When planning a holiday, there are many reasons one chooses to travel, especially a family vacation. Most of us like to travel abroad in the summer months, when the days are longer and warm and the air is light with a cool breeze, making the weather pleasant, giving us more time to explore the country as we immerse ourselves in its culture. The easiest way to do this is through food, which is a significant part of Israeli culture.
A nation that has absorbed a significant immigrant population, each being represented through culinary traditions which are integrated in the cuisine of their new Mediterranean home. Just like India, each region in Israel offers its own adapted regional cuisine which reach beyond the popular falafel sandwiches, shawarma or shakshuka (a hearty egg dish in tomato and pepper sauce) to tantalize your taste buds, which is evident in the many food markets in the country that are popular among locals and tourists alike.
Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem – A short walk from Jerusalem’s city centre is the Mahane Yehuda market, which should be a must on every traveller’s list, along with all the historic sites that are not to be missed in the Old City. During the day this loud and colourful market is full of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats and breads, coffee shops and much more. Merchants reel in customers and indulge in dialogues that form a backdrop to the positive energy resonating through the marketplace. In the evening see this market transform into a lively yet unconventional night spot, with bars featuring specialty drinks and live music, most with outdoor seating that will allow you to appreciate the “street-art” gallery on the store shutters. The ambiance, lively people, captivating street art, exceptional food and drinks make Mahane Yehuda trendy and special, so stop by a food joint while you walk down the street, dance a little while enjoying a drink and make your way to the next spot.
Tel Aviv Markets – When in Tel Aviv, do as the locals do. We know that’s not how the saying goes, but here you will find a blend of Asian and European influences in all aspects, beginning with food being sold on in street stalls, shops and restaurants. Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market) is open every day except on Saturdays, in observance of Shabbat, (the day of rest in Judaism). If you’re in the mood to bring a flare of Israeli food in to your kitchen by creating your own version (just like the Israelis do), visit the famous Levinsky Spice Market, where you will find a variety of fresh locals cheeses, breads and Mediterranean spices. Don’t be surprised to see Indian lentils and spices lining the shelves, so start up a conversation with the vendors and you may walk away with some prized family recipes!
Food in the North – For a more authentic experience within the smaller communities in Israel, visit the Druze villages in the Golan Heights region in the north of the country. Indulge in the cultural experiences through their version of pita bread or labaneh. Visit the town of Nazareth, for their version of an authentic biblical meal or, what some locals call, the best knafeh (cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup). If you crave a fine dining experience, visit the many restaurants or world renowned chefs in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or the resort city of Eilat and savour their creative fusions.
Cheese, Food, Wine and Beer – Cottage industries of cheese making, boutique wineries and breweries have sprung up all over the country offering seasonal and artisanal products alongside traditional food items presenting an opportunity to expand your food experiences at affordable prices. Local wineries, winning awards in Europe, usually pair their wines with local cheeses, fresh vegetables, breads, or a combination of all when you book a wine tour. If a wine tour isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy a sumptuous Mediterranean meal paired with a delicious wine at wineries’ restaurants. Along with wines, Israel also boasts a strong beer culture, with local breweries offering up a wide variety locally brewed IPAs (India Pale Ales), ciders and stouts, or the more conventional lagers and malts.
Twenty-first Century Food Culture – As in many countries today, Israel has joined in the developing trend of farm to table conscious eating alongside newer nutritional trends like vegetarianism, veganism and gluten free diets. While the delectable locally grown olives and the healthy olive oil is a staple in many homes, farmer’s markets are growing in popularity like the one in the old Tel Aviv Port. Ethnic condiments, spices, old world traditions and everything in between have turned Israel into an international destination for culinary arts. The restaurant style here ranges from family style to top rated chef restaurants with the common denominator being seasonal products and delicious dishes so when in Israel you will create food experiences that are likely to last a lifetime, Be-Te’avon (Good Appetite). Enjoy!