When Jenn and Jim were in town after Christmas, we scheduled a food tour at Carmel Market here in Tel Aviv. One of my favorite things is a food tour (the combo of culture, history and food is hard to trump!) and this is where I do most of my grocery shopping, so I felt like I knew the market and the surrounding alleys pretty well. I didn’t. This tour was amazing and showed me some real gems that I had never before noticed. So, here’s a small taste of what we saw and ate…
Our group gathered here at the main entrance to the shuk. From people-watching to live, local musicians playing at all hours of the day, you are never short of entertainment at this spot. Our first stop was at a raw juice bar where we tested some homemade concoctions that were lively, interesting and…mostly delicious. Then, the store purveyor opened the good stuff…what we now call booger lotion. Haha. It is this crazy stuff that he had us rub in our noses and POW! all of the sudden, you could breathe better. The guy was super entertaining, especially when he couldn’t keep his hands off of Jim!
From there, we wandered across the street to the self-proclaimed “only authentic Israeli food”, Sabich (pronounced sa-beek). Israel doesn’t have an original cuisine- its a new country full of many cultures and immigrants, literally from all over the world. They each bring their own food to the table, figuratively speaking, so Israeli food is a mash-up of all of that. Sabich, however, claims to be their ace. It came about when a bus driver, named Sabich, pulled out his lunch of last night’s leftovers stuffed into a pita and the sandwich was born. It has too many vegetables to name (and to count!) as well as a hard egg all thrown in with some sauce and its actually delicious- the line out the door at all hours would affirm that.
We tried some interesting Arab spices at this stall. Jenn and Jim didn’t love them, but we may have acquired a taste for a handful of new things here that heavily use this stuff so we partook and even enjoyed. We also snuck into a place that serves Turkish Sephardic malabi, a sweet mixture of sugar, dairy, cornstarch and rose water topped with crushed nuts and coconut. It was subtle and so good!
This place though…oh my goodness. It was hummus redefined in every magical way it can be. Truth be told, up to this point, we haven’t varied off the traditional hummus path because we didn’t even know another path existed. And now I cannot look at hummus the same way ever again. To begin with, they only serve hummus, which, turns out, can be eaten and is eaten for a main meal all of the time in Israel! This guy (who inherited this cafe from his father) served us shakshuka hummus, Balkan hummus and, the piece de resistance, Mexican hummus. I cannot even…it was so good. Want to know a hummus secret? If you cut up a yellow onion and dip it into hummus, it completely takes away the bitter taste of the onion. We learned that here. Yum.
We were all blown away…and as you can tell, I get passionate about good food.
Next stop was at the cutest old lady’s house that serves toasty (ie fried) homemade Armenian bread stuffed with egg and cheese and topped with a salsa. We were all stuffed at this point, but it was so good. And, she basically threw us a dance party for the 10 minutes we were there. It was so funny.
This cute girl was our tour guide and she did such an awesome job showing us around the market. Tour was Delicious Israel, if you want to check it out.
We wandered down the main thoroughfare while indulging in strawberries, which luckily for us, are a winter fruit here. They are so delicious. Really, all of the produce here is amazingly fresh since most of it is grown right here in Israel (mostly due to being surrounded by countries who don’t necessarily get along with you). You can get a few things from Europe, but they are so outrageously priced ($12 for a small clam of raspberries…no thanks!) so we stick to the local fare.
We finished off with some gelato at a local Italian-owned place that does unique combinations of flavors. I think I had a pear and goat cheese with pistachio cone and it was perfection. The tour was perfection too,