Hanukkah Face-Off: Sephardic Dish #1


A sumptuous selection of the cold salads and dips known to North African Jews as kemia

Hanukkah is a time for enjoying Jewish culinary traditions with family and friends, and to that end we present a daily competition between Ashkenazi and Sephardic food, going up around sunset on the first seven days of Hanukkah – and presenting a wrap-up as the sun goes down on the eighth day. Whose food is the most appealing? Help us decide with your comments and social media shares.

The high point of a North African Jewish meal is often the dishes offered as a prelude, called kemia or sometimes mezze, served at room temperature. These are often highly spiced with things like lemon, cumin, and garlic, with lots of flavorful regional olive oil.

These dishes promote convivial conversation as the pile of pitas goes around the table, and prepare the palate for the savory meat, poultry and fish dishes to follow. For observant Jews, they serve a double function: On the Sabbath, they can be consumed with no work involved.

Beets, carrots, eggplants roasted and grilled, yogurt, and pickles are frequently part of the kemia table. Shown above is a selection from the Moroccan-Jewish restaurant Mogador.