GF = gluten free
Those who aren’t used to traveling and those with less than adventurous palettes often ask about the food in the Holy Land. Is it good? What kinds of dishes will we be eating? What if I have dietary restrictions? Not only do pilgrims often rave about the food, but they are also able to eat vegetarian or gluten-free quite easily in the region. Vicky Philpott shares her experience:
The food in Israel is reason enough to visit the country. I gained at least 6 pounds during my week sampling the best of what the country had to offer my taste buds. This is actually not the easiest thing to do as the food in Israel is so healthy – fresh veggies, fruit courses, fish over meat and goat milk as standard. So really, I should be proud of myself!
All the food I tried in Israel tasted so much fresher than what I’m used to in England. All the fish comes from Israeli waters, the vegetables are grown here and go straight to market, and as the seasons change, so do the menus in the restaurants.
Hummus Masabacha / Kawarma
Hummus – it’s the most prevalent dish in Israeli cuisine, and we all know what goes well with hummus, right? Bread. Delicious, hot pita bread served in paper bags to keep it warm while you dip the part you tore off. If you’re gluten free, you can always try it with vegetables like cucumber or carrots.
Israeli cuisine doesn’t just feature any old hummus though, you need to try the hummus masabacha. This is when it’s garnished with whole chickpeas, paprika and lemon-spiked tahini on top. Or you could try the hummus kawarma – hummus garnished with lamb mince, onions and parsley. GF
You’ll find it on many restaurant menus, particularly those at the budget end of the spectrum. In Israel it’s cheaper to go out and buy falafel than it is to try and make it at home. Made from fava beans, chickpeas, or a combination of the two, a traditional falafel feast will be served with all the trimmings, including the aforementioned hummus, pink pickled turnips, pita bread, traditional Israeli salad and pickles, too.
Falafel can be gluten free if it’s made with chickpea flour. However, some use a piece of white bread in their ingredients as a binding agent. It’s always safest to ask your server.
Tahini is at the core of some of the best and most traditional dishes in Israel – from hummus to date products, to shawarma (like a kebab), chalba and salads. The tahini comes from nigella seeds and is sold in high volumes thanks to the demand. Along with olive oil and garlic, tahini makes up the trinity of the fundamental ingredients of Israeli food. Whether you’re aware of it or not, I can guarantee you’ll try it while you’re in Israel. GF
Kanafeh is a Levantine Arabic dish, which is very popular as a dessert in Israel. It’s basically a cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup. First, you take the pastry and heat it in butter. Next, you spread a white, soft cheese like Nabulsi cheese or goat’s cheese on top. Then, you layer it with more pastry. Most people will add a drop of rose water or orange blossom during the final few minutes. When it’s ready to serve, you pour syrup over the top.
Aubergine, or eggplant, is a core dish of Israeli cuisine. Whether it’s tahini-laced, smoked, lined with yogurt or some sort of mixture of all three, you’ll find it in any traditional Israeli breakfast, and most likely lunch and dinner too. Eggplant can be served as a delight in itself (just char the skins), but in Israel, you’ll often see it served in baba ganoush as well. This is simply aubergine mixed with tahini, lemon juice, garlic and whatever other flavors you want to add. It’s served with bread of course. GF
Shakshuka is the traditional breakfast fare in Israel. It reminded me of western-style huevos rancheros since it involved a mix of peppers, tomatoes and coriander served hot as a nest for the eggs to cook in. One of the most popular ways to eat breakfast in Israel is to go for an Israeli buffet breakfast; this way you’ll be served the shakshuka and get to try everything on the side too. GF
Bread comes with every meal in Israel – walnut bread, pita bread, taboon pastries – but make sure to try the Lechem bread. The best and most meaningful place to try this is at a traditional Shabbat dinner in someone’s home. The bread is broken at the start of the meal before the customary feasting begins.
Meatballs and Sweet Potatoes
These meatballs at the Han Manoli restaurant in Jaffa, Tel Aviv were amazing. Nothing like heavy balls of fat, these plump balls were a taste sensation. Order them with baked sweet potato alongside some fresh goat yogurt for a traditional yet hearty meal. This is often gluten free, but check with your server to make sure.
Original post here.
You can try all these foods on a Franciscan Holy Land Pilgrimage. Leave as early as September, go on a special Christmas Pilgrimage, or book a trip for Holy Week 2019!