This is probably the most popular food eaten on Purim. It is a triangular, three-cornered pastry that is usually filled with either a poppyseed mixture or jam, although some people also use a cream cheese filling. There are a number of speculations about the shape and name of Hamantashen:
- Some say that the shape comes from the 3-cornered hat worn by Haman, but there is no actual proof that such hats were worn in those days.
- The Yiddish name for poppyseed pockets is ‘mantashen’ and this was intentionally distorted to ‘Haman tash’ which means ‘pockets of Haman’.
- The name reminds us of the expression ‘tash coho’, meaning exhausted. Haman’s efforts to kill the Jews were thwarted or exhausted. It is inferred that whoever tries to harm us will endure the same fate as him.
- In Hebrew and among Sephardim, these pastries are called ‘Oznei Haman’ (Haman’s Ears). This may recall the story that when Haman entered the King’s treasury, he was bent over with shame and humiliated – hence, with clipped ears.
The BJE Webmistress’s Best Ever Hamantashen Recipe, by popular demand
Makes about 50
- 300gm caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup canola oil
- 750gm plain flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- jam or other fillings ( I like plum jam)
Beat eggs until thick. Then beat in sugar, oil and vanilla essence. Fold in flour and baking powder until it becomes a workable dough. Flour your surface and roll out in batches. Use a drinking glass to cut out rounds. Put a teaspoon of jam or other filling in the centre of each round, then pinch up so that there are 3 corners and the filling is concealed. Place on a greased tray, brush with beaten egg and bake till just brown in a 180-degree oven (180 degrees Celsius = 350 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool and serve, remembering to make enough to include in Mishloach Manot for all your friends!
Other Haman-name-related foods include Haman’s Hair (fine egg noodles), Haman’s Feet (sweet rolls), Haman’s Fleas (sesame candy).
Fish that is eaten on Purim is cooked with spices, raisins and vinegar. These flavourings remind us of the taste of food in Persia and are very different from what we eat on other festivals.
A Purim challah is baked with raisins and is very large and sweet. We also eat cakes baked with raisins and nuts to remind us of the sweetness of the Jews’ victory over Haman.
Some people eat turkey on Purim to remind them of King Achashverosh. The turkey is considered a foolish animal, and the reference is to Achashverosh’s foolishness in taking the counsel (advice) of Haman. Another reason is that we are told at the beginning of the Scroll of Esther that King Achashverosh reigned ‘from India (‘Hodu’ in Hebrew) to Ethiopia (‘Kush’ in Hebrew)’. As hodu is also the Hebrew word for a turkey, the custom of eating turkey on Purim developed.
Beans, cereals and seeds
Beans, cereals and seeds made up the bulk of Queen Esther’s diet in the palace. She ate these and followed a vegetarian diet to avoid eating non-kosher meat and other foods, thus maintaining her Jewish observance. We eat these foods on Purim in memory of her piety.
YouTube – JTA’s Purim Hamantaschen Tutorial (includes recipe)