Israel Trip: The Food

I'm not a food blogger, I'm no chef, I'm not even that great of a cook, and I probably won't do a very good job of describing the food we had on our trip (yummy, tasty, and good, are kind of weak descriptives, I know).  But I *do* like to eat, and I'm willing to try just about anything, so I was excited to see what the food was going to be like in Israel.

Israeli Bread Cart

In a word: FRESH

Everything we had seemed to be fresh, whole, and made from real ingredients.  And if I do a terrible job of describing the food, maybe at least you can see it, and imagine what it might taste like.

Israeli Vegetable Stand

I'm not going to be able to remember the names of everything we had, and I don't have photos of it all, so this post will be kind of a mash of photos, recipe links and reviews of anything food-related on our trip.  Don't mind the madness...just roll with me, wherever I go...

The first night at Cafe Hillel (and with many of our other meals) we had a typical Israeli Salad, mainly consisting of cucumber & tomatoes chopped diced into small pieces.  Israeli food is chopped very very small.  Time consuming, I'm sure...but it makes for a great texture. It looked something like this:


I ordered a Laffa Sabich, which is a wrapped sandwich with fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs and tahini sauce.  This is not a photo of the one I had (it's shown in a pita, rather than a Laffa, which looks more like a tortilla), but it has similar ingredients. Tasty. And the Laffa bread was SO SO SO good.  Ben had a similar wrap called a Laffa Kebab, made with meat and vegetables.

Laffa Sabich - Eggplant, Hard Boiled Egg & Tahini

Coke Zero - The Arabic version.  *Loved* that Coke Zero was available most places we went.

Coke Zero - Arabic

Pickled olives, beets, carrots and cauliflower seemed to be pretty common additions to shawarma and falafel pita pockets.

Israeli pickled vegetables

We *very* much enjoyed our lamb shawarma pitas in the Christian Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem.

Kebob Shewarma

Shawarma & Falafel Cafe in Christian Quarter, Jerusalem

Shawarma Kebob

At Tmol Shilshom, in downtown Jerusalem, we tried traditional shakshouka, which is the namesake for my Aunt Rachel & Uncle Chuck's band "Shakshuka."  It seemed fitting to try it in Israel with Uncle Chuck. 


Basically, it's poached eggs in a tomato based sauce served in an iron skillet. 

I had the "green shakshuka" which is evidently very NON traditional, which was basically a poached egg and spinach, lightly seasoned with some slices of soft cheese of some kind.

Green Shakshuka

Honestly, it tasted kind of bland, and it wasn't NEARLY filling enough for me -- at least not that day, which was the morning we had run the hills of Jerusalem and visited Yad Vashem.  Ben's traditional version was much better tasting. Though, if I'm being honest...still a little odd.  It seemed kind of like breakfast spaghetti without noodles.  I think I need to try another recipe of it sometime.  Aunt Rachel...maybe next summer we can try your favorite recipe?

And again...Coke Zero - in Hebrew this time.

Coke Zero - Hebrew

Walking through the open market was not only beautiful, it was a great place to get a look at lots of different foods, even if we couldn't try them all.  It was a good representation of the types of foods that are popular in the area.

Israeli Market

These little snack-sized sandwiches and rolls looked REALLY good to me.  I don't know what was in them, but I would have really enjoyed a sampler platter.  We didn't get one though...we were just walking by.

Lots and lots of spices...


Fresh fish...

Fish Market - Israel


Nuts in Israeli Market

Dried fruits and seeds...

Dried Fruit in Israeli Market

Cheese and wine...

Cheese & Wine

And lots and lots of flavors of tahini...


At the wedding, the buffet was full of all different kinds of salads, grilled vegetables, meats and potatoes. 

Israeli Wedding Buffet

I think this was probably my favorite meal, with the most variety and really good flavors.  It didn't hurt that had plenty of meat!  Since we ate in mostly kosher restaurants, we ended up eating a lot of vegetarian meals, which were very good, but not always as filling as I would have liked.  On the up-side, with all the activity and healthier meals, I lost several pounds over the week. :)

One of the restaurants we tried was called Focaccia Bar, and served all kinds of different foods on foccacia bread.  We ordered a kebab focaccia and a roast beef focaccia.  This is the roast beef version.  It had spinach, roast beef, horseradish sauce, and a poached egg in the center of it.  Sort of strange, but actually, it was pretty good.


On the kebab focaccia (which I'm holding in the photo below), there were a variety of vegetables and lamb meat that seemed kind of like little mini-burgers on top of a pizza. 

As I ate one bite of the kebab focaccia though, I noticed some heat coming from where my slice had touched this pepper.  I like spicy, and it was just the juices of the pepper on my piece, so I didn't think much of it.

But Ben, on the other hand, ate a quarter of the pepper in one swift bite--regretably.  he was expecting a green chile or a sweet pepper I think, which makes sense.  It was a giant pepper on top of the focaccia.  Nope.  It was some crazy-hot super-pepper.  He actually had tears running down his face and was stealing fries off of Grandma's plate and trying to drink anything he could to cool the fire in his mouth.  It took him about 30 minutes before he said he felt normal again. I've never seen him react to anything spicy quite like that -- and we make an annual date to go to the Chuy's Green Chile Festival every year, just for the heat of those peppers!

