Abraham Accords: High demand for Kosher food in UAE

Dubai - Hanukkah propels Kosher food demand.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Tue 15 Dec 2020, 4:45 PM

Last updated: Wed 16 Dec 2020, 11:03 AM

Kosher food has taken centre-stage during the ongoing Hanukkah festival with a surge in its demand in the international market and the festive season coinciding with school closures.

The landmark peace agreement between the UAE and Israel has bolstered the ceremonial Kosher food industry as the key players find it pleasantly challenging to keep up with the growing business.

Elli Kriel of Elli's Kosher Kitchen, which is the first-ever Kosher kitchen in the UAE, said: “The Abraham Accord has opened up the market and brought in a new tourist segment; a new country is coming here. In addition, you have Kosher or Jewish travellers from around the world feeling confident to visit the place.”

“The other thing is that the normalisation in ties coincides with the Hannukah period and the Hannukah festival also fall during the school holidays. So there is an increase in travel due to that. Therefore, we have seen a massive request for Kosher food in general and I would say almost 100 per cent increase in the first week, when the normalisation took place. The demand is extremely high now,” added the only OU (Orthodox Union) certified food supplier in the UAE.

The self-proclaimed foodie averred how food operates as an expression of cultural identity and cooking inter-generational traditional recipes shaped between different women, is a way of preserving that character.

Comparing the Jewish festival that began on December 10 to India’s festival of lights, Elli pointed out: “Hanukkah is almost like Diwali. We light a candle each day for the entire duration of the festival, which is for eight days.”

The story of Hanukkah goes like this: When the Jewish people reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem from the King Antiochus and his troops, they could only find enough oil in the temple to light the menorah for one day but managed to light it for eight days there.

Joining the dots and explaining the connection between the oil in the lamp and the ‘fried foods’, Elli added: “So, our creator gave us the light and the sustenance to keep us going. During Hanukkah - as a result of the significance of ‘oil’ - what we do is we like to eat fried foods. We have something called sufganiyot, the jam doughnut which is deep-fried in oil, filled with jam or custard, and then topped with icing sugar. So, that’s got the oil connection.”

The other popular food eaten during Hanukkah are latkes, which are fried potato pancakes.

“Latkes are grated potatoes made into pancakes. You deep fry them and eat them as a savoury item on top or sweet item like apple sauce depending on tradition. If consumed as savoury, it can be eaten as a breakfast item served with eggs or with sour cream and salmon. If you go on Instagram around this time of the year, you will see all kinds of creations."

"I also made curried sweet potato latkes, then I made tahini latkes and the favourite ones are the potato latkes.”

Shedding light on the difference between Hanukkah and its ritualistic foods, Elli highlighted how it differs from traditional festivals and meal preparations.

“In other festivals you would have a big festive meal and typical foods surrounding it but what is different in Hanukkah is that the food consists of just a couple of items. For those eight days after sunset, you light a candle daily: so if it's day one you light one candle, if it's day two, you light two candles and so on and so forth. Once you have done that, you sit down and eat. What you typically do is have the fried foods. One may have the sufganiyot for desert or latkes as a starter but there is no spread as such. So, these foods are the comforts but the festival really revolves around the lighting of the candles.”

“We have specific kinds of food but it also depends on what kind of cultural elements one is following in the Jewish tradition. Last time I made a donut and used a zucchini mixed with icing sugar frosting and sprinkled it with caramelised pistachios on top”, added Elli.

Food fusion

After having catered to the high level delegation at the recently concluded Gitex 2020, the Elli’s Kosher Kitchen is now converging with the Emirati culture, customising recipes to suit the local palette and creating innovative fusion food.

“The Kosher-Emirati food has been trademarked as ‘Kosherati’ food. I am still developing the recipes with an Emirati friend of mine. We are still writing and testing the recipes. We are mixing the key ingredients of Emirati foods with traditional Jewish dishes. Therefore, I am preparing a recipe book for that with items like Balaleet latkes, Chebab Blinis (pancakes folded with rose water and date syrup into the cream cheese), Kugeal (cake), Orange Blossom Rugelach (puff pastry) to name a few.”

More news from