We can trace Latin America’s history through many of the foods we know and love. Dominican mangú, for example, comes from West African fufu and Peruvian lomo saltado draws from Japanese cuisine. And while these influences are more obvious, Jewish immigration to Latin America remains unknown to many. In the 1920s and 1930s many countries – Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico in particular – opened their borders to Jewish populations after the United States imposed quotas on European arrivals. Later in the 1940s, as many fled Nazi Germany’s European takeover, there were new restrictions places on visas granted to Jews. An estimated 20,000 Holocaust survivors resettled in places like Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Panama – among other countries. Today, about half a million people of Jewish descent live in Latin America.
While in a place like San Miguel Tecamachalco – a Mexico City suburb – a Catholic man has helped the Jewish community preserve their culture by providing kosher meals. But throughout Latin America and even in the United States, the influx of Jewish immigrants have led to Jewish-Latino fusions.
Below, we rounded up five Jewish-Latino foods that will make foodies weep with joy:
Photo by Betty Cortina
Sufganiyots are Israeli jelly donuts commonly eaten during Hanukkah. According to Epicurious, Austrian Jews brought the treat to Israel in the mid-20th century. The fried dough treats are ñom enough on their own, but Colombia-Jewish chef Sam Gorenstein took it to another level by adding guava and dulce de leche fillings. NBC Latino reports that the chef was inspired by his mother.
Mexican Matzo Ball Soup
Photo by Ellen Silverman
Traditionally, matzbo ball soup includes chicken stock, root vegetables, and dumplings. But for someone like Pati Jinich – who was born in Mexico – a matzo ball soup is what her grandmother made them. Though she acknowledges it’s not traditional, but since the 1920s, it’s what her family has done.
“She came from Austria, and there they have a lot of mushroom dishes,” Jinich told NPR. “And in Mexico in the rainy season, you get wild kinds of mushrooms, clouds and birds. The shapes are insane — they’re blue and yellow. She’d choose different kinds of mushrooms and then cook them with jalapeño, onion and garlic.”
Smoked Salmon Quesadilla
Chefs Roberto Treviño and Eric Greenspan served up smoked salmon quesadilla – a mix of a lox bagel and a quesadilla. Check out Greenspan and Treviño discussing the hybrid food here.
Photo by Betty Cortina
Condensed milk is an important element in flan. But to keep things Kosher, an almond-orange flan is the perfect way to go. This version substitutes in almond milk and orange juice.
Gefilte Fish a la Veracruzana
Veracruz-style gefilte fish is prepared the same way as other gefilte fish, but its prepared in a spicy tomato broth instead of a fish stock. Pati Jinich explains that while traditional gefilte is prepared with carp and hike. In Mexico, Jewish populations typically use red snapper and halibut.