Foods of Israel

Located in the Middle East and on the Mediterranean, Israel has multiple climates that are home to variety of plants and animals. The country’s diverse terroir spans f r o m the coastal Mediterranean in Tel Aviv and Haifa to the lush greenery of Galilee and arid, rocky deserts of the Negev. Together, Israeli cuisine is more of a mixed bag than most might realise. Mild temperatures along the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River allow citrus trees to grow fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. Other areas grow figs, pomegranates, and olives.

Geography has a large influence on the Israel cuisine. Thus regional foods like olives and olive oil, wheat, chickpeas, yogurt are major constituents of Israeli cuisine. Many food establishments in Israel adhere to kosher dietary laws, including the separation of milk and meat and the aversion to foods such as pork and shellfish. However, food in Israel is not always subjected to these laws.

Israel's diverse population also makes its cuisine unique. Israeli food is made up of cuisine brought to the country by Jewish immigration f r o m all around the world as well as custom Middle Eastern cuisine. After moving around the world, Jews brought back various foods and recipes to their ancient land. These foods complimented other Jewish recipes, Jewish dietary laws, and the native ingredients to create a superb cuisine. Israelis further continued to evolve and develop delicious cuisines.

Thus Israeli cuisine is interplay of historical, sociological, agricultural influences. Therefore, many foods that are typically considered “Israeli” originated f r o m the wider cuisine of the Middle East–including the popular Falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls in pita) and the famous “Israeli salad” of cucumbers and tomatoes in distinctively small pieces. In addition, Jewish traditions of Eastern Europe play an integral role in Israeli cuisine, with ingredients such as sour cream and dishes such as borscht (a cold soup made f r o m beets).

Typical foods of the region are flat bread, lentils, fresh fruit and nuts, raw vegetables, lamb, beef, and dairy products, including goat cheese and many types of yogurt. Few dishes feature grilled meats and fish, stuffed vegetables, and traditional spicy Mediterranean salads and spreads. Typical dishes are stews, schnitzel, cheese-filled crepes (blintzes), matzo balls, and latkes. Israel was called the "land of milk and honey" in the Bible. Sweets, such as candy made f r o m honey and sesame seeds, are favorites among children.

Israeli food is generally classified as Askenazi (European) food - traditional European Jewish meals f r o m Hungary and Poland or Sephardic (Eastern) - foods rich in spices and flavours, reflecting origin of countries for these recipes.. Each has contributed greatly to the evolution of Israeli food. The Arab population of Israel has also contributed to the Israeli food with its North African and Middle Eastern foods like Humus and Falafel. 

Falafel is the most favorite fast-food in Israel, and Hummus (chickpea paste) is a staple in every home. Eggs are the important source of protein. Fresh fruits and vegetables are cooked and served in multiple ways. In Israel, vegetables are even eaten for breakfast.

The cosmopolitan structure of Israel offers variety of flavours and choices of Israeli food. Israel is today the culinary capital, having several high end restaurants in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and more, which serve a fusion of typical Israeli food and flavours f r o m around the world.

11 Tastes of Israel!

Israel is every Epicurean’s dream destination and a wide variety of cafés serve everything f r o m Arabic, European to Asian fare. But no matter what one picks, the food in the Jewish heartland will always be infused with the warmth of the Mediterranean sun, the goodness of fresh dairy products and meats, garnished with garden crisp fruits, nuts and vegetables. Here’s a low down on dishes you must indulge in whether you’re in a market, street or at a restaurant in Israel

Challah - A special Jewish ceremonial bread, braided and brushed with egg white that is baked to perfection

Sabich – A pita pocket stuffed with crispy fried eggplant, hardboiled egg, creamy hummus and tahini, along with Israeli salad and pickles. The sandwich created by Israel’s Iraqi Jewish community is an absolute street food favourite among locals. If you’re in Tel Aviv, try sabich f r o m Sabich Frishman

Jerusalem Bagel - Unlike the typical bagels, the Jerusalem Bagel is elongated, soft, slightly sweet and similar to regular bread. Vendors sell freshly baked Jerusalem Bagels all over the streets of the Old City, usually accompanied with some za’atar

Bourekas – Similar to the Indian samosa, bourekas are with potato, cheese or spinach stuffed triangles of filo-dough, topped with toasted sesame seeds. Head over to Leon and Sons in Jaffa for a taste of this flaky treat

Khachapuri – Try this traditional Georgian dish in Mahane Yehuda Market made with eggs and cheese combined in an eye shaped dough. Once baked, dip the outer crust in the rich and oozing centre of egg and cheese

Rugelach – This Jewish pastry is made with chocolate, cinnamon, raisins, walnuts or fruits. Head to Marzipan Bakery in Jerusalem to dig into this oozing chocolate filled delight

Sambusak – Similar to bourekas, sambusak is made with mashed chickpeas, onions and spices wrapped in a triangular dough pocket. For an Indian style sambusak, visit Tandoor in Tel Aviv

Shakshuka – Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, sweet and spicy peppers and is often spiced with cumin and topped off with freshly cut herbs. Head to Dr. Shakshuka and swipe your bread across the pan to pick up the runny egg drenched sauce

Halva – Israel is known for its incredible variety of Halva made with sesame and easy to find in almost all the markets around the country

Ash Tanur – A sourdough flatbread, made without yeast and sugar and best eaten with some fresh local herbs and spices

Fresh juices – F r o m the juicy pomegranates to citrusy oranges, Israel prides itself on serving the most fresh and flavourful juices. Tamara in Tel Aviv is one of the many popular juice stands in the city.
 

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