In Food/ Middle East

Experience Tel Aviv’s Iconic Carmel Market: A Taste of Israeli Cuisine

Welcome to Israel – Palestine! A historically peaceful region that’s never in the news nor generating polarizing opinions or Internet commentators aggressively posting flag emojis.

If only.

In reality, few things are as divisive as Israel and Palestine. So let’s start with something we can all agree on. And that is, nothing that I post over the course of the upcoming videos will completely satisfy any particular perspective… except my own––a 30-something-year-old guy with the privileged power of an American passport.

First up, we’ll head to Tel Aviv for a tour through the Carmel Market with Peninah Myerson at Delicious Israel. Then it’s over to Jerusalem where culinary historian, Joel Haber, shares some Jewish flavors at the Machanep Yehudah Market I’ve never before tasted. From there, we head to Checkpoint 300 to cross into Bethlehem, Palestine for a walk along the wall and to stay at Banky’s Walled Off Hotel.

Tel Aviv. You’d be forgiven for thinking you landed in South Beach… if not for the incredible amount of Israeli flags out on display. Whoever’s in the flag business is making some pretty serious coin. Or shekel, rather.

Our first order of business is meeting with Peninah, a tour guide with Delicious Israel who relatively recently made aliyah or immigrated to Israel from London. She leads us through the Carmel Market, a shuk established in the 1920s.

More than anything, and this might be the greatest culinary surprise of the trip, it was the Israeli dates that knocked my socks off the most.

Dates might be a good source of energy. But in lieu of that, you could just spend five seconds with Irit, who’s been making lachuch, a kind of Yemenite pancake, for 30 some odd years in this kitchen next to her home. Home cooks might recognize her from the pages of Adeena Sussman’s “Sababa.”

Not only do I feel at home, I think I’ve found my new hangover cure.

Next it’s time to let the onslaught of carbs begin with a stop at Panda Pita. Panda himself, Idan Fainburg, tells the story of his business in the video above. But suffice it to say… I love falafel. I love sabich. But I would not hate it if Panda Pita made its way to Berlin.

The next stop is Shlomo & Doron Hummus where fourth-generation owner, Elad, came in and brought his own spin to hummus. He has an admittedly “heretical” point of view when it comes to hummus. He says, on its own, it’s boring. In the video, he explains how he livened up the hummus experience.

Now how about… More carbs? More pita!? It’s Sabich Tchernichovsky for us for that quintessential Israeli blend of Jewish cultures in a pita––fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, parsley, tahini, and amba, a pickled mango sauce brought over by Indian Jews to top off an Iraqi Jewish pita.

And the icing on the cake is… No cake. But something even better from Hamalabiya––malabi.

What is Israeli food?

So we’ve perused some spices, had some dates, and noshed on lachuch, pita, hummus, and sabich. What brings it all together? What is Israeli food?

Peninah gives her thoughts in the video. But in short, she says it’s a reflection of the various diasporic Jewish cultures that have since returned to the land of Israel.

Next time, we take the train to Jerusalem to try some Jewish dishes I’ve never heard of before with Jewish culinary historian, Joel Haber, at the Mechaneh Yehuda Market.

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