Greetings, fellow food adventurers! If you’ve ever wondered where to embark on a gastronomic journey that’s as diverse as it is delectable, look no further than Tel Aviv, the multicultural food capital of Israel. In this article, we’ll take you on a flavorful ride through the streets of this vibrant city, where every corner offers a new culinary surprise.
The Hummus Haven: Abu Hassan
When it comes to hummus, Tel Aviv isn’t just good; it’s legendary. And at the heart of this hummus renaissance lies Abu Hassan, a beloved establishment that has perfected the art of chickpea-based delights. Khalil Karawan, the torchbearer of this hummus empire, measures his chickpeas in tonnes, not grams or kilos! Imagine the demand! This place has come a long way since its humble food cart origins in the 1950s. Today, it serves thousands of plates daily across three locations in the ancient district of Jaffa.
So, what’s their secret? Khalil shares it with pride, “Our way is special; no one knows how to make hummus like us.” They start cooking the first batches at 4 am, ensuring they’re ready when they open at 7 am. The result? Creamy masabacha, hummus studded with whole chickpeas, parsley, paprika, and a glinting of lemon-hued oil. And, at Khalil’s insistence, don’t forget to dress it up with pickled chili sauce for that final zesty kick.
But Tel Aviv offers more than just chickpea dip; it’s a culinary laboratory where global flavors converge.
A Melting Pot of Culinary Delights
Tel Aviv, founded in 1909, seamlessly blends old-world charm with modern skyscrapers. Just as the city fuses the past and present, its food scene acts as a melting pot, thanks to immigration from around the world. From world-class sushi to New York-style brasseries, this city has it all. And there’s no better time to dive into this culinary mosaic than on a Friday, as locals celebrate before the start of Shabbat.
As you wander through the vibrant streets of Jaffa, you’ll encounter a world of flavors. Iraqi sabich, a pitta sandwich loaded with fried eggplant, boiled egg, and tahini, competes for your attention with Persian malabi, a milky pudding topped with rosewater jelly. Don’t forget to try Hungarian sweet pastries filled with poppy-seed paste. Every bite is a journey across continents.
As you venture away from the city’s core, you’ll find yourself in Florentin, a bohemian neighborhood where the air is filled with the fragrant aroma of spices like za’atar and cumin. Bars buzz with patrons sipping cocktails, getting ready for Shabbat dinners with their families. Then, you’ll stroll along Rothschild Boulevard, where modern art meets fine dining.
But the real gem is Carmel Market, the city’s main produce hub. Here, elderly ladies haggle over oranges, students point excitedly at blocks of halva, and couples fill bags with pickled herring and smoked salmon. It’s not just a place to shop; it’s a hub of casual meals. Yemenite soup, rich beef broths served at Shimon the King of Soups in Carmel Market, is an all-you-can-eat delight.
A Butcher’s Pride
As the day unfolds, the market gets ready to close. It’s time to meet chef Jonathan Borowitz at Meat Market, where he sources premium Israeli meat and dry-ages it to perfection. This dedication to quality has earned him a reputation as a pioneer. His grill restaurant, M25, offers a tantalizing menu that includes savory beef heart, tender cured tongue, and the crowd-pleaser, arayes, pitta bread stuffed with juicy lamb mince and grilled to perfection.
Jonathan’s culinary journey isn’t just about food; it’s about preserving traditions and introducing forgotten dishes to the Tel Aviv food lexicon. His arayes, borrowed from Palestinian cuisine, became a city-wide obsession.
As the sun sets over Tel Aviv, you’ll realize that this city is not just a destination for food lovers; it’s a place where culinary dreams come true. Whether you’re sipping beers at a street-side patio or savoring the last bites of a Friday in Tel Aviv, the memories you make here will be as rich and diverse as the flavors themselves.
So, next time you find yourself in the vibrant streets of Tel Aviv, remember to explore its culinary tapestry. From hummus that’s measured in tonnes to savory burek and unforgettable arayes, this city has something for every palate.
Published in the October 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK), this article is your passport to the world of Tel Aviv’s culinary delights. Don’t just read about it; go taste it for yourself!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Culinary Diversity
Q: What makes Abu Hassan’s hummus so special?
A: Abu Hassan’s hummus stands out due to its unique preparation, starting with cooking batches at 4 am daily. The result is creamy, flavorful hummus that’s a cut above the rest.
Q: Can I find international cuisine in Tel Aviv?
A: Absolutely! Tel Aviv’s culinary scene is a melting pot of global flavors, offering everything from world-class sushi to New York-style brasseries.
Q: What is Yemenite soup, and where can I try it?
A: Yemenite soup is a rich beef broth that’s a lunchtime specialty. You can savor it at Shimon the King of Soups in Carmel Market, where top-ups are free.
Q: Who is Chef Jonathan Borowitz, and what is his culinary philosophy?
A: Chef Jonathan Borowitz is known for sourcing premium Israeli meat and introducing forgotten dishes to Tel Aviv’s food scene. His philosophy is all about preserving traditions and serving top-notch quality.
Q: What are some must-try dishes in Tel Aviv?
A: Don’t miss the legendary hummus at Abu Hassan, Yemenite soup at Shimon the King of Soups, savory burek at Leon Bakery, and arayes at Meat Market. Finish with a sweet treat like halva or malabi.
Q: When is the best time to experience Tel Aviv’s culinary scene?
A: Friday is an ideal day to explore Tel Aviv’s culinary delights, as locals go out to celebrate before the start of Shabbat, creating a vibrant and festive atmosphere.
Q: Are there fine dining options in Tel Aviv?
A: Yes, you can enjoy fine dining at places like George & John, Chef’s Table at R48, and The Restaurant at Hotel Montefiore, offering a blend of Mediterranean, Asian, and American flavors.