The honest answer to the above question is probably “everything and a lot of it”. Israeli cuisine is still difficult to define. It’s a combination of all types of cuisines that coexist in the state of Israel – the local ones and the ones imported by immigrants over the years. From Mediterranean to North African mixed with East European and others influenced by global trends. Still, if we have to point out some popular dishes that most Israelis love, the following ones would be include:
The most popular street food in Israel. Small chickpea balls served in a pita bread with some hummus and a vegetable salad and covered with Tahini dressing. What makes the falafel unique is that it is considered somewhat healthier than other types of street food because it’s made from vegetables. Its main disadvantage is the fact that it can get messy because the pita bread tends to be torn at the bottom and Tahini tends to drip. Some like to load their pita with sauerkraut and fries while others prefer to eat the falafel balls from a plate with nothing else on it. Customers have lots of freedom when it comes to falafel in Israel, they can pick and choose their own preference since every falafel stand is different. Some will let you create your own version whilst others will offer you their original style falafel. Most stands in Israel serve their falafel with an abundant choice of sides and salads, among some of the more popular ones is the famous red cabbage salad, pickles etc. Every falafel stand in Israel claims to be “the king of falafel”, so our tip for you is to find the one falafel that you really like and stay loyal to it.
Only a handful of Israelis would dare to say they don’t like hummus. After years of reigning as the king of Israeli cuisine just when people thought there was nothing new to do with it, hummus was rediscovered as the vegan trend that took Israel by storm. When we say “hummus” in Israel, we don’t just refer to the dip made of cooked chickpeas. We also refer to a variety of products such as the chickpea seeds themselves, the Gram flour made of them and the Sev snack (known in Israel as Dbayel). Once you enter a hummus place in Israel take your time before ordering and check the kinds of hummus dishes that are served there – Msabbaha (AKA Mashausha), hummus ful, hummus with mushrooms, boiled eggs or chopped meat. There are many options and combinations, all will leave you feeling full and satisfied, no trace of hunger would be left behind.
An Israeli salad
Basic and tasty, the Israeli salad accompanies so many dishes and upgrades them. Its most basic version is made of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions all chopped and spiced with salt, olive oil and lemon juice. To this basic mixture one can add other chopped vegetables such as bell peppers, lettuce, carrots and small radishes. Some would cover their salad with some homemade Tahini. others may add small cubes of Sirene cheese. Anything goes as long as the salad is served fresh minutes after it’s made.
An Israeli breakfast
The Israeli breakfast is considered one of the most nutritious and healthiest in the world, hence the paradox of most Israelis skipping breakfast is quite amusing in a sense. An Israeli breakfast consists of dairy products, egg dishes, salads, pastries such as bread and buns, hot drinks and freshly squeezed juices. When and where do we eat breakfast? When on a holiday. The Israeli breakfast dates back to the days when Kibbutzim were at their prime, and their dining rooms offered the members who returned from the early morning shifts in the fields a variety of light dishes served as a self-service buffet. Nowadays you can still find the Israeli breakfast in Kibbutzim but also at almost every hotel or B&B around Israel and every coffee shop.
Have you ever heard of the story about the simple dish that was invented in the 1950’s during the austerity period in Israel and since then has found its way to the best restaurants in Israel and outside of it? Ptitim is basically tiny toasted pasta balls, very easy to cook and popular among working parents who need quick recipes. But once you add to it some prestigious ingredients, you can upgrade it and serve it as a main course. A fun fact about Ptitim is that it was nicknamed “Ben-Gurion rice” in the 1950’s, since the Prime Minister was looking for a cheap substitute for rice which was expensive back then. Nowadays it is sold under more appealing names such as “Israeli couscous” and “pearl couscous”.
AKA as “soup mandels” or “soup almonds”, these tiny yellow croutons are an original Israeli product that was produced solely in Israel for decades. Given this situation and the fact that this is a dry product, this soup accompaniment became the most wanted food product among Israelis residing outside of Israel. Ask any Israeli who has spent some time outside of Israel what was in the packages that arrived from home, and you’ll get one answer – Shkedei Marak. A fun fact about Shkedei Marak is that most Israeli kids prefer to eat them as snacks. No soup needed, thank you very much.
For years Bamba (the original snack and its copies) was considered a beloved but simple snack for kids. And then science discovered it, and scientists researched its benefits and published some startling findings. Apparently Bamba helps to prevent allergies among children -there is a low rates of peanut allergies in Israeli children (as oppose to children from other countries) were due to high levels of peanut consumption from a young age. Having said that, it’s important to mention the other benefits of Bamba: it’s both salty and sweet, it’s dry and therefore perfect as an outdoor snack, it comes in several flavours and no one seems to get tired of eating it!