Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Saved by Cholent

After the dish rescued my family from a robbery, I traveled the world searching for new ways to cook it

Print Email
(Photoillustration IvyTashlik; original photo Shutterstock. Recipe photo (below) Fülemüle.)

While Sephardic cuisine offers the most obvious differences from the cholent I grew up with, Hungary also has a special version all its own, called shalet. It’s similar to Eastern European cholents, but the additions of goose, and sometimes stuffed goosenecks, and of course, Hungarian paprika, make it unique. In fact, shalet is so delicious and special that it has become something of a national dish in Hungary, now widely available at many restaurants, although often not kosher. As Haim Shapiro wrote about shalet in the Jerusalem Post, “It was during a recent visit to Hungary that I found at least one country where Jewish cooking has very clearly influenced the local cuisine.”

In Budapest, the non-kosher restaurant Fülemüle has been serving Jewish classics for years, offering up six varieties of cholent, including one with foie gras and fried onions and another with goose leg, stuffed gooseneck, and the hickory-smoked meats former owner Andras Singer learned to make in Montreal. Singer passed away in July, and since then his son Viktor has taken the reins, making sure Hungarians continue to get their favorite dishes: “Our family [has] run the restaurant since 2000; my father [Andras], the founder, decided to serve my grandma’s cholent. Since then it became very popular. I would say the cholent is the flagship of Fülemüle.”

Although cholent is best when it’s homemade, in the last decade it’s become available in certain restaurants. In Manhattan, you can find traditional cholent at the 2nd Avenue Deli. Dovid’s Kosher, a little stand inside the lobby of 27 William Street/40 Exchange Place, sells Ashkenazi cholent on Fridays for lunch to the Wall Street crowd. In Brooklyn, many kosher restaurants in Orthodox neighborhoods sell traditional Ashkenazi cholent on Thursdays and Fridays, such as Gottlieb’s in South Williamsburg, Kold Kuts in Flatbush, and Deli 52 in Boro Park, which is often packed on Thursday nights. Westchester catering company Got Cholent/Gemstone Catering offers several varieties, including Polish, Moroccan, and Hungarian versions, as well as newer innovations like Texas Cholent, which has brisket, pastrami, assorted sausages, flanken, and kishka; and Mexican Encholente with chile con carne, Spanish rice, and poblano peppers in a tomatillo and chipotle sauce.

In Jerusalem, restaurants serving traditional Ashkenazi cholent abound in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah She’arim—just follow the yeshiva bokhurs on Thursday night. You can also find cholent on Thursday nights at Heimeshe Essen in Rechavia. Even Tel Aviv has its share of restaurants offering traditional cholent, including Keton and Café Batia, both on Dizengoff Street.

Many people have special associations with cholent. For me, cholent will always remind me of my family. And while I love learning about and tasting the many varieties of cholent, I know I will always go back to my mother’s simple version of barley, wheat berries, potatoes, onions, meat, and salt and pepper (we went bean-free several years ago). After it’s cooked for 18 hours, it still manages to be one of the tastiest combinations in the world.

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

1 2View as single page
Print Email

My aunt, Kay Kantor Pomerantz, has written several books on cholent, which include a plethora of recipes, histories and anecdotes from all over the world. They may be out of print but their titles are “Come for Cholent” and Come for Cholent Again.”

dvamar says:

growing up in casablanca ,morocco ,my mom made on friday La Daffe or La Daffina to be sent to the communal ovens, they are many variations of la daffe, including made with cows feet,sweet potato loaf and on and on…..

My alltime favourite cholent-type stew is full of Moroccan influences: hence the name – Maroccische Cassarole!

I was hoping for your recipe somewhere in the article!

In order to “have my beans but not eat them too,” I make a huge pot of kidney-bean soup, which cooks overnight on Thursday, and on Friday afternoon I remove the beans, and then cook the cholent ingredients in the remaining liquid.

whoffman says:

There are two recipes with the story — top of the page, on the left. Enjoy!

My understanding of the name’s derivation is that it comes from “shul endt,” meaning “shul is over.” This time-honored, heavy-laden meat-and-potatoes Jewish Mulligan Stew descends into one’s innards, presumably to join the schnapps and cake imbibed at the kiddush, and knocks out the consumer, who will nap until mincha davenen, the Shabbos Afternoon Service, and shalasheedis, or the Third Meal– chickpeas and challah, along with Torah lernen.

as to this:- “her fellow shtetl-dwellers would arrive with their pots of cholent, ready to be put in the bakery’s oven and cooked over a low heat overnight.” – I am going to make an educated guess that those bowls were placed near to the oven, around, under, above, wherever – but definitely not in the oven which would make the oven fleishig, meaty, and thus make the bread ‘unparveh’, a no-no.

Dror Saban says:

I am amazed on how Ashkenazi Jews think they are the only Jews, the rest are like something else. After all the author of this article might be right, however this article is Ashkenazi-centered, and …racist, a very subtle and unconscious racism.

