These regions are full of delightful things to taste. Whether you’re fine-dining in Tel Aviv or having a street-side snack at Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, there's no shortage of Middle Eastern cuisine to keep your mouth watering.
Found in food stands on street corners and in markets all around the country, falafel is touted as Israel’s national dish and, despite competing stories of where they were invented, these snacks are now a staple in Israeli cuisine. Made from fava beans, chickpeas or a combination of both, enjoy them as either part of a Middle Eastern mezze, or stuffed into a pita with hummus, tahini, pickles and salad.
Shakshuka accurately translates as ‘a mixture’, describing a dish of eggs baked in a spiced tomato, chilli, pepper and garlic sauce and served in a traditional pan. Every street food vendor or shakshuka master believes they’ve got the best recipe, so it’s a good idea to taste a broad sample in order to decide for yourself!
Can anything be more perfect? This silky chickpea dip is a pita’s best friend, and can be lathered on nearly anything and everything, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To take things up a notch, order a hummus masabacha (topped with chickpeas, paprika, lemon and tahini) or hummus kawarma (topped with lamb mince, onions and parsley).
The Greeks have got souvlaki, the Turkish have got doner, but in these parts, it’s called shawarma. This type of local kebab is all about the traditional spices used and the ingredients that get stuffed inside – think hummus, salad, pickled turnips and tahini. An easy on-the-go lunch.
Obviously, many Middle Eastern classic dishes are hard to trace back their origin; however, sabich is one that definitely finds its roots as Jewish Israeli. Brought here in the 1950s by Jewish immigrants from Iraq, this pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, salad, hummus and tahini is now one of the country’s most popular street food dishes. Sabich is often topped off with a drizzle of amba – a spicy sweet mango chutney.
If you haven’t realised already, Israeli cuisine is big on bread. In particular, lechem bread plays not only an important role in the country’s diet, but is also of religious significance in Jewish cultures – often breaking two loaves of this bread signifies the start of a meal during Shabbat.
A sweet dessert found all around the Middle East, knafeh is a cheese pastry soaked in sugar syrup, often flavoured with rosewater or orange blossom. Perfect for an after-dinner snack, or an afternoon pick-me-up.
This part of the world is also known for growing wine grapes. The biggest wine-growing region, the Sharon Plain near the Mount Carmel range, boasts perfect conditions – a temperate climate and sediment-rich soils on slopes that face the Mediterranean Sea. Visit Zichron Yaakov, a town in this region, on an Intrepid Real Food Adventure for a day of wine tasting.