The two food portions must be different from each other. For example, one may send bread and meat, meat and rice, fish and eggs, or cake and apples. One may also send two portions of meat with different flavors, like cooked meat and roasted meat, or two cooked meats taken from different parts of the animal, such that their taste and shape differ. Similarly, one may send two types of cake, provided that they look and taste different from each other.
One who sends his friend a garment or a book does not fulfill his obligation. Even though these items surely bring joy and express love, the portions must consist of food items. However, once one fulfills his obligation with two food portions, he may add additional gifts, if he desires, in order to increase the level of love and brotherhood.
One who sends a live fowl to his friend does not fulfill his obligation, because it is not edible as is; it must first be slaughtered, cut, salted, and cooked. Some maintain that even if one sends raw, uncooked meat, he does not fulfill his obligation. Rather, one must send food portions that are ready to be eaten. One may send canned foods, because one can easily open the can and eat its contents.
Most poskim maintain that a bottle of a noteworthy drink, such as wine, beer, or a tasty juice, is considered a suitable food portion. Therefore, one may fulfill his obligation by sending two such drinks. However, some rule stringently and maintain that a drink is not considered a food portion. Even though the halakha follows the majority of poskim, one who wishes to discharge his obligation according to all viewpoints should send at least one mishlo’aĥ manot containing two portions of food.
Each portion must contain an amount of food worthy of being served to a guest in a respectable manner (ahs 695:15). Thus, a single plum, for example, is not a large enough portion with which to honor a guest. Therefore, a person who wants one of his portions to consist of plums must combine a few plums together in order for them to be considered a food portion.
Some maintain that the volume of each portion must be equivalent to approximately three eggs’ volume. Others add that the portions must be significant according to the status of the giver and the recipient. That is, if they are wealthy, the portions must be distinguished and enjoyable according to their prestige. If, however, they do not view the portions as significant, they fail to fulfill their obligation. Le-khatĥila, one should take care to ensure that each food portion contains a volume equivalent to at least three eggs and that it should be significant and respectable in the eyes of both the sender and the recipient.
Even though the portions are meant to be eaten at the Purim meal, and it would seemingly be preferable to send foods that are appropriate for the meal, many have the custom to send cakes and various types of sweets. So state Sheyarei Knesset Ha-gedola, Ĥida, and R. Ĥayim Palachi. The reason for this is that these foods bring joy and can be kept for a long time. In contrast, if one sends meat, it may be superfluous and difficult to preserve.
Most poskim maintain that a drink is considered a portion of food for this purpose, including Terumat Ha-deshen §111, Taz 695:4, Levush, Pri Ĥadash, and mb 695:19. ahs 695:14 concurs, stating that one may discharge his obligation with two drinks. According to Rabbeinu Ĥananel, however, one does not fulfill one’s obligation with a drink.
Ben Ish Ĥai (Tetzaveh 16) states that one must place the two food portions in two separate vessels, but most poskim do not mention this. The only thing that seems to be required is that the food be recognizable as two portions. However, the need for two separate vessels is more understandable according to the opinion that one fulfills his obligation with two portions of a single type of food. Tzitz Eliezer 14:65 follows this approach, stating that the minimum shi’ur for each portion is the volume of approximately three eggs, and one may fulfill his obligation by giving two such portions of one type of food. In such a case, though, the giver would need to separate the two portions. However, according to ahs 695:14 and Eshel Avraham (Buczacz), one does not fulfill his obligation with only one type of food. This is also the opinion of Mikra’ei Kodesh (Frank) §38.
ahs 695:15 states that one does not discharge his obligation with a kezayit of food or with a revi’it of drinks. Rather, each portion must be of a respectable size. Eshel Avraham (Buczacz) concurs, while Maharsha rules leniently that one may send less. Nevertheless, the simple understanding is that one should be stringent and ensure that the portions are fit for serving. Furthermore, we already learned that some maintain that each portion must be the size of three eggs (Tzitz Eliezer 14:65). According to Ritva and Ĥayei Adam 155:31, the portions must be respectable in the eyes of the giver and the recipient.