Israeli Street Food – Eating your way around Israel

Every time you get to a new place around the globe, one of the most fun parts is to try the local street food. In Israel, Jews who came from all over the world brought the local cuisine with them. So, what is exactly an Israeli food?

In the newborn state, some of those dishes got a twist, an upgrade or a downgrade, depends on how you see it.

example?
In Israel, It's popular to eat a schnitzel inside a baguette with hummus and French fries as an Israeli street food. Some people say it is a disgrace to each one of the components (sorry French, Austrians, and Arabs), some say it is a genius idea.

Falafel

The king of the Israeli street food for the budget travelers and students.
The base for it is deep fried balls made out of chickpeas. Each falafel place mix the dough with different spices and leaves, that what makes the different taste between each falafel place.

Next, you will have to choose what kind of salads you want inside your dish. A good falafel place will have many kinds of salads. Ask if something is spicy before you feel like "this green thing looks yummy" and later spit fire from your mouth.

  • Some places will make a fresh falafel with each order.
  • Some will make a big quantity and will let it sit under those red lights heating.
  • The red light one will be less tasty and less fresh.

Sometimes there are places which serve French fries inside the pita (which they call chips) to increase the calories and satiation. Some people will say it is a disgrace to the falafel.

If you drop the French fries and put a lot of salads and tahini, it can be even considered as a healthy dish.

In a pita will cost 10 -18 ILS,
In lafa will cost 15-20 ILS

Shawarma

This Middle Eastern dish has many names: Shawarma is the Arabic version, Gyros is the Greek version, Döner kebab is the Turkish version. Comes either in a pita or a lafa. Food of choice by the IDF soldiers.

Veganism is very popular in Israel. People who really missed eating shawarma opened a vegan shawarma place. it is made out of seitan.their location in Tel Aviv.
Some people say it is a disgrace to the shawarma.

Sabich

This dish was the traditional breakfast of the Iraqi Jews on Shabbat mornings. In Iraq it was served on a big plate, in Israel, they just put it all inside a pita and sell it as an Israeli street food.

The dish is basically many salads with spices, tahini, hummus, and amba. The main part of the dish is a lot of fried eggplant. In some versions, they put an egg inside and in some even potatoes. Gives a strong fight to the falafel as the king of the Israeli street food.

Usually a bit more expensive than falafel. Around 20 ILS.

How to choose a good Falafel place in Israel?

As mentioned above, the big differences between the Falafel/sabich/shawarma places are:

  • Are the salads are freshly made?.
  • Is the falafel/fried eggplants are freshly made?
  • Do they serve french fries for extra calories?

 The Hummus

Many things have been said about Israelis and how much they love their hummus. From the movie "Don't Mess with the Zohan":

(The movie is REALLY bad at describing Israelis stereotypes, except the hummus part of course)

Lebanon even tried to sue Israel over "stealing" their national food and making it an Israeli street food (they are just jealous, we make it better).

The Hummus place, ("Hummusia" חומוסייה in Hebrew).

Maybe you know hummus from back home as a paste or something which you add to a sandwich, in the Middle East, people also eat it as a dish for itself. It is served in a specific hummus places in which people come to sit and eat. A place which hummus is its main dish will have a much better hummus than restaurants who "also serves hummus". A hummus place is not just for eating, it is also a social place.  People come with their friends to chill and have talks and many times will have weekly meetings. Some of the new hummus places have a cool chill out atmosphere.

My favorite place is located next to Machne Yehuda in Jerusalem.

The Dish:

The basic hummus dish is usually the chickpeas dough combined with tahini and olive oil, the secret is about the spices and the portion between hummus/tahini. Most places have the options to add mushrooms/eggplants/eggs and more to the dish. There are two approaches of how the hummus should be served, hot or cold. The majority of the people I know prefer the hot version.

There are several styles to serve a hummus dish with all kind of names. Msabbaha and mashausha are more coarse versions in which the chickpeas are remains as a whole.

Hummus in a box from a supermarket:

Don't do that, it is a disgrace to the hummus.
Once you tried a hummus in a hummus place you don't go back. Maybe if there's a zombie apocalypse.

 Injera

Very popular in Jerusalem and South Tel Aviv. prices may ridiculously vary from place to place. This dish split between 2 people can be very satisfying and delicious. Slowly becomes popular as an Israeli street food.

What is Injera?

Injera is a traditional Ethiopian food. it is kind of a flat bread which is not made out of wheat but from teff. The injera is usually served with all kind of stews and salads on it. the stews are usually made out of lentils, chickpeas and more. The injera is the surface which upon the stews are served, the tool used for eating the stews as you take part of the injera and dip in in the stews, and it is also a food by itself.
Most places will have a version with meat and a vegetarian one.

The 6 Shekel Chains:

There are few coffee chains which sell stuff for 6 shekels. They sell many things which will suit you in almost any situation. Hot beverages like coffee, hot cacao, sahlav, and also Soft drinks and water.

Most important thing ice coffee which is a lifesaver during the hot Israeli summer. They also serve small sandwiches which are quite bad and pastry stuff, Usually, it is not in a good quality. More things they usually have:
small salads, ice creams, cookies, snacks and more.

The biggest chains are Cofix and Cofizz.

Middle Eastern Grill Restaurants

It is usually an actual restaurant,  not really an Israeli street food.  The concept of the place works like this: you order your meat of preference, usually as a Shish kebab. meanwhile, they will fill the table with tons of salads, hummus, tahini, eggplants, tabouleh, pitas, lafas and much more.

By the time the Shish kebab arrive, you will be so full you will barely eat it. Plan at least 3-hour rest after visiting one of those places. Very common in Arab places and actually in any big city around Israel.

And the main dish still hasn't arrived....

Most popular Israeli snacks:

Bamba- What each Israeli is made of

On the right the regular version. On the left the Nougat version.

IDF reserve eat Bamba on a break.

A snack made out of puffed corn covered with peanut butter. One out of every fourth snack bought in Israel is bamba. It is the snack which every Israeli was eating as a child and kinda still eats it as an adult. Israelis abroad often ask their friends to bring some bamba when they come to visit. 

A study suggests that bamba is the reason why peanut allergy barely exists in Israel.

Try the bamba filled with nougat version, one of the best choices you will make on your visit.

Bissli

The second most popular salty snack. The company manufacturing the snack was also specialized in making pasta if you take a closer look at the bissli, it looks exactly like a pasta. So it is basically a fried crunchy pasta covered with different flavors. Each flavor has a different shape.

Middle Eastern sweets

As you go through the country markets you will notice some of these calories bombs,  most of these sweets are originally from Turkey and Arab countries and are common all over the region. Very common in the Arab areas of Israel.

A short guide of how to get diabetes:

The orange noodles cover the goat cheese. below a baklava.

Kanafah

A layer of goat cheese covered with noodle threads dipped in sugar syrup and rose water. grained pistachio is spread on the top. In Jerusalem, there are versions of semolina dough instead of the noodle threads.  Some places will replace the goat cheese with regular cheese to reduce costs, make sure to try one with a goat cheese.

Baklava

Many versions, the base is filo layers filled with nuts, mainly pistachio and dipped in honey and sugar syrup.

Awameh

Arab version of doughnuts. It's a small pastry made out of deep fried dough dipped in..... well, sugar syrup and honey. It is popular during the Ramadan Iftar dinners.

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