It doesn't matter what the name of the restaurant was.  We'll always remember it as the place that Ben nearly died from the "hot pepper" - which was the only translation our waiter could give us for the type of pepper it was.  As Papa Tom would say "Ay chiwowa!".

At the Lebanese restaurant near Ginosar, by the Sea of Galillee, we had hummus (YUM) and pita bread as an appetizer.  That's pretty common, kind of like a basket of bread at an Italian restaurant or chips & salsa at a Mexican restaurant.

Also common as appetizers are these little pickled green olives.  They were very sour.  Not my thing. I prefer black olives.

Ben and I like to order two dishes and split them, so we get to try more things.  One of the plates we ordered was this lamb meat stuffed zucchini with a yogurt sauce. It was kind of so-so.  Needed more salt and seasonings I think.

Grandma ordered a chicken wrap of some sort -- she always seemed to have the biggest portion on her plate of food.  Evidently she orders big! :)

And Grandpa's lunch looked super tasty.  Wish I could remember what it was...

The other plate Ben and I ordered was "Saint Peter's Fish", you know, since we were at the Sea of Galilee and all.  I didn't realize that meant the entire fish would be served on my plate--head, skin and all. 

Oh well!  I dug in anyway!  And it tasted good, even if it was a little bony.  I believe it was tilapia.

For dinner that night, we drove all the way to Tel Aviv/Jaffa and ate at a cafe called Puah.  Ben ordered a *really* tasty chicken curry dish that looked something like the one in the photo below.  I found myself stealing bites of his food the whole meal.  I'm so gonna figure out how to make this at home.  I think it may actually be thai food though, not necessarily Israeli.

{source} <-- go to this page, lots of great Israeli food pics!

At Yad Mordechai, when we visited Yasmin, we had lunch at her house, which consisted of two types of baked fish - salmon and some other white fish, Israeli salad, and rice.  Plus several dessert cookies.  Evidently, I was too hungry to take photos of any of that.

Plus, we came home with Yad Mordechai olive oil and honey.  The honey is fabulous! Haven't tried the olive oil yet.

At Shabbat dinner at Aunt Judi's house, she had an unbelievable spread of food for us.  This was just the salad buffet.

There was also a whole meat buffet of food on the other side of the table, plus several cakes and fancy moroccan cookies for dessert.  These weren't the actual cookies at the party, but they look similar.  You'd think they'd be super sweet, but actually, they seemed to be flavored with honey, nuts, and mild flavors, so they weren't overwhelmingly sweet.  The teeny sizes, wide variety and the "prettiness" of each of them sure did make it hard not to eat 5 at once though.


And finally, on our way to the airport, we got to have some falafel.  It was fresh, the first batch of the night (they were just opening up after Shabbat), and it was VERY tasty - the perfect "fast food" satisfication. 

I added tahini sauce, eggplant, zucchini, pickles and cabbage to mine, but skipped the carrots.  They were spicy, which I learned from one of the carrot salads at Shabbat.  Tasty, but too much for right before a 10 hour flight. :) 

But the falafel itself was the best part.  Makes me want to go eat one now. 


It was interesting how even though there was often a lot of food available, it was almost all very low in fats, sugars, and carbohydrates (with the exception of the pita & breads).  Mostly, we ate vegetables, fruits and nuts for a week, and it was great!

Now we just have to find some good mediteranean food restaurants and grocery stores around Birmingham.  If we can just get our hands on some GOOD pita and laffa, I think we can recreate a few of our favorites.  I've already had several places recommended from some local Palestinian and Armenian friends.

Writing this post has made me hungry. I've been writing it for 2 days, and I don't think I've stopped eating since I started.  How do food bloggers not eat CONSTANTLY?

And there it is folks.  Our trip to Israel. Documented.  Now I can relive it anytime I want. Until maybe we go again....

Israel Trip Wrap-Up:

  1. Israel Trip: Getting Ready to Go
  2. Israel Trip: Layover in Chicago
  3. Israel Trip: Traveling Across the World
  4. Israel Trip: Jerusalem - The Old City
  5. Israel Trip: Bethlehem & West Bank
  6. Israel Trip: Yad Vashem & Ben Yehuda Street
  7. Israel Trip: An Israeli Wedding
  8. Israel Trip: Mount of Olives
  9. Israel Trip: City of David
  10. Israel Trip: Sea of Galillee
  11. Israel Trip: Kibbutz, Gaza & Shabbat
  12. Israel Trip: Dead Sea & Ein Gedi
  13. Israel Trip: The Food

1 comment so far:

T. Coleman said:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your experience. I don't know if I will ever make it to visit, but this blog has certainly made me feel more comfortable about the possibility of it. I recently discovered I am half Palestinian (family from Bir Nabala) and I am so happy to be able to find web sites such as this to help me visualize the area.

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