Three Mexican Dishes, Inspired by the Flavors of Jewish Cuisines

Mexican Jewish food BELatina Relleno
Photo Credit Dave Katz

Today marks the middle of Rosh Hashanah, the first of the High Holidays of Judaism, marking the beginning of a new year on the Jewish calendar. With the holiday falling in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s the perfect time to highlight the influence that the small Jewish community has had on especially Mexico, and specifically on Mexican cuisine. Currently, there are only about 50,000 Jewish people living in a country of 130 million residents. Much of the Jewish-Mexican community is there due to immigration in the early-to-mid 20th century from Eastern Europe, who left their homes to avoid persecution, seeking refuge in North America. 

Regardless of whether recipes originate in Ashkenazi, Sephardic, or Mizrahi households, the fusion of culinary heritage is complementary in the way that both the cuisine of Mexico and the Jewish diaspora are marked by layers of complex flavors. 

Gefilte Fish a la Veracruzana

gefilte-fish-veracruz-main
Photo Credit patijinich.com

If you’ve had good gefilte fish before, you probably don’t need anyone to convince you to try a Mexican adaptation of the dish; however, if you’ve had it and not been crazy about its cold, gelatinous texture, this is the recipe that will change your mind. The recipe is from Mexican-born and raised Chef Pati Jinich for her grandmother’s version of gefilte fish, made completely from scratch — with a base made from ground snapper and flounder — that is served with a spiced, tomato-based sauce a la Veracruzana. 

Matzo Ball Soup a la Mexicana

Matzo Ball A La Mexicana Relleno
Photo Credit cooking.nytimes.com/recipes

A go-to comfort dish for anyone in the know, matzo ball soup is basically a straightforward chicken soup served with an unforgettable dumpling made of matzo flour that is made either so densely that it sinks to the bottom of your bowl, or is so light that it floats in the broth — both are delicious, but experienced matzo ball connoisseurs often identify themselves as being a floater or sinker person.

This Mexican twist on matzo ball soup is from Chef Fany Gerson, who serves the soup at Rosh Hashanah.  It’s punctuated with the distinctly Mexican accouterments of cilantro, avocado, epazote, serrano peppers, and lime juice.

Cordero Relleno con Papas

Mexican Jewish food BELatina Relleno
Photo Credit Dave Katz

Chef Rafa Zaga was born in Mexico to Jewish immigrants from the Middle East. “I don’t have any family left in Syria today and I’ve never visited, so my only connection to this heritage is through my grandmother’s food and memories,” Zaga told Haaretz in an interview. His recipe for cordero relleno con papas is a reflection of the signature protein or the Middle East, dressed up with the bright flavors of Mexican herbs and a tamarind sauce.