Fata Morgana in Scottsdale offers kosher food and Purim hamantashen
In Scottsdale’s brand new kosher restaurant, a sushi chef was working quietly behind a counter stacked with a pile of triangular cookies. The chef had been at Fata Morgana since it opened in the back corner of a long mall off Scottsdale Road in January. But cookies were a new offering.
Co-owner Bar Timi started ordering them a few weeks ago in preparation for the Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins on the evening of March 16 this year.
Stuffed with apricot jelly or sweet fillings such as chocolate, triangle-shaped hamantashen are given as gifts during holidays, which, although not as significant as Yom Kippur or Passover, are still widely celebrated. by the Jewish community around the world. Israel, where Timi grew up.
In his hometown of Petah Tikva, a suburb about 15 minutes from Tel Aviv, shops stay open during Purim, unlike major holidays like Passover, when they are closest. People can shop and go about their business, he said. There are plenty of parties where revelers dress up and clowns entertain children.
In keeping with Talmudic tradition, Orthodox and Hasidic Jews drank copious amounts of alcohol, until they could no longer distinguish the villain in the Purim story from the hero.
“It’s been a really good vacation,” Timi said. “There are no rules with Purim.”
What is Purim?
Purim is about embracing the hidden, explained Jeffrey Lipschultz, a local rabbi from Congregation Beth Emeth who happened to be eating lunch at Fata Morgana that day. He frequents the restaurant for their falafel sandwiches, which are made Israeli style and served in pita bread.
“The purpose of Purim is to bring out the true personality,” he said. “In the book of Esther, God is not mentioned once in the whole book. So we have to find the hidden aspect of God in Esther. So we find the hidden aspects of ourselves by putting on costumes .”
During the holidays, Lipschultz himself will dress up as a clown to entertain the children. But in keeping with his conservative Jewish faith, he does not drink to celebrate the holiday. “I went to college for this,” he joked. But for some Jewish sects, drinking is actually a mitzvah or good deed, he said.
The Purim story written in the Book of Esther, also known as The Megillah, details how the Jewish leader Mordechai and his cousin Esther saved the Jews from a murderous plot by a Persian nobleman named Haman.
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One tradition suggests that revelers should drink until they “no longer distinguish between arur Haman, ‘cursed is Haman’, and baruch Mordechai, ‘blessed is Mordecai'”.
In Israel, many Jews go to synagogue to hear the Megillah, and children shake the noisemakers whenever the name of evil Haman is mentioned. They will also eat hamantashen cookies, which are shaped like a triangle to symbolize Haman’s hat, or in some interpretations, his ears.
“Usually on Jewish holidays it’s very serious,” said fellow co-owner David Babaganov. “Purim is great fun, it’s just fun.”
This year on Wednesday, March 16, Fata Morgana is staying open late to hold an after-hours Purim service where a rabbi will read the Megillah. On March 15 at 4 p.m., a clown named Shani will be at the restaurant to do face painting and entertain the children.
Fata Morgana is a community gathering place
Friends Timi and Babaganov decided to open Fata Morgana to showcase Timi’s homemade Israeli cuisine. Babaganov, who grew up in Alberta, Canada, is of Bukharan Jewish descent and Timi’s family has roots in Morocco. So in the restaurant, they showcase a range of flavors on the all-kosher menu and many dishes feature the vibrant spice palette of North Africa and the Middle East.
The sushi chef works under the guidance of a rabbi, who comes to the restaurant daily to bless the food. Fata Morgana is one of the few kosher restaurants in Arizona, in addition to the Uzbek restaurant Bukharian Cafe Chenar as well as Kitchen 18 in Scottsdale, which serves Chinese and Middle Eastern dishes.
Timi, who keeps kosher, said hiring a sushi chef was very important to him because he and his wife had nowhere to go for kosher sushi in Arizona. He explained that the difference was in the seaweed, which must be organic to be classified as kosher. Always in keeping with kosher traditions, the chef does not use shrimp, crab or dairy products such as cream cheese. They use imitation crab and vegan cream cheese in some buns.
“What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?” joked Rabbi Lipschultz. “Make me one with everything. It’s Israeli or Jewish food. We take all the cultures that have influenced us and make them our own.”
Much of Fata Morgan’s menu is made up of North African and Middle Eastern dishes, such as sabich, an egg and fried eggplant sandwich topped with amba, a savory mango chutney, which has been popularized in Israel by Iraqi Jews. A chicken shawarma lunch platter is served with a delicious assortment of savory sauces, such as a tomato-based condiment called matboucha, which is a specialty of Moroccan Jews. They also serve chicken cutlets, an Ashkenazi dish.
Available for a limited time, hamantashen cookies come from a commercial kosher bakery called Reisman’s in Brooklyn. Rabbi Lipschultz’s favorite is the poppyseed, but the apricot version was amazing, with a crumbly cookie crust that enveloped a slightly sweet filling.
Whether or not you visit Fata Morgana during the holidays, you will enjoy a menu filled with diverse traditions in a welcoming dining room designed to make the many who frequent it feel at home.
“Jewish food is very unique,” Lipschultz said. “Because we take a bit of (all of our) cultures with us.”
Details: Fata Morgana, 7116 E. Mercer Lane, Suite 103, Scottsdale. 480-687-2243, fatamorganaaz.com.