A little of Israeli Food

Israeli food is an interesting subject. What is exactly Israeli food? Jews were the nation with no land for a huge part of history, so the traditions and the recipes, along with the ingredients, are from all those places they inhabited, and when they moved to Israel, they took all these recipes with them.

On today’s Israeli restaurants you will find a very interesting fusion. From Argentinean asado, to Northern European varenikes, including Middle Eastern hummus or sweets like baklava or Turkish delights. And all these are traditional to Israel, not because were imported to impress a market by a bunch of rising young chefs or because of “fusion fashion”. All these dishes are an integral part of their culture.

With the “Reverse Diaspora” where Jewish from all around the world gathered in this little tiny country, they brought the recipes they had during centuries in the different regions. Without getting much into history, there are two big cultural branches among Jews: the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi.

The Ashkenazi are the ones that live or come from Central and Northern Europe. The common language is Yiddish, which is a sort of German but written with Hebrew alphabet. Two of their popular dishes are varenikes, a sort of ravioli stuffed with mashed potatoes and onion and served with cream, and borscht, a beetroot and meat stock soup, also served with a dollop of sour cream.

The Sephardi are more Mediterranean. They live in Turkey, Greece, among other countries, and they were the subject of the expulsion from Spain in the 1490´s by Fernando and Isabel. Their common tongue is Ladino, which is 85 % ancient Spanish, and very easy to understand by anyone that speaks a romance language. Two of their most popular dishes are hummus, that mashed chickpea paste, and kebab.

On a short call in Israel, there are some staples that you have to taste. I would say varenikes:

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Varenikes. Tradicional pasta rellena de cebollas salteadas y puré de papas servida con crema agria. Original de Ucrania y Rusia. Yo la aprendí a comer de las manos de Elvira, la amiga de mi Madre. Encontrar estos varenikes hechos a mano en la vidriera del restaurant fue suficiente tentación para sucumbir! . Varenikes Traditional pasta stuffed with sauteed onions and mashed potatoes served with sour cream. Original from Ukraine and Russia. I learned to eat from the hands of Elvira, my Mother's friend. Finding these handmade varenikes being made in the restaurant window was enough temptation to succumb! . #varenikes #ashkenazi #askenazifood #israel #haifa #worldshonestfood #worldcruisefoodie

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Particularly when you see that they are being made in front of your eyes. There is something charming of seeing two or more ladies making a homemade dish and chatting, and smiling and laughing. Is an ancient tradition that takes us back in time to those days that was no other “entertainment” that conversing while cooking.

The other dish that is quintessential to the Ashkenazi tradition is borsch. Borsch is the generic name to any soup that is made with beetroot. Can be creamy, can be made with beef stock, even like a stew. Ah! Let’s not forget, there are some cold versions of it too! Due to my Polish heritage I prefer the creamy recipe. Still, this chilled version is a great example: svekolnik.

From the Sephardi branch, we will find more “Mediterranean” dishes, like hummus. The Israeli hummus tends to be topped up with tahini, which is an ancient sesame paste, almost like a spread, that the centennial mills still can be found in the alleyways in the Old Jerusalem.

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La diversidad en la comida del Medio Oriente es algo que me tiene apabullado. Hoy, Hummus Baladí, tahini y garbanzos cocidos. Después, degustación de tradiciones: Kubbe, Sfiha y bastoncitos de queso con más tahini! Y siempre acompañando con tomates, aceitunas, pepinos encurtidos y pita. Israel me hace feliz!! . Diversity in Middle Eastern food is something that overwhelms me. Today, Hummus Baladí, tahini and cooked chickpeas. Then, tasting traditions: Kubbe, Sfiha and cheese sticks with more tahini! And always accompanying with tomatoes, olives, pickled cucumbers and pita. Israel makes me happy !! . #middleeasternfood #israel #haifa #fattoush #hummus #worldshonestfood #worldcruisefoodie

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And, of course, if we are taking about Mediterranean food, we have to have olives in some way. Either olive oil, or just plain green or black or red olives. In this case, a beautiful olive paste, almost a tapenade, but with a side of fresh cucumber slides that add freshness.

And then, of course, we can count all traditional dishes that the staple for the religious celebrations, like chicken broth with matzo balls, the braised brisket, the gefilte fish, which is one of my favorites: ground fishes shaped into balls and boiled and served cold with krein which is a mix of horseradish and beetroot.

Still, the one that makes me lose a heart bit every time I can get it is the chopped chicken liver. Don’t ask me why…

This is just a sampling of some characteristic Israeli dishes, mostly from the Jewish heritage. Let’s not forget that there is a strong Arabic influence, but that is a whole new subject.

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