What Foods Will You Find on Your Israel Journey?
When you travel to a new country, do you worry about the foods you will eat? Many of us do. Some of us love the adventure of tasting new cuisines, however there are others of us who are, well, a bit particular about what we find palatable. Some of us have allergies we must consider, and others follow special traditions. No worries in Israel! Restaurants and hotels can accommodate a multitude of preferences, from vegan to paleo, from native to European, from soup to nuts. Whether you are craving a pizza or burger, or can’t wait to savour a delectable Shakshouka, Israel Celebration Tours has you covered.
Spice Market – Tel Aviv
What are Israeli Foods?
When your people come from so many lands, as well as have a 3,000-year continuous presence in the land, what is your cuisine? Frankly, it starts with dishes based on foods which are native to the land and its surrounding areas. So, it is not surprising that Arabic cuisine has had a major influence on the foods found in Israel.
The Middle Eastern Influence
If you visited Jewish homes in Israel in the 1820s, you would not have been surprised to find popular Arab foods such as baba ghanouj (an eggplant dish) or baklava (a sweet pastry filled with crushed pistachio nuts). Falafel (fried balls of chickpeas with Middle Eastern spices) served in pita bread and dipped in hummous (now a popular dip in the U.S.) was found on street corners. For breakfast, you may have eaten Shakshouka – eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions. Couscous was a popular grain found at many meals, as well as dishes with lamb and chicken. Olives, figs, dates, pomegranates, grapes, citrus, and almonds were popular as well.
The Spanish Influence
After being exiled by the Romans early in the first century, many Jewish families found themselves in Spain and Portugal, lands that were also settled by Moslem tribes in the seventh century, thus once again influencing Jewish cuisine. The Spanish Jews were known as Sephardi, and when they were exiled from Spain in the 13th and 14th centuries, they came through modern-day Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. As the Jews made their way back to Israel, they brought their Spanish cooking with them, picking up Northern African recipes along the way.
Spanish influence abounds in Israel’s dishes. Have you ever heard of fish and chips? It’s a popular dish in the British Isles. But did you know that it began in Spain as pescado frito? This dish made it to Israel. Sephardi foods feature salads, nuts, lamb, ground beef, apricots, and raisins, spiced with cumin, cilantro, turmeric, caraway, saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon. Burekas, sambousak, pilafs made from bulgur wheat are all part of that tradition.
Next time: Israeli Cuisine – Part 2: The European Influence and Kosher Food
In Future Posts: We share recipes for some of the dishes served in Israel