This week's delicious blog post is written by Tasha, a Yahel Social Change Fellow living and volunteering in Lod.
I think most people will agree that one of the best things about being in Israel is the food. Here I will share with you some of my favorite things I have tried during my time here.
Shwarma, Falafel, and Sabich: The fan favorites of street food. If you’re a meat eater, try the shawarma. It is usually lamb but sometimes chicken or beef, that is roasted on a spit and cut off in thin slices before it is stuffed into a pita with all the salatim you can think of and topped with tahini or hummus. The produce in this country is incomparable so don’t miss out on the add-ins. My favorites are eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, and as much parsley as a pita will hold but you should really try them all. Sabich is a great vegetarian option made with fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs stuffed into a pita with plenty of fresh vegetables and topped again with tahini. Falafel is the go-to vegan option made of ground chickpeas blended with herbs and spices, fried to crispy perfection before being piled into pita with hummus and salad.
Malawach is a flaky Yemenite flatbread made of layered puff pastry brushed with oil or fat and cooked in a frying pan. Like many Yemenite foods, it is often served with hard-boiled eggs and crushed tomatoes but feel free to add hummus, pickles, cheese, or any other toppings available. It’s pretty hard to make this stuff taste bad so get creative if you want.
Kubbeh selek was recommended to me by a friend who suggested I travel to Jerusalem for the most authentic experience. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Kubbeh are semolina dumplings filled with flavorful meat and in this dish, they’re served in a beet soup. By far one of the best dishes I have had anywhere in the world, the rich flavors and textures are an unforgettable combo. It’s the perfect hearty meal for a rainy day. I got this one at Azura near the Yehuda market in Jerusalem.
Another one of the best meals I have had here was when we visited Maghar to learn more about the Druze community. There wasn’t a specific dish that was my favorite, everything we tried was phenomenal. Roasted eggplant and cauliflower, tomato and cucumber salad, the best labneh I’ve ever had, and zaatar flatbread. Labneh is a white cheese made by straining yogurt, similar to greek yogurt but better in my opinion. It is creamy and tart and particularly refreshing with cooked vegetables. Zaatar is often referred to as the Middle-Eastern Oregano and is a savory spice that goes well sprinkled on just about anything. For dessert we had an assortment of Arabic pastries, my favorite being harissa: a semolina cake made with yogurt, soaked in rose syrup, and topped with a peanut or almond.
Injera is a gluten-free fermented flatbread made of teff flour. It is served with different sauces usually made with lentils, eggs, meat, and/or vegetables. This one you can find in restaurants but if you’re lucky enough to have an Eritrean or Ethiopian friend who will make it for you, that’s the recommended route. No silverware is required, you tear off the injera and scoop up the sauces with your hand. It is extremely filling and injera will keep showing up on your plate until you’ve insisted you’ve had enough.
If you’re going to the beach, I highly recommend you get a fresh fruit smoothie at least once but preferably thrice a day if you’re willing to pay for it. There are smoothie huts all over Tel Aviv with an array of fruits to choose from. You can add water, milk, yogurt, or even plant-based milks to your smoothie. My favorite is melon, date, and fig with water.
If natural sugar doesn’t hit the spot, there’s a plethora of popsicles and ice cream bars to choose from at almost every corner store. My top two are the avatiach popsicle and shokobo levan. I was skeptical of the watermelon at first but it’s not a normal popsicle. It is often described as a sorbet but it’s creamier than I’d expect a sorbet to be and the watermelon flavor is just right, not too overwhelming like the jolly rancher flavor I initially anticipated. There are at least two kinds of shokobo but my favorite is the white chocolate. It has a solid bar of milk chocolate in the center surrounded by vanilla ice cream and coated in white chocolate.
Last but not least, don’t forget to try every kind of bamba you can get your hands on. Sure, the classic peanut butter flavor is great, but there is also vanilla creme, strawberry milkshake, and nougat filled. The nougat tastes similar to nutella and the strawberry milkshake bamba is basically PB&J in puff form. If you prefer savory over sweet, check out Bisli, but I’m a bamba girl at heart.
No matter where you go in Israel, you’re bound to find amazing food and many people who are happy to feed you. The food and hospitality in this country are rivaled by very few, so remember to take full advantage while you are here. These are just some of my favorites from this year but I highly recommend trying any and everything you come across. The only thing you’ll regret is not having a bigger appetite.