Found in: Israeli cuisine
Israeli cuisine is a very diverse cuisine consisting of local dishes as well as foods brought to Israel by immigrants from around the world. Large elements of Arab cuisine such as falafel, Shakshouka, Cous Cous, Israeli Salad (adapted from the Palestinian staple salad) and hummus have become synonymous with Israeli cuisine. The question of whether there is a distinctive Israeli cuisine has thus been a source of debate.
One of the few foods considered to be a unique culinary contribution is ptitim, which is sometimes referred to by chefs as "Israeli couscous." Ptitim were invented in the early days of the state when rice was scarce. Israel's prime minister, David Ben-Gurion asked the Osem company to devise a wheat-based substitute.
Defining Israel's cuisine
Like many nations built up of immigrants from around the world, there is a large debate over whether an Israeli cuisine actually exists at all. Many believe that because Israel is a new state which does not have a long tradition of cooking. Because many of the dishes which are currently considered Israeli originate from Arab cuisine, and the cuisines from the countries from which the Jews immigrated to Israel, to some Israeli cuisine is just a fusion of styles from around the world, with no apparent unique aspect.
In contrast, many do assert that Israel does have its own cuisine. They argue that many cuisines influence each other and "borrow" dishes from others. This can be seen across the Asian cuisines for example, whilst what some countries consider to be their national foods, actually originate in other countries. For example the hamburger, sausages, pizza and French fries of the United States have their origins in Germany, Italy and Belgium. Many dishes in Israel cannot be found in other countries, however, most notably, when there are mixtures of combinations of elements of the Middle Eastern and European cuisines such as goulash and couscous.
Whether or not Israel does have its own cuisine the two main currents in the food which could be seen as Israeli Cuisine, are the foods originating from the Israeli-Mizrahi culture and the traditional Israeli cuisine.
Israeli-Mizrahi cuisine features grilled meats, puff pastries (sweet and savory), rice dishes, stuffed vegetables, pita breads and salads. There are many similarities to Arab cuisine.
Salads - A wide variety of salads, or meze, is often set out on the table before the main course. Hummus, tahini (known in Israel as techina), matbucha red pepper salad, Moroccan carrot salad, a finely diced tomato and cucumber salad , coleslaw and various eggplant salads are common. A liver-flavored eggplant salad invented during the Austerity period is still a popular dish.
Spicy dips - Skhug brought to Israel by Yemenite Jews, Harissa brought by Tunisian and North African Jews, and Pilpelchuma brought by Libyan Jews, are different hot sauces made from chili peppers and garlic.
Amba - Indian and Iraqi Jews introduced amba, a pickled mango sauce that is spooned over shwarma and felafel.
Labneh - A soft white cheese with a slightly sour taste derived from the Arab kitchen.
Pita - Sometimes called the national bread of Israel, pita is a soft, round bread that can be halved and stuffed with felafel, salads or various meats. Bits of pita can be torn off and used to scoop up creamy spreads like hummus or eggplant salad. Schnitzel, or steak in pita are said to be an Israeli invention. Lafa is a flat pita that is rolled up with a felafel or shwarma filling.
Shakshouka - A spicy egg and tomato dish, popular amongst the Palestinians.
Fried snacks such as felafel, kibbeh, Moroccan cigars and pastelim (spicy fried pastries) hail from various Middle Eastern countries.
Soups - Bean soup and lentil soup are Mizrahi favorites.
Pastries - Bourekas brought to Israel by Jews from Turkey and the Balkans are very popular. Malawach and the Jachnun were introduced by the Yemenite Jews.
Sandwiches - Sabich is an Iraqi pita sandwich stuffed with eggplant, hard boiled eggs and techina. Fricassee is a fried roll stuffed with tuna, cooked potatoes and matbucha brought from Tunisia.
Grilled meat - Kebab and shashlik are popular, as is Jerusalem mixed grill.
Shwarma came to Israel from Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. Traditionally it was made from lamb but in Israel turkey is more common.
Fish - Fried, grilled and baked fish is often served whole, with the head intact. Hraime , fish baked in hot pepper sauce, is served in many Mizrahi households in honor of Shabbat.
Hummus, chips and salad - The most common accompaniments to food served in a pita. The addition of french fries seems to be exclusive to Israel.
Mujadara - A popular rice and lentil dish derived from Palestinian and Lebanese cuisine (known in Israel as "mejadra")
Desserts - Baklava is a sweet Turkish pastry often served as dessert, along with small cups of Turkish coffee, in Middle Eastern restaurants.
Halva - This Turkish sweet, made from techina and sugar, is popular in Israel and used to make original desserts like halva parfait.
Black Coffee - Sometimes served with Cardamom.
Many ethnic dishes have been incorporated in Israeli cuisine.
East European dishes include chicken soup, schnitzel and chopped liver, Gefilte fish and Kugel. "Jerusalem Kugel" made with caramelized sugar and spiced with black pepper is a speciality of Ashkenazi Jews in Jerusalem. The first Israeli patisseries were opened by Ashkenazi Jews, who popularized cakes and pastries popular in central Europe, such as Sabrina and strudel. Holiday pastries in Israel are the Sufganiya, eaten on Hanukkah and the Hamantash, eaten on Purim.
North African dishes popular in Israel include couscous, mafrum, shakshouka, Matbucha, Moroccan carrot salad and Chraime.
Balkan foods incorporated in Israeli cuisine are bourekas, yoghurt and taramosalata.
Yemenite foods include jachnun, malawach, skhug, saluf and kubane.
Iraqi dishes popular in Israel include amba, various types of kubbeh, Sambusac, sabich and pickled vegetables.
Chamin is a traditional Sabbath dish prepared by Jews all over the world in countless variations. The basic ingredients are meat and beans or rice simmered overnight on a hotplate or placed in a slow oven before lighting the candles on Friday night.
Cholent - East European Shabbat stew usually containing chunks of meat, potatoes, onions, barley and beans.
Schina - Chamin of the Morocco Jews.
Tebit - Chamin of chicken and rice of the Iraqi Jews.
Israeli cuisine on Passover
The laws of the holiday of Passover add further dietary restrictions. Restaurants in Israel have come up with creative alternatives using potato starch and other non-standard ingredients to create pasta, hamburger buns, pizza, and other fast foods in kosher-for-Passover versions.
Israeli snack foods
Two main Israeli invented snack foods are "Bamba" and "Bisli". Bamba is a soft peanut-flavored snack food and Bisli is crunchy and comes in various flavors, including BBQ, pizza, falafel and onion.
"Krembo" is also very popular in Israel. It is sold only in the winter, and is very popular as an alternative to ice-cream. It comes wrapped in colorful aluminum foil, and consists of a round biscuit base covered with a dollop of marshmallow cream coated in chocolate.
Cuisine of the Sephardic Jews