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Crisp kosher crackers taste like Passover

Matzo, a thin, often square, perforated cracker, is the symbolic food of the Passover table. When the Jews left ancient Egypt, they fled without letting the bread rise. During the eight days of Passover, which begins on Monday night, no foods with leavening are allowed on the table.

Today's choices for matzo are wide ranging, not just the plain unsalted variety once available. Matzo flavored with egg, onion, and salt are on many supermarket shelves. When six tasters gathered to sample the plain kind, they were surprised by the number of brands available, baked both in the United States and in Israel.

Most matzo is machine made and costs just a few dollars for a 1-pound box. The handmade variety, shmura (or shmuroh) matzo, which used to be sold only in kosher markets and is now also on some supermarket shelves, costs $20 for a 1-pound box. Some people like to use these circular rustic matzo during the Seder.

One brand made in Boro Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., was beautiful to look at. "This looks religious," said one taster. Another brand, from Israel, was burnt and broken. Our tasters didn't go for the very dry texture of either. This group was surprised to discover that they couldn't identify the brands they grew up with. Machine made Aviv (which means spring in Hebrew), imported from Israel, was the winner. "It tastes like Passover," someone said. -- DEBRA SAMUELS

(Photos by Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
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