Israeli culinary wonders 1

I though I had publicly promised to do so, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in this blog. In any case, this is the beginning of a series of posts on some of the unbelievably good food I ate in my recent trip to Israel. It shall make many readers jealous and/or hungry. I will post the full names of anyone on the pictures to ensure they are found in web searches. Here we go…

Schawarma

CIMG0311
Jessica Berman and I eat schawarma from the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

CIMG0446
A nice and clean schawarma place in Tel-Aviv

What is a trip to Israel without schawarma (שווארמה‎)? It’s like going to Disneyland and not eating Mickey Mouse shaped popsicles. It’s wrong and you just don’t do it.

Schawarma is this gyro-like fast food thing eaten at usually small stands all over the Middle East. They are usually made it with lamb or turkey. It’s a lot better than a gyro, though, and of course the Israeli version is kosher so it doesn’t have any of that tzatziki perversion.

You can have it in a pita, or if you are very hungry in a laffa: like a very big pita but without the pocket, so it’s wrapped like a burrito. This is especially satisfying because not only it’s huge, but after you have gotten through most of it and are almost at the end, you encounter the mythical big wet knot of bread. Right where they fold the laffa and all the fat from the meat, the hummus, the tchina, the amba (deserves it’s own section), and all the other juices trickle down. It’s both tasteful and gross, and after you eat it you get a feeling of accomplishment. Yummy.

Amba

Not as well known by non-israelis, amba (עמבה‎) is a strong bright yellow mango-based curry-like sauce that’s added to the schawarma. Always ask for the amba: it’s not added by default. The best part about it is that it tastes good when you eat it; and if you put enough of it, it will smell good as you sweat it out the next three days.

Falafel

Here’s the thing about falafel (פלאפל) in Israel: It’s really good; and yet I haven’t eaten falafel in Israel since 1997. Why? Because whenever I walk towards a falafel stand with the clear intention of having one, the schawarma sitting next to it calls me, making me change my mind at the last second. In my book, schawarma always beats falafel in a head to head duel.

The same rule of thumb of Mexican tacos apply here: usually the dirtier the place, the better the falafel tastes. The art lies in finding the balance between flavor and your stomach’s immunity to bacteria.

Turkish coffee

CIMG0312
Turkish coffee, tea with nana, and a shesh besh match to death at the Iraqi section of the Mahane Yehuda market with David Mann.

Israelis are big tea and coffee drinkers. There are more coffee shops in Israel per capita than there are particle accelerators, of this I’m pretty sure. But really, there are a lot. However, most people stick with pretty regular stuff when drinking coffee out or with Elite Instant Coffee (from the makers of Mekupelet): suprisingly good for instant coffee… but still instant coffee.

A lot of people drink Turkish Coffee though. It’s strong like espresso but unfiltered. I like it so much I had to bring back all the tools and install a coffee in an office at work: The Coffice.

To be continued…