Before I went to Israel, everyone I talked to about it mentioned some type of food I should have there. I’d had Mediterranean fare before, specifically in Turkey, and eaten at an Israeli restaurant here in Atlanta (and another in Guatemala, oddly enough). But I couldn’t wait to try the real thing. Best of all, these dishes were super cheap for the most part as well as healthy. Almost everything is vegetarian-friendly. I’m still dreaming about these dishes and doing my best to recreate them!
Is there anything more quintessentially Israeli than a falafel? The fried balls of chickpea come in a pita with salad, hummus, tahini and spicy sauce if you dare. I had this meal constantly, and for less than $3 USD. My favorites were at Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and right outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. You can also get shawarma with meat fillings.
Another dish I’d had, and made, before was shakshuka, a breakfast dish. But I didn’t have it until it was served for breakfast at The Post Hostel, my base in Jerusalem. A fried egg is mixed in with a spicy tomato sauce, best eaten with a good piece of bread. My friend Tianna had some delicious-looking green shakshuka at Mahane Yehudah Market, also in Jerusalem.
How do I begin to talk about my love for hummus? I’d had it before, but that Sabra crap is NOTHING like what you’ll taste in Israel. The dip is creamier with all sorts of toppings like tahini, a sesame sauce. When you order it, it generally comes with pita bread and all sorts of sides like a tomato and cucumber salad. I miss this more than anything and will always dream about the first time I had it in Israel. After my Tel Aviv street art tour, my tour guide took me to lunch at a place whose name I don’t remember. I literally ate hummus for lunch and regret nothing.
Eating healthy food in Israel was totally easy, especially for someone who doesn’t eat dairy. One of my favorite meals that I’d like to replicate was fattoush, a salad I enjoyed during a day trip to Haifa. Made up of tomato, cucumber, and other vegetables, it has a tart dressing and is topped with fried pieces of bread.
When I got to Eilat, on the Red Sea, I had one thing on the brain: seafood. Just about every meal where it was offered, I went for it. One night, it was mussels in my pasta, another day it was this grilled whitefish. And one more had shrimp in a rich, buttery sauce. Is there anything better than fresh seafood?
My last meal in Eilat was a Sunday brunch at one of the city’s beach clubs. The entire group gathered together on the beach, popping champagne bottles. Breakfast was a large affair, complete with coffee, omelets, tahini, salad, and pitas. I could eat like this every day.