First of all, any stew made for Shabbat is called HAMIN in the Talmud (2000 years old before french Jews called their shabbat stew, cholent), so the cholent is just a kind of Hamin, not the opposite. It did not migrated to France, that’s (again) very Eurocentrist and ignorant to say. The Hamin went from Persia and Babylon (where it was and still made of rice and lamb) to Spain and Portugal were it became know as Adafina,(and where the beans were added) only much later on time, it appears in France thanks to the Sephardic Jews. There are not other types of cholent (again Ashkenazi-centrist). There are other types of Hamin. The schena or sk’eena is not the same than Adafina. Adafina is Sephardic, meaning it was brought by Spanish Jews to Morocco. The schena or sk’eena it typicall of Berber Jews, so more misleading facts. Again, while talking about Hamin in India is calling it a “cholent”, it can only means ignorance. Same as calling Bokla (again)a kind of cholent. In Tunisia (I am half Tunisian) and Algeria it is also called Dafina not Tafina. PURE ignorance and racism. So disapointed of the Table with this ignorant articles.

Mihai-Robert Soran says:

Cholent – the meal of Jewish religious slaves. They don’t eat it because it tastes or is cheap, they eat it because of religious masochism. And you know what? It was easier to have it where there were poor gentiles ready to bake it all for the community Jews. In Israel today they are often Arab Palestinians playing the GOY role for the haredim orthodox para sites

Mihai-Robert Soran says:

BTW: Yes, my ancestors got their cholent made weekly by the Christian baker. ….

dvamar says:

they are morons like you that still manage to surface even though the subject is cholent!

dvamar says:

have some dafina this shabat & breath slowly, repeat the process !shabat shalom!

In the book “They called me Meyer July” about life in the town of Apt in Poland in the early 1900′s the author specifically reports that they would put the cholent pots and other Shabbos dishes into the banked baker’s ovens, often on the far side of the oven.

Lenore Naxon says:

My Dad, Irving Naxon, invented the crock pot, the then-called Naxon Beanery. He retired in 1971 and sold his business to Rival Manufacturing. They renamed it the crock pot, and the rest is American culinary history. But what was his inspiration for its creation in the first place, you might ask?

My grandmother grew up in a shtetl in Lithuania. She told my dad that when she was growing up, each Friday afternoon her mother would send her to the bakery with their pot of prepared but yet uncooked cholent. There it would be put into the oven for a full day, while the family observed Shabbos and the hot oven stayed warm. After sundown, she was sent to pick up the cooked stew for the family meal.

Dad was inspired to find a way to create a heating element that surrounded the pot in the same way that an oven would have. He wanted to find a low cost, low electricity use solution. So, the crock pot and cholent are inextricably linked!

The author writes: “My mother’s family was one of the last Jewish households to leave Detroit for the suburbs in the white flight of the 1960s.” This is not true. My wife’s parents lived in northwest Detroit until 1992 and my wife lived there until 1995. She said many Jewish families remained in the area into the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, one of their neighbors from the 1950s moved to the suburbs last year. There are still several Jewish families in Detroit proper to this day.

I wish so much that some recipes could be posted especially the Moroccan and Indian/Iraqi versions. Any hope for that before Friday prep for Shabbat?

Thank you for the information. A wonderful addition to our knowledge of things Jewish.

Yisrael Medad says:

try doing that today. why do you think you have to kasher your regular oven to use it for Pesach. either ignorance or dire necessity.

Yisrael Medad says:

and here I thoight Israel was an apartheid-state. so how could those Pals. play shabbat goy? (just kidding. Soran seems to be the apartheid one)

This is making new regulations and “chimres”/restrictions by those who want to be “holier” – despite what our ancestors, including the most frum, had done for generations.

who’re you calling a parasite?

Alas, not the most healthy of food. Much better a good substantial veg mix!

whoffman says:

The recipe for the Moroccan version is at the top of the story.

MichaelLustig says:

An interesting piece of intersecting history! It does bear noting that authentic cholent (or hamin) requires the use of an oven, and not a crock-pot.

Special kudos to Devorah Klein Lev-Tov for her vilification of ketchup (and the like) which is inherently an abomination, as well as her overall survey of a wonderful and versatile dish!

Devorah Lev-Tov says:

Wow, that is amazing! I wish I would have known that before I wrote the article, would have been a great tidbit!

ruth marks says:

Bravo! Well said. Especially the unconscious racism. Makes my blood boil very often but I chalk it up to ignorance. You would think she would research la daf beyond the family of her brother in law. They also think that no Moroccan jew can read, especially in English, never mind read the Tablet. We are just exotica to them. My dear Ashenazi brothers and sisters, we know all about you but you are willfully ignorant of us. We live with you in North America, right here. Make an effort to know us or at least report things right. Ask around, there is probably a Sephardi synagogue around the corner from you.

