Yemenite Breads (Jachnun, Malawach, and Kubaneh)
As a community with limited resources, Yemenite Jews mastered the art of transforming the simple ingredients of fat, flour, and water into a repertoire of glorious baked goods. This resourcefulness, a mark of great Jewish home cooks across cultures, has resulted in tempting everyday breads—like flakey fried malawach—as well as a host of decadent Sabbath breads. There’s kubaneh, a pull-apart centerpiece that’s as rich as brioche with a deep brown exterior, and jachnun, a crepelike pastry made from dough that gets stretched ultrathin, smeared with clarified butter, then folded and rolled endlessly onto itself. Both are baked overnight at very low temperatures and emerge from the oven downy and caramelized. They’re traditionally served after synagogue on Saturday mornings, paired with hard-boiled eggs, a fenugreek condiment called hilbe, grated tomatoes, and zhug, the Yemenite cilantro-chile hot sauce. The dips certainly brighten things up, but a carb-induced Shabbat nap is all but guaranteed to follow—another mark of a Jewish-cooking success.
Leah Koenig is the author of Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen and The Little Book of Jewish Appetizers.