Category Archives: Iraqi

Zalabia: Middle-Eastern Chanukah Fritters in Syrup

As the Jewish holiday of Chanukah fast approaches (this year, it begins on the evening of Tuesday December 4th), recipes for latkes and other deep-fried delicacies will abound. Here is a recipe from our favorite – Claudia Roden – for “Zalabia” – deep-fried yummies, which she writes are from Egypt.

To purchase this book, click here.

I’ve copied and pasted the Q & A below, but you should check out the whole article here. Of course, recipes embody cross-cultural influences and often you’ll find many recipes for the same dish, each region claming it as their own and/or emphasizing the traditional tastes of their own locale.

The politics of the Palate.

If you click here, you’ll find the “Horesh Family Recipe index” (Horesh is a common last name of Iraqi Jews – and there are lots of good recipes here) . They list the Zalabia as being Iraqi Chanukah Fritters.

So whether these are Egyptian, Greek or Iraqi in origin – who cares? Enjoy!

There are many different recipes for Loukoumades, called Zalabia in Egypt. They are served soaked in sugar syrup or dusted with icing sugar. I use a recipe that is delicious although the fritters do not come out quite round. It is not an easy recipe but I hope you enjoy making it.

Serves 6
For the sugar syrup
1kg sugar
500 ml water
The juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon rose or orange-blossom water

For the batter
500g flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 packet fast action dry yeast
750 ml warm water (1 part boiling to two parts cold)

Light vegetable oil for deep-frying.


For the syrup, put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pan and simmer for 15 minutes or until it is thick enough to coat a spoon. Add the rose or orange-blossom water and simmer a few seconds longer, then chill, covered.

For the batter, put the flour in a large bowl, mix in the salt and yeast, then stir in the water gradually, beating vigorously for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for at least 1 hour, then beat the batter once more and let it rise again.

Make the fritters in batches. Pour little balls of batter by the teaspoon or tablespoon (they can be small or large) into sizzling but not too hot oil and fry until puffed up, crisp and golden, turning them to brown them all over. You may find it easier if you dip the spoon in oil so that the batter rolls off easily. Lower the heat a little so that the fritters have time to get done inside before they are too brown. The batter is light and produces irregular, rather than perfectly round, shapes. If the oil is not hot enough to begin with the batter tends to flatten out.

Lift the fritters out with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and dip them in the cold syrup for a few seconds, or let them soak up the syrup for longer. They are at their best hot, but are also good cold.

For variation, you can pour over the fritters honey heated up with about half the quantity water. You can also sprinkle instead with icing (confectioner’s) sugar and cinnamon.


Filed under Cookbooks, desserts, Holidays, Iraqi, Middle-Eastern

Ilham Al-Madfai – “The Voice of Iraq”

This Iraqi singer and musician has the most beautiful, velvety, layered voice that invokes melancholy, longing and nostalgia – and reverberates within.

“Ilham al-Madfai is a legend, both in Baghdad and right across the Middle East. He’s the man who first shook up the Iraqi music scene in the 1970s, back in the days when he was known as the Baghdad Beatle” (From The Guardian, Interview with Ilham

Click here to listen to Ilham sing an Ode to Baghdad while watching a video of shots of the city. It is a must.

For Ilham’s official webiste: click here 

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Filed under Iraqi, Links

Iraqi Family Cookbook Blog –

Check out Kay Karim’s Iraqi food blog. I just posted her recipe for Swiss Chard Soup from her “Iraqi Family Cookbook.” She’s also got a blog up – with recipes. Check it out:

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Shourba Siliq – Swiss Chard Soup

This recipe is from the website Iraqi Family Cookbook.

“Kay Karim grew up in Baghdad, and immigrated to the United States in 1968. She kept her family heritage alive through cooking these traditional meals for family and friends.”

There are a bunch of great recipes on that website. Check it out. In the meantime, this soup sounds delicious.


  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic crushed
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • ½ cup of rice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard washed and chopped
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. dried mint



  1. Sauté onion & garlic in oil for 3 minutes.
  2. Add salt, pepper and water.
  3. When it starts to boil, add rice.
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add swiss chard, lemon juice and mint.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes.


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“Ana Yahudi Arabi” – Reflections from an Arab Jew: Professor Ella Shohat

For those of us that grew up in homes suffused with Arabic, and “ku-lu-lu-lus,” with brown eggs and fried eggplants for breakfast, and stories of the suk in Baghdad, we’ve often wrestled with the unease of many in our Jewish communities with “Arabs.” This Arab-phobia was counterintuitive to us – or at least to me – as I understood my own heritage in part to be Arab. While I take care not to  romanticize the Arab world – if one can speak in such huge generalizations – there is deep resonance on certain cultural aspects: language, food, music, passion, and a deep appreciation of “the East.”

Indeed – this is true for so many of us. We still talk in broken Arabic to our grandmother, and memories of Baba are inseparable from sounds of Arabic. We joke with cousins and aunts in Israel calling one another names (profanity excluded here) in Arabic. “Ana b’chibuk,” Nana always says. “I love you,” and of course, “B’frachik,” which basically means – “at your simcha.” (Even Nana is still pushing for a wedding!)

Ella Shohat a Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU has written about the nature of Arab-Jewish heritage and its ‘replacement’ in a sense, by a European-Jewish vision of Zionism at length. Ella is also of Iraqi descent. Click here to read another, and less heard perspective: “Reflections by an Arab Jew.”

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Last Jew of Babylon – Part II

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The Last Jew of Babylon – Video

Ofir just sent me a fascinating video about the heritage of Jews in Iraq, and as Ofir writes, “absolutely fascinating and very telling at the transition from Arab Jews to just Jews. Really a forced denial of a rich culture by Zionizm. If you change the last digit to 2 you will see the conclusion. I was crying.” I’ve linked to Part I of the video here.

I will upload Part II in the next post.

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