I took my children out for a walk on Main Street in search of the perfect Hamantashen. A Hamantashen is a 3-pointed cookie with one of the following fillings; poppy seed, prunes, apricot, strawberry, chocolate, or hazelnut. We had a lot of fun, as all of the bakeries and stores are Purim ready. Shelves are lined up with candy, gift baskets, and Hamentashen.
Purim is a Jewish holiday rich in meaning and plentiful in food. Hamantashen represents the three-cornered hat that Haman, the villain of the Purim story, wore on his head. If you’re not sure what Purim is and why we will be “noshing” so much, keep reading and you’ll find out. If you already know all about Purim, skip on down a couple of paragraphs to find out what bakery has, in our opinion, the perfect Hamentashen.
What is the reason for celebrating Purim? Purim is the celebration of the Jewish people and how they overcame Haman’s (the villain) request of King Ahasverus to annihilate all of the Jews in the Persian Empire. This happened in 357 BCE, but it is something that has been recognized as one of the most important Jewish events ever since.
The Purim story is huge and took place over several years. However, I am going to describe the significance of this historical event in a lot less detail.
The King of Persia Ahasverus (pronounced, A-hash-vey-roosh) was not happy with his wife, Queen Vashti, and that was the end of her term, literally. The King wanted a new Queen and held a public audition for all of the women in Persia. He chose the most beautiful girl and her name was Esther. What he didn’t know was that she was Jewish. Esther hid her Jewish identify, as this was a time in history when the evil Prime Minister, Haman, wanted to kill all of the Jews. When Mordecai, also a Jew was related to Queen Esther. When Haman asked him to bow down to him, Mordecai would not do it. This made Haman even angrier and the date to annihilate the Jews was moved up. Haman was especially angry with Mordecai and set out to hang him for what he had done. Mordecai informed Queen Esther about Haman’s plan. Queen Esther requested that Mordecai tell all the Jewish people from the Persian Empire to participate in a three-day fast. During that time she would approach King Ahasverus, even though it was not permitted. She would do her best to avoid such an event from happeningT. However, she knew that she would need all of the Jews in the Persian Empire to fast and pray along with her. Throughout Jewish history, fasting has been an action accompanied by prayer in order to prevent such evil inclinations from happening.
There are so many wonderful details to this story, but the biggest miracle of all is that Haman’s evil plan to annihilate all of the Jews in the Persian Empire was derailed. In fact, when King Ahasverus heard that Haman wanted to hang Mordecai, he was baffled. Mordecai was no stranger to King Ahasverus. In fact, Mordecai was in the King’s royal chronicles already. Mordecai had prevented a previous plot by the King’s Chamberlains to put King Ahasverus to death. When King Ahasverus heard that Haman wanted to hang the same Mordecai that saved his life, the tables were turned and Haman was hung on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. The Jews were all save and the celebration of this story is very special. What about that fast? That’s not fun.
Even though a part of the celebration of Purim is the Fast of Esther, which takes place this Thursday, February 25, there is a lot of celebrating, eating, and drinking for the entire family that follows. Speaking of kids, they are not required to participate in the Fast of Esther, only children that are Bar or Bat Mitzvah (13) and up. Younger kids love dressing up in costumes (my girls will be dressed up as Snow White and Cinderella). They also make their own noise makers which are put to use when the entire community comes together and listens to the Purim story read out loud. Each time Haman’s name is mentioned in the story, noise makers, stomping feet, and hissing fills the room.
Another way that we celebrate Purim is the giving of Mishloach Manot, or, gift baskets. Mishaloach Manot must contain two types of ready to eat foods. For example, a Hamantashen and a mini bottle of Kedem grape juice is perfect for kids. However, there are some very beautiful gift baskets online at kosher.com, and ohnuts.com. They range in price, from $18 to $50. On our search for the perfect Hamentashen, we saw some on display at Main Sweet at 72-54 Main Street Kew Garden Hills, NY, 11367, 718-261-3917, and also at Kandi Kastle, 71-40 Main Street, Kew Gardens Hills, NY. 718-520-7520. Some people chose to make donations in lieu of Mishloach Manot because there are too many people that are not able to give. This year, we have decided to make donations and make just a few Shaloch Manot gifts with homemade Hamantashen. Speaking of Hamantashen, why don’t I get to the point and tell you where you can find the perfect Hamantashen on Main Street.
We couldn’t decide which bakery was better, so we have two bakeries for you to try. Mendy’s Royal Kosher Bakery, 72-22 Main Street, Kew Gardens Hills, New York, phone 718-544-8736. They had green Hamantashen filled with apple and chocolate-filled, chocolate Hamantashen. We took some home, but we ate them up before the morning. The prices at Mendy’s are more than we would like to spend (12.99 per lb.), but the Hamantashen were delicious. The other bakery that fantastic Hamantashen was Main Street Bagels, located at 72-26 Main Street, Kew Gardens Hills, New York, (718) 793-8100. We found the most delicious Hazelnut filled Hamantashen and I even went back and bought some more. They were also very thick and looked “perfect”. I bought four Hamantashen for 2.00.
Hope you can make it to Kew Gardens Hills this week because once Purim is over, Passover prep will be in full gear and on by e end of March, all “chometz” will be out of site. I will be sharing some great tips about cleaning for Passover as well as some great Passover friendly recipes. If you celebrate Purim, please don’t drink and drive. Be smart.
This recipe for Hamentashen from Spice and Spirit is very easy and delicious.
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Oil
Juice of 1 Lemon
Rind of 1 Lemon, Grated
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
5 Cups Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
pre-heat oven to 350
Beat Eggs and Sugar First
Add Other Ingredients
Place on greased cookie sheet and flatten dough. Use a round cookie cutter, and then fold the round shaped dough like a triangle. Add your filling, put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. For a shinier cookie, brush on raw egg before placing the cookie sheet in the oven. Enjoy!