With just five months to go before we ship out, I’ve started to chew over what we’ll miss about living in Jerusalem. It turns out, it’s mostly food-related:
- The Bread
Oh, the bread! I was going to just highlight the soft, fluffy pitas which seem to be an Israeli speciality; cloud-like circles of heaven.
But I couldn’t.
Because there’s dinner-plate sized taboon, or laffa, a flatbread that’s perfect for tearing and sharing.
There’s sweet, shiny challah, which appears every Friday for Shabbat.
And paper-thin shrak, cooked over an enormous up-turned skillet, and the ultimate wrap.
But, if there was one official bread of Jerusalem, it would have to be Ka’ak Al Quds, or ‘Jerusalem Bread’.
The foot-long, stretched-out loop is covered in sesame seeds and served with salty za’atar. It’s smoky and a little bit tangy, and oh so good.
- The Hummus
I know, it’s a cliche! But Jerusalem really does have the BEST HUMMUS IN THE WORLD!
Supermarket shelves are stacked high with different brands, sizes and varieties; with chilli, with za’atar, with extra chickpeas or pine nuts. You can literally buy it by the bucketload.
And restaurants – Israeli and Palestinian – pride themselves on having the best.
Our favourite joints for this Jerusalemite fast-food are Abu Shukri and Tala Hummus, both in the Old City. But you’ll find it hard to eat a bad plate of smooshed chickpeas here.
- The Falafel
Who knew falafels could be so good?! Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, stuffed inside a pillowy pita or served simply with a bowl of hummus.
Along with kibbeh, its meaty sibling, falafel is our go-to child-friendly lunch option.
French Hill Falafel is top of our list for an easy take-out. Just ask for the shotta – spicy sauce – before the falafels go in!
And we can’t go to Bethlehem without visiting Afteem, just off Manger Square, for a plate of crispy green falafel goodness.
- The Dates
I didn’t even LIKE dates before we moved to the Middle East. Turns out, I just hadn’t been eating the RIGHT dates; Grade A, Palestinian Medjoul dates from the date palms of Jericho.
When they come out of the freezer, they’re like toffee. Serve with coffee and stuffed with nut butter – hazelnut is a winner, but pistachio paste, almond or even peanut butter work well.
And date syrup – or date honey – is now a store cupboard essential. It’s brilliant on yogurt or porridge, and even ice cream or pancakes when combined with tahina (see 5 below!).
- Tahina with everything
Tahina, or tahini, goes with everything. At least, in Jerusalem it does.
Meatballs, roasted veg, salad dressings, falafel wraps, ice cream and even toast; we’ve eaten all of these things with tahina.
Saturday morning pancakes are drizzled with tahini and date syrup, but you can also mix it with honey or grape molasses for a natural sweet treat.
Alongside the mounds of halva in the shuk, you’ll find tubs of sweet tahini – the one with date syrup and hazelnut is particularly good on toast!
Too many choices…
There are plenty of things I could add to this list; really good shawarma, shakshuka for brunch, grab-and-go bourekas (little pastry triangles stuffed with cheese), a daily fix of super-sweet, blended iced coffee in the summer, or thick, gloupy sahlab in the winter, and mujadara (a Palestinian dish of rice and lentils) are just a few of our favourites.
Plus, some things I deliberately left out; including aubergine or eggplant 500 ways and knafeh – a combo of stretchy cheese and crispy, syrupy phyllo pastry, not to everyone’s taste.
I’m sure there’s much, much more! If you think there’s something we MUST try before we leave, please let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Please don’t try to make me eat eggplant…
Great article, Helen….having tasted (and thoroughly enjoyed!) a lot of the above I fully endorse your opinions.