The Jewish festival of Hanukkah starts tonight; eight days of celebration, presents, lighting candles and delicious, deep fried food.
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) takes places around the same time of year as Christmas. The actual dates vary from year to year as the Hebrew calendar is on the lunar cycle. This year, the festival starts from this evening (10 December) and runs for eight days.
The way the dates have fallen this year mean that, while a five day window has been organised for families who want to celebrate Christmas together, (as with Eid, Diwali and other major festivals for non-Christian religions) Jewish families in Manchester will have to spend another festival apart.
For those who’s knowledge of Hanukkah is limited to Ross’ holiday armadillo from Friends, we’ve pulled together a little run down on the Jewish festival of light.
Plus, we chat to a few kosher food businesses about how they are preparing for Hanukkah and what delicious specials they have planned for this celebration.
What is Hanukkah?
The festival is not simply a ‘Jewish Christmas’ as it’s often referred. Yes there’s lots of food and there are presents (eight whole days of them) but the stories behind the two celebrations are quite different.
Hanukkah commemorates a historical event which took place in the 2nd century BCE when the Jews were ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks) ruled by King Antiochus III who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture. The story goes that a small band of poorly-armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee managed, against all odds, to defeat this powerful army and reclaim the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
When they tried to light the Temple’s menorah (a holy candelabra), they only found enough oil for one day, but it would have taken seven days more for them to get more oil. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the oil lasted for the eight days it needed until they could get more oil.
To celebrate this miracle, Jews practice certain rituals and customs over Hanukkah such as lighting the menorah. Games are also played such as the dreidel (a spinning top) and giving gifts or gelt (money) over the eight days.
You thought Christmas was indulgent, like many Jewish festivals, Hanukkah is all about the food. And, because of the miracle of the oil, it’s deep fried foods that are traditionally eaten, such as doughnuts and latkes (a fried potato and onion pancake, a bit like a rosti).
What do you eat?
In places like New York and London, there is a culture around enjoying food from Jewish delis which isn’t limited to the community itself. And here in Manchester too, we have some great places to take advantage of.
Our city has a large Jewish community, predominantly centred around Prestwich and North Manchester.
Michael from JS on the Corner is busy gearing up for their first Hanukkah in their new location. The oldest Jewish restaurant in Manchester, JS had occupied a building on King’s Road, just off Bury New Road in Prestwich, since 1956.
At the end of July, due to the pandemic, the brand has adapted to more of a takeaway offering, renaming themselves as JS On The Corner and moving to a different unit on Bury New Road itself.
Owner Michael Isler is really looking forward to Hanukkah this year. He says:
“Hanukkah is a great family time celebrating the miracle of lights that happened many years ago. It’s a time to spend time with family, to eat plenty of doughnuts. You put on about a stone in a week.
“But in all seriousness, I love Hannukah because it’s a festival when you come home, you light the menorah, you spend time with the kids and you have fun, you have games, you give presents. And it’s not like passover where you have to prep for three weeks beforehand, it’s just a very chilled time.”
Especially for Hanukkah, JS is getting a doughnut machine and will be serving hot doughnuts throughout the eight days, as well as plenty of fresh latkes.
Other dishes on the kosher menu include burgers, sandwiches, pies and hummus plates with shawarma and falafel.
We also spotted an alternative Hanukkah dish on their menu, a deep fried number called the ‘frap’. The frap consists of smoked beef pastrami, garlic mayo, mustard, onion rings, crispy onions, salty pickles, coleslaw, all inside a wrap which is then breaded and deep fried.
JS is open as normal throughout Hanukkah for takeaway food and deliveries. Orders can be made over the phone on 0161 798 7776, online at jsotc.co.uk or by going into the store.
The old JS site on King’s Road has been taken over by another Jewish food operator, Celia’s Kitchen.
The new deli has been set up by long time kosher caterer, Celia Clyne Banqueting, which has been providing banqueting services across the UK for almost 40 years, since 1983. Previously a home economics teacher, Celia was asked to cater a wedding for a friend and it went so well that all kicked off from there.
Celia’s Kitchen launched just three weeks ago during the second national lockdown and it’s been a baptism (or shall we say a bris) of fire for the new venue which has been very busy since it opened.
Managing director, Mark Clyne said:
“It’s been really busy. What I felt was that Manchester and the Jewish community needed an outlet where they could buy fresh food, rather than packet food. And, because of the production kitchen we have, we thought we were the people to do it.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years but the right location never came around, and then it did, and so we jumped at it.”
As well as Jewish favourites, like salt beef and bagels, they also have kosher versions of a wide range of cuisines including Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern food.
Celia’s Kitchen also prides itself on creating huge stacked burgers such as their Once in a Lifetime burger which includes two chargrilled burgers, a chicken schnitzel and then topped with pulled beef and red slaw.
They have created a new huge burger for Hanukkah too called the Mighty Maccabee (remember our friend Judah the Maccabee?).
This has a prime steak burger, topped with a fried latke, salt beef AND pulled beef. There’s also a smaller version (not that small) called the Chanukah burger which is topped with just salt beef and a latke.
Because of the laws of kashrut which mean that meat and milk cannot be eaten together, Jewish food normally has lots of great veggie and fish options so, vegetarians, don’t be scared off by these meaty feasts. There is also a cauliflower schnitzel burger and a Jerusalem falafel burger.
“Being kosher isn’t just a matter of your usual traditional staple dishes, we can do a lot more than that,” says Mark.
