Vastly underrated yet teeming with diverse flavors— thanks to a fusion of rich Middle Eastern flavors and the influence of Jewish migration— Israeli Cuisine presents a gastronomic culture characterized by the best of two worlds. And more recently, it has evolved into a beautiful melting pot of culinary inspiration from different corners of the world as well. This is The Shakshuka Experience: Isareli Cuisine’s Flavored Diversity!
The Shakshuka Experience with Gil Hovav
And what better way to delve into The Shakshuka Experience than having an excursion through Isreal’s culinary history than with Gil Hovav himself? Being the famous Israeli author, chef, and TV personality that he is, Gil most certainly did whet our appetites even through our virtual meet; all the while sharing stories that opened up our knowledge on what Israeli food is really about.
What started as a mere discussion of how Israeli food has evolved through the years, has turned into a delightful trip through Gil’s personal culinary journey in life. From the childhood memory of his grandmother’s Butterfly Soup, up to his tasty adventures navigating through the country’s current street food scene. And by the end of the night, we were all left immensely curious, that we all craved for a warm skillet of the famed Israeli Shakshuka.
But how exactly does Israeli Cuisine taste like? What food must one expect when traveling through the cradle of religions? And how has it evolved in recent years?
Israeli Food: An Evolution of Colors and Flavors
You see, Israel’s culinary tradition is characterized by food and cooking methods collected and evolved in a span of three thousand years. But it was in the 1940s that put Israeli Cuisine in the world’s culinary map. With the birth of Israel as a nation following World War II, it also brought a diaspora of Jews from all corners of the world back to their ancient land. And in the process, they created a food scene bursting with global tang made more flavorful by the fresh produce of Israel’s fertile lands.
On one hand, immigrants arriving from central Europe brought food such as Schnitzel and Strudels. While Russian Jews took herring, Borsht, and even alcohol back to share. And in the following years, a huge migration from the Middle East, Yemen, and North Africa also took place. Thus, formally shaping the culinary profile of Israeli Cuisine that we know it as today. A colorful and flavorful marriage of Moroccan, Arab, Jewish, Yemeni, and Middle Eastern flavors and cooking traditions.
And there’s no denying that geographical gifts of the country has also played a huge part in shaping Israeli cuisine. May it be age-old recipes or modern-day street food, fine ingredients such as chickpeas, wheat, olives, dairy products, fish, zucchini, eggplants and tomatoes will almost always be on the local diet. This diet, based on locally grown produce, was further enhanced by imported spices throughout the years – transforming it from a rather wholesome palate to a bolder, varied one.
Israeli Cuisine Today
Today, Israeli Cuisine can simply be pictured as one brimming with color, flavor, and variety. So let’s go through some must-eats according to Gil, shall we?
A fan of tradition? Having a good Hummus is non-negotiable when one travels through Israel. Traditionally made of chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon, Hummus seems to be the biggest chameleon of Israeli Cuisine with its many variations. In fact, there are countless versions of it. That you can have at least 18 types in the City of Jerusalem alone.
Or perhaps you’re craving for street food. Then spoil yourself rotten with the country’s national dish, Falafel. Essentially known as chickpea fritters, Falafel is a Middle Eastern snack made of spiced chickpea balls, fried, and served on a pita with a variety of toppings. Delicious is a serious understatement for this one.
A myriad of international snacks also abound the streets and restaurant scene of Israel. From pizza, kebab, burgers, sushi, and even Thai Food in French Baguettes! Now, that’s what I call variety!
The Shakshuka Experience!
But modesty aside, if there is one dish that I would like to taste as much as I can in Israel, it would have to be Shakshuka. No, I am not saying this just because the topic dictates. But because the dish has a flavor profile that’s quite complex even though it’s parts and cooking method are rather simple as they are. Tunisian in origin, Shakshuka is basically eggs poached directly in tomato sauce, mixed in with chillies, peppers, onions, and cumin for flavor.
Now I might have tasted this dish twice or thrice before. But I constantly remember it always leaving me a certain kind of warmth and satisfaction. I know what you’re going to say. It’s just eggs with a bunch of vegetables and spices on it. But that’s also the very reason why it’s become a personal favorite. It’s because it’s familiar, simple, and honestly, the most relatable.
So I guess at end of the day, whatever your food preference may be, Israeli Cuisine will always have something uniquely delicious to offer. Just be open. And let your eyes, nose, and tongue take you on a delectable journey of ‘The Shakshuka Experience’. SHALOM!
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