Israeli Street Food: Much More Than Just Falafel

Most people start tasting and even smelling falafel the very second they land in Israel. Most people arrive in the beautiful White City of Tel Aviv, or the workaholic and beautifully green landscaped Haifa, and the first forced stop after dropping their bags is the nearest and tastiest falafel spot.

But there’s much more to Israeli food than just these spectacular fried balls of chickpea dough. We’d like to take this opportunity to show you a few Israeli delights that you don’t want to miss on your next visit to the land of milk and honey.

The most delicious Israeli street food, besides falafel. Here are some examples

When walking in the streets of this 20 thousand km² open-ceiling museum, the variety of kiosks, cafes and street restaurants are almost as unique and numerous as the 8 million people who currently live in this country. Till this day, there is still a great debate about what Israeli cuisine truly is. The origins of this debate lie in the very fabric of the Israeli people. Israelis originally, are immigrants from all over the world, mixing the cultures of a good portion of the world. This is why Israeli food is so varied, so interesting and so delicious. Before we begin mentioning some of these spectacular dishes, be warned, you might get quite hungry. So if you can pause this and continue reading right before your lunch break, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.

Shakshuka

Pronounced: Shak-shoo-kah – שַׁקְשׁוּקָה

“Don’t touch the frying pan, it is hot!” After you hear this friendly comment from your waitress or cashier, you will proceed to experience one of the unique flavors in the Middle East. It is hard to believe that this dish of poached eggs in a quite concentrated tomato sauce, which is often spiced with cumin, originates from Tunisia. Actually, it is not that hard to believe, almost every dish you will try, taste and admire in Israel originates from a mix of cultures, a mix that enriches the local cuisine, in a delicious way.

Nowadays, you can add many different toppings to your Shakshuka: onions, peppers, mushrooms, olives, green onions, oregano and even garlic. Oh yes, garlic. Did we mention garlic yet?

Sabih

Pronounced: Sa-bi-ch – סַבִּיח (neither “h” or “ch” can fill in for the “special” sound you have to end this word with)

So we’ve got the pita bread, we’ve got the hummus, the techina, and the other regular toppings. But no sir, no falafel in your pita this time. Sabich is a very traditional Israeli meal that consists of filling your hot pita with fried eggplant slices and a smashed boiled egg. For many of those who claim to hate eggplant, sabich might be the ideal way to start loving it. Because, of course, the sentence “From hate to love there is only one step” also applies to Israeli delights. Trust me on this one.

If you want a tip to find a praiseworthy Sabich, experts say the best Sabich place in the entire Middle East is located in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim. Just go and find “Oved’s” place, and give your taste buds a whole new experience. Although, you may want to be ready to be bombarded with stern, conflicting opinions when asking an Israeli where the best hummus/ falafel/ sabich/ any food is, to be honest, as each has their personal favorite and they will defend it with every ounce of strength they have.

Meorav Yerushalmi

Pronounced: Meh-o-rahv Yeh-roo-shal-me – מְעֹרָב יְרוּשַׁלְמִי

Even if it has the name Jerusalem in it, you won’t break a tooth on a stone when taking the first bite. The Meorav Yerushalmi can be also called “Jerusalem Mixed Grill”, but believe us, the
owner of the spot will have way more fun if you go and pronounce it in Hebrew.

This dish might be considered by some to be the biggest specialty of Jerusalem, but it can be found in any other city of Israel. It is a mix of chicken liver, bits of lamb, chicken hearts and even spleens prepared on a traditional and very oily flat grill. It can be upgraded with garlic, onion, pepper, and even with a bit of coriander. Are you still obsessed with the pita bread? Don’t worry, you can have your Meorav Yerushalmi both in a dish or in a hot, just made, pita. Bon Appetit, or as we say Bete’avon!

Jachnun

Pronounced: Ja-ch-noon – גַ’חְנוּן (remember that strange sound we talked about?)

Once again, the cultural mix plays in our favor. This Yemenite dish is the local version of the “breakfast of champions”, but please, don’t try working out after consuming this one. This dish, which can be either a meal or a dessert, is prepared from thinly rolled out dough, with a touch of butter. It has a roll shape and an intriguing amber color.

In general, it is served with fresh and cold grated tomatoes and with one or two boiled eggs (depending on how good of a deal you get at the local spot). There are hundreds of tiny restaurants working 24/7, offering good, hot Jachnun as it pleases you. This is not the healthiest of foods, I mean, there’s quite a LOT of dough involved but we cannot deny how pleasant it is to begin the morning of Shabbat with one or two Jachnun rolls in the middle of the table. I’d say it’s no mere coincidence that we mostly eat this food on our day of rest.

Sachlav

Pronounced: Sah-ch-love – סַחְלֶבּ

For those who love desserts! For those who won’t stand up until they finish their sweets! For those who, after a big meal, need a sweet-ish flavor in their mouth! Let’s all say together: Sachlav!

Sachlav is a creamy drink. Those who know how to prepare it well, use ground orchid bulbs to thicken it up and vanilla scent for a gorgeous, delicious smell and flavor. Most places in the Holy
Land will add nuts, dried fruit (you already know how much we love nuts, pistachios and dried fruits in Israel, don’t act surprised!), and of course: a good amount of cinnamon. If you are one
of those people who love sweets, you cannot miss your Sachlav on your next visit to Israel. PS: Many people say that Sachlav can even be an aphrodisiac, and we just wanted to make sure you have this piece of information.

Some other tips and recommendations

Of course, don’t go back to your country without trying a good shawarma. When doing so, go for the “lafa”, and forget about your diet for a few minutes of merriment. We do love the concept of lots of meat, hummus, and vegetables wrapped in some form of excessive dough.

If you happen to be in the Tel Aviv area, stopping by the “Miznon” might be a great decision. This is where you’ll get a version of many of our local foods made by one of our finest chefs – Eyal Shani. Dozens of different kinds of fillings for your pita bread are being offered, and trying at least 3 of them is becoming a must for locals and tourists. Check out our guide to 48 hours in Tel Aviv and find some places to devour these delicious meals.

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On a side note, all of these meals are but a fraction of the food we consume on a daily basis, if you find this intimidating, worry not, our leading chefs are always innovating and are also serving some of the world’s best burgers, pasta, sushi, ramen, curry…. And the list goes on.

Of course, everything that is translated loses a fraction of its essence in the process. Walking through the market, hearing vendors yelling out their products is much more fun when you understand what they are saying. Our language is forever entwined with our cuisine. Of course, you can always close the gap by taking our Modern Hebrew courses. Well, all our recommendations have been given and apparently, there is only one more thing to say: Beteavon!

Is there any other Israeli dish you would have added to the article? Make sure to add it to the comments below, so we can create a second part for these tasty recommendations.

About the author

Arie Elbelman R.Arie was born and raised in Chile, and immigrated to Israel in his early twenties. He wants to take an active role in the development of this young and smart country. Arie believes that the best way to shape our present and future is to live with more horizontal hierarchies, to smile a whole lot, and to always, always respect each other.

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  1. […] and sabich sound similar, they aren’t the same thing. But you can see here a recommendation of a sabich that is truly […]

  2. […] if we mentioned a few weeks ago that Israeli street food isn’t only about hummus and falafel, today we decided to give this traditional dish the importance it deserves and let you know what […]

  3. […] quick stop at the Miznon, a phenomenal place we talked about previously when mentioning options for Israeli Street Food. When you get to King George Street, just make a turn and walk until you find this outstanding pita […]