Celia’s Kitchen are also making fresh doughnuts for Hanukkah, but not just any doughnuts, (and this is becoming a bit of a theme) these are giant doughnuts, topped with things like Oreos and Lotus Biscoff biscuits. Plus, there are selling Chanukah hampers which include wine, smoked salmon, doughnuts and other sweet treats.
Currently Celia’s Kitchen is delivering across North Manchester and soon they plan to launch their own app and are looking to expand delivery services to South Manchester. Then, Mark tells us, they want to extend their offering to Leeds and other places in the UK.
They also have an event space in the Prestwich deli which can’t be used under current restrictions but will have space to dine in when they can.
Orders can be made over the phone on 0161 820 4441 or on Uber Eats, and they can be collected from the deli too.
Another new Jewish food business which is putting a fresh twist on kosher cooking is Feast by Ed Shearf which has set up a pop up kitchen called Social Square at the Maccabi community centre in Prestwich, near to Heaton Park.
Previously a catering business, Feast would normally be catering for events like weddings, barmitzvahs, and so on. As none of these events are going ahead this year, the business had to pivot the business to offer a takeaway and delivery food service.
There are three different concepts in the pop up; Street Deli, serving New York style deli sandwiches piled high with pastrami and salt beef; Cabana, serving Latin American dishes like tacos, burritos and churros; Fire Pit which serves BBQ meats like steak, jerk chicken and wings. This Sunday, they are also launching a new brunch menu called Huevo, with dishes like smoked salmon bagels and huevos rancheros. When they can, they will also be opening a bar serving cocktails and craft beers.
For Hanukkah, Feast will be doing half price churros on Thursday as well as £1 latkes with any main course on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. They have released gift vouchers for Hanukkah too.
The pop up launched officially on 15 November and has been incredibly popular since opening.
Rude Kabeya, operations manager for Feast by Ed Shearf, said:
“The whole idea really is just to change the landscape of kosher catering, which has had a bit of a bad rep and we just try to be not boring, not give people the usual, to give the kosher market food that they would not normally try anywhere else.”
“The response has been amazing. The first day was challenging because we didn’t anticipate the amount of response that we would have to be perfectly honest.
“We just absolutely got inundated from the moment we opened, in the first half an hour we had like over 150 orders and we couldn’t cope! But since then we’ve learned from that and we’ve obviously opened the preordering system where people can order throughout the day. We’re getting repeat customers now who literally have dinner with us every night, and you have people who just keep coming back and the feedback has been really positive.”
Social Square by Feast is open from 5pm to 10pm, Sunday to Thursday (closed for the Sabbath). Food can be ordered via their website with pre orders open from 10:30am with last orders around 9:30pm.
They are delivering within a 3 mile radius or orders can be collected from the Maccabi Centre on Bury New Road.
Hanukkah starts on the evening of Thursday 10 December and ends the evening of Friday 18 December (or 25 Kislev to 3 Tevet in the Hebrew calendar).
Jewish or not, there really is so much to enjoy about Hanukkah. And, beyond the festival itself, it’s really worth paying a visit to the traditional Jewish delis and some of the places putting a new spin on kosher food.
And, if you can’t make it to North Manchester, find your nearest doughnut or deep fried food and eat it immediately. The holiday armadillo said so.
Happy Chanukah to those celebrating!
Where to enjoy Jewish food in Greater Manchester
Delis and food shops
Let’s Fress Deli, Whitefield
0161 798 0343 / 70 Bury Old Rd, Whitefield, Prestwich, Manchester M45 6TL
Celia’s Kitchen, Prestwich
0161 820 4441 / 7 Kings Road, Prestwich M25 0LE
Shefa Mehadrin, Prestwich
49-53 Bury New Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 9JY
Haber’s World shop, Prestwich
0161 798 7370 / King’s Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 0FY
Kosher City, Prestwich
0161 740 3428 / 81-83 Windsor Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 0DB
0161 792 1752 / 57-59 Leicester Rd, Salford M7 4DA
Kosher Deli, Prestwich
0161 697 4775 / 1-3, Bury New Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 9JZ
Dovid’s Deli, Salford
0161 708 8596 / 31 Leicester Rd, Salford M7 4AS
Kosher Savers, Higher Broughton
0161 792 8860 / Knoll St, Higher Broughton, Salford M7 2EQ
0161 792 4954 / Wellington St E, Salford M7 2AX
0161 792 1652 / 43-45 Leicester Rd, Salford M7 4AS
State Fayre, Crumpsall
0161 740 3435 / 77 Middleton Rd, Crumpsall, Manchester M8 4JY
Three Bakers, Prestwich
0161 773 3434 / 5 Bury New Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 9JZ
M H Bakery, Salford
0161 792 4841 / 35 Leicester Rd, Salford M7 4AS
Restaurants and cafes
Social Square by Feast, Prestwich
Manchester Maccabi Community & Sports Club, Bury Old Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 0EG
Lulu’s Kitchen, Cheadle
0161 491 1100 / 41 Wilmslow Rd, Cheadle SK8 1DR
JS on the Corner, Prestwich
0161 798 7776 / 27 Bury New Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 9JY
0161 773 1645 / 5 Bury New Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 9JZ
Noshers cafe, Prestwich
0161 470 0680 / 84 King’s Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 0LQ
Pagoda Chinese, Prestwich
0161 798 4149 / 1, Park Hill, Bury Old Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 0FX
State Fayre Bakery & Coffee Shop, Whitefield
0161 766 6216 / 83 Park Ln, Whitefield, Manchester M45 7HL
Tasti Pizza, Salford
0161 792 9721 / 23 Leicester Rd, Salford M7 4AS