Spending two weeks in the Homeland, I quickly found out that Israeli food is much more than shawarma, falafel and hummus. On the four meal per day regime, I became obsessed with eating my way through this Middle Eastern Mediterranean country: fresh chopped vegetables, iced cafés, salads, Israeli breakfasts, homemade breads, fresh fish and tahina-rich flavors. Here is my visual recap of my favorite food finds in Israel.
Salad for breakfast. How did I not know about Israeli breakfasts before? Generally this consists of an Israeli salad (finely chopped tomatoes, cucumber and peppers), with lots of small side dishes like cottage cheese, tahina, hummus, feta cheese, roasted red peppers, tuna salad, olives, omelet or scrambled eggs, just to give a few examples.
My favorite Israeli breakfast, Café Nimrod (FYI NIMROD is a common Israeli first name), served a grand assortment for two including fresh-baked bread, pastries, butter and chocolate spreads, Israeli salad, about 10 side dishes, omelet and two glasses of wine. Located on the Tel Aviv port, overlooking the Mediterranean, it was ideal to fill up on a huge, heavy breakfast right before bikini-ing it on the beach.
Can you imagine drinking anything more refreshing than a calorie filled sweet and creamy iced coffee on a hot day? Once it hits your lips, its so good, I did this after each sip.
Lunch in the Jerusalem shuk (market) in a small hole in the wall off the main bustling street was another food highlight. At this hidden gem, the server in all his unibrowed glory, brought out a selection of whatever he had left in the kitchen right before closing for Shabbat.
Kubbeh Shwandar Stew: An Iraqi Jewish dish, this a sweet beet soup with dumplings that are made from bulgur wheat and stuffed with ground beef (or lamb), meant to be eaten over white rice.
Green Hamousta Kubbeh: Similar to the first, this version is known as sour dumpling soup and is more of a Kurdish version as opposed to the Iraqi. It’s traditionally made with swiss chard, celery, onions and zucchini and the dumplings are made from cracked wheat and stuffed with lamb.
Meat balls (ground chuck mixed with spices) in a light tomato, onion gravy.
Lamb balls (ground lamb mixed with spices and green onion) served with braised celery and artichoke hearts.
Jerusalem bagels cooling off on a ledge in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (Jerusalem).
Lamb pita (Tel Aviv market): Beautifully seasoned lamb patties stuffed in a freshly made warm pita served with tahina, onions, peppers, tomato, lettuce, hummus and babaganoush. Street food at it’s finest, this might have been the tastiest meal of the whole trip.
Maybe not the best option on a disgustingly sweaty Tel Aviv afternoon, but this pumpkin coconut curry with dumplings was absolutely fantastic from Puah in Jaffa. Great place for lunch after walking through the flea market.
Chicken stir fried with fresh veggies, apples, spices served with a rice/lentil mix and side of two dipping sauces. Healthy, hearty and tasty. (Puah, Jaffa)
Word of advice: in Israel, go with the lamb. This lamb kebab was served on a bed of wild rice and served with a side tomato salad. Fantastic. Another Puah hit.
Who would have thought that even fast food from the mall would be good? Well, I had a feeling because I love food court food. When ordering these take away options, chicken shawarma and falafel pita, the customers are able to choose the fresh fillings and watch it be made instantly: diced onion, cucumber and tomato salad, hummus, tahina, babaganoush and spicy peppers went into these sandwiches.
A light dinner for two. At this Arab restaurant in Yafo, The Old Man and the Sea, all of these side dishes are brought to each table. Although there is no extra charge, the deal is each person has to order a main entrée.
Shrimp in a garlic butter sauce served with soggy ass french fries.
Whole MF grilled fish, absolutely delicious, minus the work to take out the bones/spine.
Table shot with the massive flattened pita bread.
Once I hit the Jerusalem market, I had gone to food lover’s heaven. Spice me up, Señor.
Man, do I love me lots of salty nuts.
Gummies are my favorites, I prefer this over chocolate any day. So what if flies swarmed around the gummy colas and I might have spotted a spider or two crawling in the sour gummy worms…
Nuts, seeds, dried fruits.Baklava and other fried doughy goods
Baklava and other fried doughy goods
Seedless huge green grapes.
Watermelon in abundance, it’s common for desserts to consist of watermelon and feta cheese.
Cherry tomatoes were raping the produce scene. Everywhere I looked, bright, ruby-red beautiful cherry tomatoes. Word on the street is that this fruit common mistaken for a vegetable was invented in Israel.
If you find yourself in Tzfat, it would be a good time to try Yemeni street food. At the end of the market near the Kaballah center, this street vendor / small restaurant front serves traditional lahuhe, which is a crepe like flatbread filled with cheese, vegetables and spices, then wrapped up.
Olives anyone? Pitted? Green? Red? Oil? Juice? They have it all.
Name that fruit.
Dried kiwi samples.
Awesome cashew chicken from Thai House in Tel Aviv.
The Salad Trail (Shvil HaSalat): Agricultural tours in the Negev Desert, another top favorite, where I had the opportunity to tour this farm and greenhouse, protected by Israeli soldiers, and learn how the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs are able to grow in the desert. Tasting was encouraged.