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Traditional Jewish stew warms Israeli winter

Hamin, a traditional Shabbat stew, was once a staple of older generations, but this year, it has become immensely popular among young Israelis and in fashionable restaurants.
An Israeli cook prepares a dish at the kitchen of "MahneYuda", a recently opened gourmet non-Kosher restaurant, in Jerusalem's landmark Mahne Yehuda market on November 19, 2009. Signs of the changing times can be seen throughout the maze of narrow streets that make up Mahne Yehuda, which is known to locals simply as the "Shuk" -- Hebrew for market. AFP PHOTO/MARINA PASSOS (Photo credit should read MARINA PASSOS/AFP/Getty Images)
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On cold weekends it’s sometimes hard to walk the streets of Tel Aviv. In addition to the cold sea wind and the drizzle that reminds us of last year’s drought, the smell of a traditional Jewish Saturday stew wafts out of many houses. For generations, the Jewish nose has been familiar with the smell of "hamin," also called "cholent," in which all sorts of meat, beans and sometimes eggs are cooked together for many hours. If you ask people to describe the scent, each will say something different. Some will describe it as a rich, sweet odor; others will say it smells sour and heavy. But all will agree that it smells like home.

For hundreds — some would argue thousands — of years, Jews have been eating this stew on the weekend. What started out as a necessity dictated by Jewish laws — a stew that can be placed on a hot plate so that one can enjoy hot food on the Shabbat without having to cook or turn on an oven (a violation of Sabbath laws that forbid any form of work) — has become trendy this winter.

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