Helena Karczewski

Israeli cuisine comprises local dishes by people native to Israel and dishes brought to Israel by Jews from the Diaspora. Israeli cuisine has adopted, and continues to adapt, elements of various styles of Jewish cuisine, particularly the Mizrahi, Sephardic and Ashkenazi styles of cooking. It incorporates many foods traditionally eaten in Levantine, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, and foods such as falafel, hummus, msabbha, shakshouka, couscous, and za'atar are now widely popular in Israel

Main Features

Other influences on the cuisine are the availability of foods common to the Mediterranean region, especially certain kinds of fruits and vegetables, dairy products and fish; the distinctive traditional dishes prepared at holiday times; the tradition of keeping kosher; and food customs specific to Shabbat and different Jewish holidays.

History

Israel’s culinary traditions comprise foods and cooking methods that span three thousand years of history. Over that time, these traditions have been shaped by influences from Asia, Africa and Europe, and religious and ethnic influences have resulted in a culinary melting pot. Biblical and archaeological records provide insight into the culinary life of the region as far back as 968 BCE.

The food of the ancient Israelites was based on several products that still play important roles in modern Israeli cuisine. These were known as the seven species: olives, figs, dates, pomegranates, wheat, barley and grapes. The diet, based on locally grown produce, was enhanced by imported spices, readily available due to the country’s position at the crossroads of east-west trade routes.

Street Foods:

In Israel, as in many other Middle Eastern countries, "street food" is a kind of fast food that is sometimes literally eaten while standing in the street, while in some cases there are places to sit down. The following are some foods that are usually eaten in this way:

Falafel

Falafel are fried balls or patties of spiced, mashed chickpeas or fava beans and are a common Middle Eastern street food that have become identified with Israeli cuisine. Falafel is most often served in a pita, with pickles, tahina, hummus, cut vegetable salad and often, harif, a hot sauce, the type used depending on the origin of the falafel maker.

Shawarma

Shawarma, (from çevirme, meaning "rotating" in Turkish) is usually made in Israel with turkey, with lamb fat added. The shawarma meat is sliced and marinated and then roasted on a huge rotating skewer. The cooked meat is shaved off and stuffed into a pita, plainly with hummus and tahina, or with additional trimmings such as fresh or fried onion rings, French fries, salads and pickles.

Shakshouka

Shakshouka, originally a workman’s breakfast popularized by North African Jews in Israel, is made simply of fried eggs in spicy tomato sauce, with other vegetable ingredients or sausage optional. Shakshouka is typically served in the same frying pan in which it is cooked, with thick slices of white bread to mop up the sauce, and a side of salad.

Places to eat

There are thousands of restaurants, casual eateries, cafés and bars in Israel, offering a wide array of choices in food and culinary styles.

Falafel stands or kiosks

Falafel stands or kiosks are common in every neighborhood. Falafel vendors compete to stand apart from their competitors and this leads to the offering of additional special extras like chips, deep fried eggplant, salads and pickles for the price of a single portion of falafel.

Hummusia

Hummusia is an establishment that offers mainly hummus with a limited selection of extras such as tahina, hardboiled egg, falafel, onion, pickles, lemon and garlic sauce and pita or taboon bread.

Misada Mizrahit

Misada Mizrahit (literally "Eastern restaurant") refers to Mizrahi Jewish, middle eastern or Arabic restaurants. These popular and relatively inexpensive establishments often offer a selection of meze salads followed by grilled meat with a side of french fries and a simple dessert such as chocolate mousse for dessert.

Steakiyot

Steakiyot are meat grills selling sit down and take away chicken, turkey or lamb as steak, shishlik, kebab and even Jerusalem mixed grill, all in pita or in taboon bread.