Last updated June 23rd 2017
Eat like an Israeli
In Israel we are blessed with a huge array of food and dishes with mixed cultural influences but always with a Sabra twist, reflecting all the cultures within Israel. The main aspect of eating like an Israeli is munching on the most delicious food and dishes in the world and not being timid about having a second serving.
The English have butter, the French mayonnaise, and the Americans ketchup… and the Israelis have hummus! Humus originated in the Levant. Anyone can make it, but not everyone can make it well! For the adventurous, try mixing some boiled chickpeas, tahina, oil, lemon and garlic. For the connoisseurs be sure to check out Abu Hassan in Jaffa. And for the three-times-a-day eaters, check out the 1 litre bucket available from most supermarkets for 15 shekels.
The same way you cannot make a good mayonnaise without a bit of mustard, you cannot make a good humus without some tahini. Tahini is a creamy condiment made of ground sesame and usually some salt, pepper and lemon. It tastes great on pretty much everything else, even on sweets when it is raw!
Charif (a.k.a. Schug and chilli sauce)
If you have ever wondered why Israelis are so warm blooded, it’s because of the charif. Think of it as a spicy spread that you can out on roasted veggies, falafel, shawarma and more! (especially if it comes with pita). Originally brought to Israel by the Yemenites, no meal is complete without a big dollop of charif.
Either love it or you hate it… Me personally, I love it but it does make my sweat smell a little strange. It is made of mangoes, vinegar, salt, mustard, turmeric, chilli and fenugreek and you usually put it on shawarma. Don’t eat before going on sexy date or important business meeting.
Petrosilia (parsley) and Cusborura (cilantro/ coriander)
Israelis love it! No Israeli salad is complete without either petrosilia or cusborur, or both!
Little balls of deep-fried goodness originate from Egypt and the Levant. A good falafelsserie can be found on most street corners in Tel Aviv – a pita with a few falafels, some humus and tahini, possibly charif, amba, and a bit of salad… yummy!
The Iraqi sandwich: pita, cooked aubergine (eggplant) and hard-boiled egg. Throw in some tahini for good measure. Our favourite sabich is Sabich Frishman on the corner of Frishman and Dizengoff
Levantine specialty where meat is grilled slowly for long periods of time to make it as juicy and tasty as possible; usually combined with humus and salad in pita or lafa. Our favourite shwarma is from Dabush.
A great snack given to us by the people of the former Ottoman Empire, borek means ‘to twist’ that refers to the way cheese is put inside the phyllo pastry. Bourekas can be found at every bakery, I like to have mine with zatar and sesame sprinkled on top.
A contemporary international dish that originates in Vienna, Austria that was brought to Israel by the Ashkenazis. Shnitzel is the golden nectar of street food, usually veal or chicken flattened, bread crumbed and deep fried served with some lemon, but the Israelis like to add sesame seeds to the batter… yum. Our favourite shnitzel is at either Cafe Noir (posh) or HaShnitzel Shel Tzion.
Levantine alcoholic spirit made from Anise. Clear, colourless and 40-60% alcohol… l’chaim!
The hottest breakfast dish in Israel and probably the tastiest. Shakshuka means ‘to shake’ in Tunisian Arabic, which explains the way the eggs are poached in fresh tomato, chilli and onion sauce to make a bit of a stew and topped with of course some parsley or coriander, served in the cast iron pan that it was cooked in, with tahini, bread and usually salad. We have the North African Jews to thank for bringing this dish to Israel.
Expect eggs, cucumber & tomato salad, hummus, tahini, different cheeses, spreads, olives and bread. There are numerous variations but the constant is that the serving will be large. Looking for a good place to go for breakfast – check out Secret Tel Aviv’s Guide to Best Breakfasts in Tel Aviv.
Black or mud coffee, similar to Turkish coffee and can be found anywhere. Pour hot water over the powdered grains and wait for them to sink to the bottom of your cup. The flavour is as strong as the colour.
Standard crazy Israeli concept, everything in the shop, from coffees to freshly squeezed juice to sandwiches, is 5 shekels. They can be found all over Tel Aviv. There is even Cofix Bar with drinks for only 5 shekels and Super Cofix, a supermarket that has many products for (you guessed it) 5 shekels only!
A foreign word distorted by Ivrit to become the famous ice-lolly popsicle brand that is still used as the generic term for sweet ices and ice creams.
Shlish and Chetzi
Referring to measurements of any kind, but usually apply to Beer… third ⅓ “shlish” and a half ½ “hetzi” (similar to a pint).
Written by Georgina Balcombe and Jonny Stark.