Israel, a mosaic of aromas

Looking for delicacies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: food here recalls a thousand different traditions

28-03-2015
The many flavours of Israeli cuisine: we’re in Jerusalem, at Azura, connected with Slow Food Israel (4 Ha'eshkol street, +972.2.6235204)

Israel can consider developing a haute cuisine, as we recalled here, counting also on a food sector offering excellent products. The markets in the main centres – Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv – are magical places overflowing with delicious food. If you happen to visit the latter city, a visit to Jaffa is a must. Here you should try and get lost among the full-of-life streets: it’s nice to walk between the Flea Market and the Suk A-Dir area, both to discover local street food and to visit some good restaurants, such as Obsays: the owner, originally from Libya, offers an excellent shawerma, Israel’s doner kebap. Not too far away there’s Rus Eell Hunt, with its vegetable pies, Dany Inn, where hummus is superb (though you will find the best at Abu Hassan and the one at Afloka is not bad either); it’s right in front of a man selling pita with falafel.

Mahroum’s halva, in Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv
Mahroum’s halva, in Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv
Another must is the Levinsky Market. Inbal Baum has created a guided tour of the best delicacies available here. The tour begins on the corner between Levinsky Street and Hahalutsim Streets; here there’s Boutique Naknik ("the sausage boutique"), which on top of a selection of cured meats also offers a good arak, an anise liqueur similar to Greek ouzo. A little further down, a family originally from Nazareth offers dozens of different versions of halva, a sort of sweet paste made with sesame seeds and aromatised to your liking; the shop is called Mahroum. Right beside it there’s Pereg, a heaven full of spices: they also prepare a mix to season rice. In front of that, there’s Shuk California with dried fruits and giant dates.

A couple more steps and in Levinsky 51 there’s Arama, specialised in infusions. Round the corner, Rehamim prepares a thousand things with fruits – the pomegranate juice is not to be missed – and a delicious malabi, a vegan cake made with corn flour and coconut milk, with vanilla, pomegranate and toasted coconut, all aromatised with rose water; in the past, they would use orchid water but it’s very expensive.

The kitchen of the Machane Yehuda Restaurant, a good place for contemporary cuisine in Jerusalem (10 Beit Ya'akov street, +972.2.5333442)
The kitchen of the Machane Yehuda Restaurant, a good place for contemporary cuisine in Jerusalem (10 Beit Ya'akov street, +972.2.5333442)

After a couple of crossroads you will arrive at Penso, the kingdom of burekas (similar to the burek you can find in the Balkans, down to Turkey), sabich (sandwiches with aubergines and eggs, originally from Iraq) and shakshuka: tomato, eggs, spices. Then there’s Yom Tov Deli owned by the Levi brothers, originally from Turkey: olives, peppers and dolma, rolls made with vine leaves. The hummus that can be enjoyed on the other side of the crossroads, at Garger HaZahav, competes in terms of deliciousness with that at Abu Hassan; there are different recipes, one with whole chickpeas, one with mashed chickpeas and parsley, typical of Israel and Palestine, the Egyptian one with chickpeas and beans... The visit ends at Conditoria Albert in Matalon 36 where the old owner prepares lovely cakes made with almond paste and meringues with a creamy heart.

Finally, a couple of words on Jerusalem too. Here the place to visit is the Machane Yehuda market, overflowing with all kinds of delicious food. It also has lots of restaurants of various standards, of which we recommend two: Azura, connected with Slow Food Israel, where you can enjoy typical produce at its best; and the Machane Yehuda Restaurant, a good restaurant with contemporary cuisine. 

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