The shamelia, or shamelias in the plural, are one of the most refreshing fried foods we’ve come across – and it’s not clear how they haven’t been integrated into the holiday’s collective oil-dripping repertoire so far – they’re beautiful, delicious and excessively crunchy and also very easy to prepare. Their design can be a bit of a challenge, so if you are not given to intricate handwork, you can scrap the butterfly ribbon design and simply curl or tie the strips of dough and fry them that way.
Shamelias were originally prepared by Jews of Spanish descent, mainly from Turkey and Greece, but over the years the item gradually disappeared. When searching for Shamelias online, the search results (very poor) lead to a few unanswered requests for the recipe in expat Facebook groups and a single mention of Shamelias as part of a manot misloach of ‘Sephardic’ dishes for Purim.
It is not easy to find the recipe, even in culinary books: food researcher Gil Marks mentions shamelias as a Purim dish in “The world of Jewish cooking” from 1999 and then again in his encyclopedia of Jewish food published in 2009, in which he associates them with Hanukkah.
A recipe in Hebrew and in Ladino can be found in Matilda Cohen Serrano’s book “Cooking with Ladino Taste” alongside a picture reminiscent of fazuelos cookies (which raises the suspicion that shemalias and fazuelos are the same fried treat, the only difference is the oil used). In the book “EL GIZADO SEFARADI” – the collection of about 150 recipes of expatriates from Spain that were published for about four decades in the magazine for Ladino culture “Aki Jerusalem” the authors – Zelda Ovadia, Moshe Shaul (founder and editor of the magazine) and Dr. Aldina Quintana – there is a recipe in Ladino.
The recipe below is based on the Greek version that appears in the book “Las Comedicas de Rodis” by Menashe Salomon, which includes dozens of recipes (in English and Ladino) from the Jewish community of Rhodes. The Greek version uses plenty of juice and orange peels (the other recipes usually only use flour, sugar, water and eggs) and is particularly fun.
The design of shemalias likely varies from region to region, and in any case, most of the cookbooks do not have a picture and the preparation section talks about creating dough ribbons, tying dough ribbons or spirals – so you have creative freedom to go with any design you feel like.
When we uploaded the recipe to our Facebook page, we received a flood of responses from our followers telling us about similar fried foods with different names from around the world. The particularly common version is the Hungarian Csoroge, also called “scraps”. Even those who live on the Romanian side of the border have their own version – Minciunele, or literally translated “little liars”. The expatriates of Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania fondly remembered Khrustyky (also known as Hrostachiks, Hrustule, Friedlach, Schleiplach, or Motkalch), which were fried in honor of Sukkot, Hanukkah, or Purim – depending on the family – and also starred on dessert tables at weddings in the kibbutz’s. And there were also followers who told about an Italian version of the recipe, called Harborest or “Italian doughnuts”.
Each version of the recipe also has a slightly different shape – small rhombuses, rectangles with a hole in the center or a long ribbon of dough with a knot in the center. One follower wrote that the shape of the ribbons in the picture is called ladino fiongos, and another surfer wrote that her German grandmother used to make dough ribbons like these called strobli.
In some Polish families, they prepared these fried foods in the shape of pants and called them in Yiddish tzarisena hoyzen – “torn pants”, and a similar report was also received from Chile, where they called them calzones rotos – “torn underpants”.
Does your family have their own version too? We would love to know about it! Register on the site and upload your family story or recipe.
Ingredients for Shamelias - fried dough strips
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 orange zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (16 grams) vanilla sugar (or two packets)
- 2 tablespoons Sugar
- about 2 cups flour you might not need it all
- confectioners' sugar for dusting
- oil for deep frying
1. Beat the egg with the brandy, orange juice and olive oil.
2. Add flour gradually and while kneading only until a soft and sticky dough is obtained. Stop adding the flour and knead until a soft, flexible, uniform and non-sticky dough is formed. If necessary, add a little more flour.
3. Flour a work surface and transfer the dough onto it. Roll out into a sheet a little less than .4 of an inch (1 cm) thick and cut into rectangular strips of about ¾" x 4" (2x10 cm).
4. Heat frying oil in a large, wide pot: if you have a thermometer, heat the oil to 350F (180C) degrees. If you do not have a thermometer, place a small piece of dough in the oil; the oil should gently bubble around it.
5. Shape the strips into ribbons. You can also roll them into spirals or form them into any shape you like.
6. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the strips of dough are golden-brown. Important note: the longer the shamelias are fried, the crispier they get and retain that crispness for a long time. Therefore, if you aren't eating the shamelias immediately after frying, leave them in the oil for another minute or two (so that they won't get soggy).