Finally!!, thanks Ruth, after all there is intelligent life in internet….but trust me, as you already said, we are not more than exotica for them, they wright books about us, they make money but still, they don’t know anything, zero about non-Ashkenazi Jews…

Dror Saban says:

Finally!!, thanks Ruth, after all there is intelligent life in internet….but trust me, as you already said, we are not more than exotica for them, they write books about us, they make money, but still, they don’t know anything, zero about non-Ashkenazi Jews…

MichaelLustig says:

If you’re looking for another cholent variant, here’s mine:

http://www.virtualjerusalem.com/food/MainDishes_MothersCholent.html

Loved the article! Bloch Publishers have published 3 of my cookbooks on cholent:
Come for Cholent, Come for Cholent Again, and Come for Everything but Cholent!
I invite you to join the growing numbers of cholent enthusiasts and enjoy!
Kay Kantor Pomerantz

Avinoam Sharon says:

While it is popularly believed that the word “cholent” derives from “chaud-lent”, as the author suggests, this folk etymology is unlikely. The prevailing opinion of linguists is that the word “cholent” derives from “caliente”. The “c” to “ch” change is common, and attested by numerous examples.

Dror Saban says:

I am amazed on how Ashkenazi Jews think they are the only Jews, the rest are like something else. After all the author of this article might be right, however this article is Ashkenazi-centered, and …racist, a very subtle and unconscious racism.

First of all, any stew made for Shabbat is called HAMIN in the Talmud (2000 years old before french Jews called their shabbat stew, cholent), so the cholent is just a kind of Hamin, not the opposite. It did not migrated to France, that’s (again) very Eurocentrist and ignorant to say. The Hamin went from Persia and Babylon (where it was and still made of rice and lamb) to Spain and Portugal were it became know as Adafina,(and where the beans were added) only much later on time, it appears in France thanks to the Sephardic Jews. There are not other types of cholent (again Ashkenazi-centrist). There are other types of Hamin. The schena or sk’eena is not the same than Adafina. Adafina is Sephardic, meaning it was brought by Spanish Jews to Morocco. The schena or sk’eena it typicall of Berber Jews, so more misleading facts. Again, while talking about Hamin in India is calling it a “cholent”, it can only means ignorance. Same as calling Bokla (again)a kind of cholent. In Tunisia (I am half Tunisian) and Algeria it is also called Dafina not Tafina. PURE ignorance and racism. So disapointed of the Table with this ignorant articles.

Osh Savo, Ossvo, Ussvo, Shavo, Oshi Sabo. Whatever you call it, the long-cooked Shabbos (Shabbat) stew some refer to as “Bukharan cholent” most likely predates the cholents of Western and Eastern Europe by centuries.

The Bukharan Jews represent one of the most ancient of the exiled Jewish groups, dating their arrival in Central Asia to the 8th century BCE. Most of the Bukharan (also, Bukharian, Bukhari), Jews from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have emigrated to Israel and Queens, New York bringing with them their distinctive culture, cuisine and language.

My neighbor Yanna and her husband bring a spot of Bukharan culture to the primarily European Jewish community in Brooklyn where we live. Hospitality is an enormous part of that culture. Although all Jews love guests (we look to the Biblical Abraham as our role model), the Bukharans seem to live for guests (though family comes first). On Friday nights after the Shabbos dinner, many Bukharans serve tea and cakes to family and friends, sitting around the table talking until late. Yanna, a young mother, is always cooking and baking and incredible fragrances drift into the hall from her apartment.

Bukhori, their language, is also called Judeo-Tajik, and is a blend of Persian (Tajik), Hebrew, Arabic, and Uzbek. Some younger Bukharan Jews don’t speak more than a few words in Bukhori. Since they lived in the former Soviet Union, Bukharans both young and old speak Russian as well as the language of wherever they’ve settled. Here in New York, that means English. That’s a good thing—otherwise I’d never have wrangled this recipe out of Yanna!

Yanna’s a cook after my own heart. When I asked her for the recipe she said, “First you take your lamb bones. Then you take your rice.” I fiddled with it a bit and came up with some measurements. In all honesty, I like the idea of ossvo (exotic, ancient, steeped in spiritual tradition) more than I like the reality of ossvo. It is a bit too fatty for my tastes. It reminds me of plov, a dish another Jewish friend from Uzbekistan (he’s non Bukharan), holds to be the standard for culinary perfection. It too contains lamb (or even better, he says, mutton) with all its fat.

My husband however, loves ossvo and always asks me to make it instead of cholent, which I really should do more often.

Ossvo is a very nourishing, warming stew, ideal for a cold winter day. Lamb is one of the “cleanest” meats—it is usually pastured (it grazes on grass ) so it isn’t fed soy or corn or other products. Grass-fed beef, goat, and lamb is very rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an important nutrient missing from modern diets. (Eggs from pastured chickens is another good source, as are some mushrooms.) If you like the Ossvo but don’t like the fat, prepare it up until the point where cilantro is added, cool it slightly, and refrigerate overnight. Then, skim off the hardened fat and place it on the stove overnight.

One of these when i see a dish like this on the internet, a day when i am so hungry that i think i could eat up a tree, i will be able to at least have a taste of this tibet.
Can this be a long time coming? Probably not.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Saved by Cholent

After the dish rescued my family from a robbery, I traveled the world searching for new ways to cook it

More on Tablet:

The Ding-Dong Derby

By Liel Leibovitz — The Shallowest, Least Thoughtful Commentators of the Week