name your roots

What is the Ultimate Food for the Sabbath ? 2012-02-02

The ancient Jewish dish that is still eaten today

No matter how you pronounce it, the fact remains that cholent is unequivocally Jewish cuisine. It was born of Orthodox Jewish observance of the Sabbath, when no work is allowed. So how could they serve a hot dish on a day when fires could not be kindled ? The solution was cholent or hamin, probably the only ancient Jewish dish that is still eaten today. Families would either leave a real low oven going at home or take their pots to the village baker and let the food cook overnight.

Many slow-cooking dishes made with beans derive from this Jewish technique. There is no doubt that, in Hungary, it evolved into "shalet," one of the national dishes. The Pilgrims, after spending time with Sephardic Jews in Holland, adopted it prior to sailing to the New World. The substitutions they later had to make for some ingredients resulted in Boston Baked Beans.


The origin of cholent is likely in the pre-Inquisition Sephardic kitchen. From there, it probably migrated to Alsace, where it is believed to have been called "chault-lent;" Old French for hot and slow. When it was eventually brought to Germany and Eastern Europe, it took on the basic ingredients of which it  is made today.


Jews eat hamin all over the world. The name might differ but the basic technique remains the same. The Ashkenazi call it chulent, cholent, or shalet. Sephardi Jews call it hamin (Hebrew), haminado (Jedismo), matphonia (Kurdistan), shahina and deffina (North Africa), haris (Yemenite) or tabit (Iraqi).


Whether the "hamin" of Sephardic communities, the "cholent" of Ashkenazic ones, or a combination of the two, it is still favored by many for lunch on Shabbat, especially on a cold winter day. So what are you waiting for - get cooking!


Sephardic hamin recipe


Ashkenazic cholent recipe

Vegetarian cholent recipe