Eating out in Israel = Food Coma..
Honestly..I was in vegetarian heaven; and it was equally ‘paradisical’ for my 3 carnivores.
Familiar flavours in a way… foods that we’ve eaten before at some point. Yet simple colloquial tweaks to the recipes; combined with the freshness and the bounty of the land and the sea…What you have is a sheer cornucopia – every single day of the holiday.
The cuisine of Israel is possibly the world’s oldest take on ‘fusion cuisine’.
Old traditional recipes inherent of the Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and African cuisines; thanks to Israel’s geographical position.
Mixed into that melting pot are the elements that the Jewish diaspora brought back with them to Israel; not only from Western Europe, but also from Russia and the Eastern Europe countries.
The single biggest highlight of the food in Israel – the freshness.
Be it the fine dine eateries , casual cafes or even the humble stalls in the markets, the freshness seems unreal considering how arid the landscape appears for as far as the eye can see…And this is apparent not only in local dishes. Its also if you were to eat at an Italian (there are quite a few super ones) or an Asian restaurant.
Fresh and healthy is actually how I would describe food in Israel. Simple, clean and uncomplicated flavours; yet bursting with taste ? . There’s definitely something in the soil and the water..
How else would even a humble loaf of bread taste so good??
And then there’s the ‘holy trinity’ of Israeli cuisine ? Olive oil, Garlic and Tahini.
The proof of the pudding’s in the taste right ? ?..So definitely go for these foods while you’re there…I’m sure most won’t be ‘new’ foods…but they’ve never tasted better anywhere else.
Hummus..Yup the basic, simple, classic Hummus..we eat it all the time (even get it in supermarkets now )…But this is the real thing..I’m quite sure the secret’s in the Tahini (the sesame seed paste)..So make sure to carry some back (the frest stuff..the best I found were in the stalls in the Mahane Yehuda market, pronounced ‘Maknayuda’).
Masabacha…Warm chickpeas partially pureed and mixed in with olive oil, tahini, herbs and spices. You spoon it up with pita bread and raw onion.
Falafel…Its the same with this ‘common’ deep fried chick-pea savoury..You ain’t eaten a good falafel until you’ve eaten it at the stalls in the Muslim quarter of the Old City.
Bulgarit…Most people, including the locals, simply refer to it as white cheese..A bit like Feta, but firmer..not so crumbly. (Yup its Bulgarian in origin)..
Cottage Cheese..yup cottage cheese..try it in Israel and you ll immediately figure, why I’ve added it to this list ? .
Shakshouka..Eggs poached in a rich sauce made from tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices. Traditionally a breakfast dish, but I made a couple of hearty dinners of just the Shakshouka with fresh crusty bread. One of the very few spicy dishes in Israeli cuisine.
Matbucha..tomatoes and peppers stewed with spices till its like a thick chunky gravy.
Israeli Eggplant Salad..similar to a Babaganoush but the twist in this one is the fried eggplant and the mayonnaise.
Grilled Eggplant with Yoghurt..My personal favourite..I liked it so much I now make it at home regularly..Quite a crowd pleaser in fact, at parties..
While on the eggplants..even if you’re not a fan..do me a favour and try either of these while you’re in Israel..I think I can safely say you’ll stand converted…Right in and tell me either way ? .
Ketzitzot or Kufta Meatballs..Meatballs (most commonly lamb or beef or both).
But in Israel there’s none of the ‘fattiness’ you get in a lot of other countries..Its the purity of the flavour of the meat and just the right amount of spices..I saw it served with a yoghurt sauce / dressing in a lot of restaurants here.
Sabich..Sure you could describe it as similar to a Doner Kebab..but that’s it – just the similarity..An explosion of textures and flavours from the very 1st bite.
Kanafeh.. One of their more important deserts. Cheese and pastry..then more cheese and more pastry; and then its doused in sugar syrup and served with a dollop of thick fresh curd.
Mutabak..Crumbled fresh cheese or nuts and berries, enveloped into fresh fylo pastry stretched tissue paper thin. Baked and dusted with powdered sugar…Yumm
Halva…Nothing like the Middle Eastern or Indian Halwa..Not gelatinous at all. This one is only Tahini, nut butter and sugar. Dense, creamy and crumbly.
We did’nt have a single ‘average’ meal while we were in Jerusalem..All of them were super..Some places / dishes in fact, were memorable and these are the ones I’m highlighting..
On a side note – they give you some yummy dips and small salad servings as a complimentary teaser at some restaurants, you’re half full just from these ? . All the small bowls are the ‘free food’ ☝️ .
Well Israel’s not cheap from any aspect so bring on the ‘free food’ ? ?.
Ima…Nice for lunch. Super seafood.
Inside The Arches…Its at the exit gate near the entrance to the Western Wall Tunnels..Great food and its a lovely setting. Fancy.
Feels like you’re dining in the tunnels itself ? .
Satya ..Super food. Great Ambience.
Caffit … Cozy, charming..Great food, vibe and service.
Ishtabach..in the Mahane Yehuda market..out of this world.
Aricha Sabich… A must do for Vegetarian food (Vegan too).
Zalatino’s…Just for the Mutabak. Its a tiny hole in the wall place in the Christian quarter of the Old City. Pls be patient whilst Google Maps sends you into a bit of tizzy in trying to locate it.
Try the Halva at whichever stall you get a good vibe at, in the Mahane Yehuda market . Most are super and worth stocking up on.