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Shwarma, Felafel, and Hummus, Oh My!

12-27-2012 / By: Easy Life

In a rule of thumb, Jews are known for their infatuation towards eating and Israelis are no exception. With immigrants from countries around the world, the cuisine itself is as diverse as the people, with unlimited food offerings available.  And despite a plethora of differences with Israel’s neighbors, food is the furthest from one of them. Its no surprise that felafel and shwarma are one of the most popular choices for food in Israel.

With so many of its citizens originating in Arab countries and fleeing to Israel before and after 1948, Israelis are huge consumers of the same foods that the surrounding countries love:  humus, falafel, pita, and of course, shawarma.  Popular Israeli food is characteristically simple. A typical lunch in Israel is schnitzel, falafel, or shwarma with different side salads, including hummus and tahini, and served with rice or mashed potatoes, and vegetables.  

It’s hard to miss a shwarma and/or falafel stand in most Israeli cities. You can spot a food stand on almost every corner on Israeli streets. Around midday, you’ll notice a long line forming behind these booths. While falafel and shwarma are not Israel’s proclaimed national food, its ease of eating on-the-go makes it a popular and filling part of the Israeli diet, and of course, that of tourists as well.

Falafel is the most common and affordable street food is served in pita bread (full or half) along with salad, pickles and Tehina. Falafel balls are usually made of either hummus (chick peas) or ful (broad beans) seeds mixed with parsley and some spices. The falafel, like the hummus, is basically chickpeas that are made into balls and deep fried. Usually the falafel is served in pita bread with a bunch of salads that you can stuff together.

In Israel (unlike other places such as Turkey) Shwarma is made of turkey meat, and is usually served in pita bread or lafa along with salad, Tehina and pickles. The shwarma is a famous dish throughout the Middle East, and Israel is no exception. It is made out of cut lamb or beef, but more usually turkey. The falafel and shawarma are often sold at the same stand or restaurant. Shawarma meat is typically shaved off a large rotating cone of layered meat. The meat is roasted with radiant gas or electric heat. Pieces of meat are sliced off and served in a folded pita with garnishes and condiments.

Hummus is a very important part of Israeli culture and cuisine and the ‘best hummus’ is a term that is thrown about all the time. Everybody has their favorite hummus restaurant which is also the ‘best hummus’ restaurant! There are a number, however, which are particularly well regarded across the country. For a lot of people, the idea of hummus being a meal or a dish in itself might be a little confusing; however, hummus restaurants in Israel will serve hummus in a dish, with a range of toppings, and pita bread. It is a traditional food, affordable, and very tasty.

And of course, every meal must be balanced out with salad.Israeli salad is an array of chopped vegetables consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, fresh lemon juice, quality olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning. In Israel, people enjoy salad with every meal. Yes, that includes breakfast. It’s a cultural thing, but it also could be because the produce is so fresh, and the vegetables grown here are incredibly flavorful. Israeli salad is served throughout the country, in restaurants, cafיs, hotels; food stands, shopping mall food courts, and of course, in a lot of homes.

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