Ten Foods You Must Try on your Birthright Israel Trip
(That Aren't Falafel or Shawarma) - Part 1
Yes, yes be sure to eat falafel and shawarma on your birthright trip - we would NEVER tell you not to. However, if you want to fully explore the Israeli foodscape, these ten foods are must eats!
This Yeminite food traditionally served on Shabbat is not so appealing to the eye but is incredibly appealing to the stomach! It’s basically dough, smothered in clarified butter, rolled up, placed in a special pot and put in the oven on a low temperature overnight. It’s served with a side of grated tomato, a hard boiled egg and schug (a special spicy condiment). While the best jachnun is the homemade kind found at a Yeminite grandmother’s house, you can find it throughout Tel Aviv and in Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. These words can’t do it justice – just try it!
2) Real Hummus
You know that spread that you buy in the grocery store in the refrigerated section that’s infused with red peppers? Yeah, that’s not hummus! Real hummus (pronounced with a heavy, guttural “ch” at the beginning of the word) is a dish served fresh, made only from chickpeas, tehina paste, lemon, some water that the chickpeas were cooked in and a bit of salt. Find a hummusia almost anywhere in Israel, sit down and prepare yourself for an authentic Israeli experience. Your plate of hummus will arrive fresh out of the pot topped with a bit of olive oil and seasonings, with a side of freshly baked pita, onion slices and pickles. This is not a side dish, it’s a complete meal. For what many consider the best hummus in all of Israel, visit Abu Hassan in Jaffa where when the hummus runs out, they close up shop for the day. We recommend ordering the masabacha. If you find yourself in the Carmel Market, be sure to visit the synagogue that was converted into a hummusia, Hummus HaCarmel 11.
3) Ice Coffee
On a hot summer’s day in Israel, there’s nothing as refreshing as the ice coffee served here. We’re not talking about coffee cooled down by a few ice cubes. Nope, we’re talking about a coffee milkshake, known in Israel as barad (the Hebrew word for hail). The most famous of these ice coffees comes from a local Israel chain called Aroma. Whether you’re here in the summer or winter, though, order one of these and you’ll be addicted from the first sip.
The lesser known street food that’s often overlooked for falafel or shawarma, sabich is one of this writer’s favorite foods in Israel. Originating from Iraq, also meant as a dish for Shabbat, sabich was transformed into a pita food by, we’ll call him a genius in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. Sabich is made with fresh pita, stuffed with hummus, tehina, eggplant, Israeli salad, a hard boiled egg, and other optional goodies (chopped onions, parsley, spicy spread and more) and topped it with amba, an Iraqi mango chutney. There’s a great sabich place right near the Carmel Market (which you’ll definitely make it to on your trip) - Sabich Tchernichovsky at Tchernichovsky 2. We recommend you try it out! If you extend your stay, make your way to Oved's Sabich in Givatayim for, as Oved so humbly claims, the best dish in the universe. We tend to agree, so head on over to Sirkin 7 in Givatayim, just outside of Tel Aviv.
No trip to Israel is complete without trying shakshuka! Once you figure out how to say it properly, you can order it at pretty much any Israeli café – look for it on the breakfast menu. Shakshuka is made by sautéing onions and garlic, adding red bell peppers and LOTS of tomatoes plus tomato paste and cooking until it becomes a nice, thick sauce. You then break a few eggs into the mix and wait until the whites are cooked through. In our humble opinion, shakshuka is best when the yellows are left a bit runny. It’s is served with lots of yummy, fresh bread to sop up the deliciousness. You can find many different varieties of shakshuka – with cheese, spicy, or even green shakshuka which is made with spinach and no tomatoes at all. If you find yourself in Jaffa for lunch, drop by the famous Dr. Shakshuka where you’ll find the traditional dish served with sides of a variety of Israeli salads.
Stay tuned for Part Two to find out the next five!