboratory for this beloved and endangered Jewish food.

The more than one hundred original, wide-ranging recipes in Jewish Soul Food—from Kubaneh, a surprising Yemenite version of a brioche, to Ushpa-lau, a hearty Bukharan pilaf—were chosen not by an editor or a chef but, rather, by what Janna Gur calls “natural selection.” These are the dishes that, though rooted in their original Diaspora provenance, have been embraced by Israelis and have become part of the country’s culinary landscape. The premise of Jewish Soul Food is that the only way to preserve traditional cuisine for future generations is to cook it, and Janna Gur gives us recipes that continue to charm with their practicality, relevance, and deliciousness. Here are the best of the best: recipes from a fascinatingly diverse food culture that will give you a chance to enrich your own cooking repertoire and to preserve a valuable element of the Jewish heritage and of its collective soul.

(With full-color photographs throughout.)

TSG Review

I know very little about Jewish food except lox and bagels and pastrami sandwiches...all things I like.

I followed all the recipes exactly as written.

Goulash (Beef Stewed in Paprika Sauce)

Serves 6 to 8

This turned out very well. A simple recipe with a deep red paprika sauce that is thickened by all the onions that have pretty much dissolved into the sauce. Meaty-oniony-paprikay. It also had a strange but interesting addition to a beef stew I never would have thought of–caraway seed. This dish warms your bones and is really good with some buttered rye bread on the side. I was able to freeze about half of the recipe for later so I will not be running out any time soon.

Mujaddara (Rice with Lentils)

Syrian, Egyptian
Serves 6 to 8

I'm not a big rice fan mostly because in the six months I was stationed in Ryad, Saudi Arabia The only starch we were served on a regular basis was rice. White, boring, plain, rice. It spoiled me off the stuff for life but if anything can get me back into eating it it is this flavorful dish. Basmatic rice with lentils and onions are spiced up with  cumin and cinnamon. It doesn't taste like cinnamon to me but it definitely has that middle-eastern flavor. Completely vegan too!

Chicken Tagine With Artichoke Hearts

Serves 6

Stewed chicken in a spicy curry sauce with lemons, artichokes, and onions. I liked the flavor combination a lot the night I made it but the next day having left overs it just seemed way to over cooked and squishy.

Honig Lekach (Honey-Flavored Sponge Cake)

Makes one 10-inch cake

This sponge cake tasted more of lemon to me than honey. Using a minimal amount of ingredients it was very airy with a bright yellow color.


Besides the name of the dish the recipes also reveals the country of origin of the dish which is pretty cool. Some of the recipes can be a bit vague with the type or amount of ingredients. For example one of the recipes said to use 4 large onions, without the type of onion or weight I was fairly certain after chopping them all, I had way too much. The same recipe also said to use chicken thighs but didn't mention anything about leaving the skin on or striping it off. There where things like that throughout the recipes I tried. That really is the only complaint I have with the book and I was able to make amazing dish after amazing dish. These recipes serve from 6 to 8 people on average.