Too Hot For Challah? Try These Yemenite Shabbat Breads
Left: Saluf, Right: Lachuch (Rabbi Deborah Prinz)
When it gets too hot to bake challah but you still want a fresh bread for Shabbat, try these Yemenite alternatives: lachuch and saluf. There’s no braiding, little mixing, fast cooking, and most importantly, no oven.
Rooted in ancient traditions of baking grains on stones or over embers, these recipes are updated to use yeast, non-stick pans, and a stovetop. Save time for your summer fun and relaxation as let these quick flatbreads bring Mizrachi (Middle Eastern Jewish communities) flavor to your Shabbat table.
Each of these flatbreads made aliyah with the Yemenite Jews in the 1880s and with the large immigration group in Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-50. Flavored with ground fenugreek or other spices, these breads appear on Yemenite families’ tables everyday, including Shabbat, according to Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. The Motzi blessing may be said on them.
Lachuch and saluf can be eaten on its own with honey and butter crepe-style or as an accompaniment to soups, stews, or spicy sauces. I enjoy eating them with many different foods; some of my favorites are: gazpacho, fried eggs, marmalade, or with cheese melted on top. Use them as wraps and if you want a very contemporary spin, try this green lachuch. If you are hunting for them in Israel today, head to the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv for lachuch and Mahaneh Yehudah in Jerusalem for saluf. Unfortunately and surprisingly, these are not commonly available in New York.
Lachuch (or lahoh or lahuh) recipe: Only cooked on one side, this develops a bubbly top similar to a crumpet, English muffin, or Ethiopian injera. It is also known in nearby Somalia as Djibouti.
Saluf, (or salouf, or saloof) recipe: This is a puffier flatbread, both sides get cooked.
These are similar to breads from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, thought to be the earliest form of cooked grains, as Sue Spertus Larkey notes in her beautiful book, Bone Soup and Flipped Bread: The Yemenite Jewish Table. In the ancient world, and for Jews when living in Yemen, constraints such as limited fuel sources, hot climates, and wheat low in gluten, contributed to the creation of these pancake-like breads. Sorghum or millet may have been used. One region of Yemen was known to use teff as well.
Since flour has at times been the most expensive and least accessible ingredient, Larkey explains that recipes often place it first into the bowl so that the other ingredients build around it. Even as special ovens developed, such as the tabun or tanur, breads were still baked quickly to conserve fuel and limit the heat. These are prevalent in archeological sites around the Middle East. Before the availability of commercial yeast, Yemenite cooks used dough starter from the prior days’ batch, called hamirah. Even when yeast became accessible, some cooks used it to bolster the starter, or not at all.
A Yemenite saying expresses fondness for and dependence on bread: “All delicacies say to bread, you are my Lord.” (SD Goitein, Jeminica)
Welcome these delicious and hot weather-friendly breads to the center of your summer Shabbat meals.
Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and Judaism around the world based on her book, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao” (second edition, Jewish Lights). She co-curated the exhibit “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” for Temple Emanu-El’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum, New York City, now available to travel to your community. Most recently she has launched the #chocolatebabkaproject, an exploration of celebratory breads.
Sue Spertus Larkey, Bone Soup and Flipped Bread: The Yemenite Jewish Table
Cafe Liz blog for recipes and for best sources for Yemenite breads in Israel
Gil Marks, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food