Discovering the Traditional Middle Eastern Cuisine of Jerusalem: Falafel, Hummus, and More
If you’ve ever heard of Middle Eastern food, then chances are you’ve heard of Jerusalem.
Home to some of the most delicious and unique dishes in the world, such as falafel, hummus, shakshuka, and more, the city of Jerusalem is known for its traditional Middle Eastern cuisine.
From the lively markets where locals gather to shop for the freshest ingredients, to the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving up classic dishes, the city of Jerusalem is a foodie’s paradise.
The History of Middle Eastern Food in Jerusalem
Jerusalem has a rich culinary history that is heavily influenced by its religious and cultural diversity. Middle Eastern food, in particular, has been a staple in Jerusalem for centuries. The cuisine is a blend of traditional Arabic, Israeli, and Mediterranean flavors, all of which are an essential part of the city’s culinary heritage.
One of the most significant influences on Jerusalem’s food culture is the Arabic community, who brought with them traditional dishes such as hummus, falafel, and shawarma. The city’s Israeli population has also made its mark on the cuisine, incorporating unique ingredients and flavors into traditional Middle Eastern dishes.
The use of olive oil, tahini, and spices such as cumin and za’atar are integral to the cuisine of Jerusalem. Lamb and chicken are the most commonly used meats in the cuisine, and dishes are often served with pita bread, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs.
Jerusalem is also home to a diverse range of sweets, such as baklava and kunafa. These desserts are made with layers of flaky pastry, syrup, and nuts and are the perfect end to a delicious Middle Eastern meal.
The food culture of Jerusalem is deeply ingrained in the city’s history and is a testament to its unique cultural and religious heritage. Today, Middle Eastern cuisine is a staple in Jerusalem’s food scene, with traditional dishes and street food stalls found throughout the city.
The Famous Street Food: Falafel
If you’ve never heard of falafel before, get ready to be amazed. This humble dish has made a name for itself in the world of street food, and Jerusalem is one of the best places to try it out.
Falafel is essentially a deep-fried ball or patty made of ground chickpeas or fava beans, with a crispy exterior and a tender, flavorful interior. It’s usually served in a pita bread with salad, pickles, tahini sauce, and sometimes, hot sauce.
Falafel is said to have originated in Egypt, but it quickly spread throughout the Middle East, and is now a popular street food in Jerusalem. You’ll find falafel vendors all over the city, with some of the best spots being in the Mahane Yehuda market, in the Muslim quarter of the Old City, and in the trendy neighborhoods of Nachlaot and the Machaneh Yisrael area.
What makes falafel so special is its versatility. It can be eaten on its own as a snack or appetizer, or as a main dish in a pita or on a plate with various salads and sauces. It’s also vegan-friendly and incredibly affordable, making it a popular option for students, locals, and tourists alike.
While falafel is a simple dish, it takes skill and experience to make it just right. Look for vendors who are using fresh, high-quality ingredients, and who are cooking their falafel to order. You’ll know it’s good when you hear the sizzle of the oil as the falafel hits the fryer, and when you bite into a hot, crispy ball of chickpeas and spices.
In Jerusalem, falafel is more than just a tasty snack – it’s a part of the city’s culinary heritage. Whether you’re a fan of street food or just looking to try something new, be sure to sample some falafel on your next trip to Jerusalem. Your taste buds will thank you.
The Ultimate Dip: Hummus
If you’re a fan of dips and spreads, you’re in for a treat when it comes to Middle Eastern food in Jerusalem. And when it comes to dips, hummus is undoubtedly the king. This creamy dip made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine and a must-try when you visit Jerusalem.
Hummus has been a part of the Middle Eastern diet for centuries. The earliest recorded recipe for hummus dates back to 13th-century Cairo. It has since become a beloved dish across the region, with different variations in preparation and serving styles. In Jerusalem, you’ll find hummus served in small plates as an appetizer or a snack, with a side of pita bread or veggies.
The secret to making a delicious hummus is in the quality of the ingredients and the balance of flavors. The chickpeas should be cooked until they’re soft enough to blend easily, and the tahini should be of high quality and well-blended with the other ingredients. The lemon juice should be added in just the right amount to give it a tangy kick, while the garlic and olive oil should be balanced enough not to overpower the dish.
In Jerusalem, there are many places where you can find excellent hummus. Some of the most popular spots include Abu Shukri, which has been serving hummus since 1950, and Lina, which is known for its velvety smooth hummus and unique toppings such as mushrooms and pine nuts. Other places worth trying include Hummus Ben Sira, Hummus Mashawsha, and Hummus Arafat.
When you order hummus in Jerusalem, don’t be shy about asking for extra pita bread or trying out different toppings. Some popular options include ground lamb or beef, pine nuts, parsley, and sumac. You can also find hummus plates that come with different spreads such as baba ganoush and labneh, making for a diverse and delicious meal.
In summary, hummus is a must-try when it comes to Middle Eastern food in Jerusalem. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat lover, there’s a hummus dish for everyone. So be sure to add it to your list of food adventures when visiting this vibrant city.
Meaty Delights: Shawarma and Kebabs
If you’re looking for a hearty Middle Eastern meal in Jerusalem, then you’ll definitely want to try shawarma and kebabs. These meaty dishes are incredibly popular throughout the region, and Jerusalem is no exception.
Shawarma is a savory dish made from spiced and marinated meat that’s cooked on a vertical rotisserie. As the meat slowly turns, it becomes crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It’s typically served in a pita with toppings like hummus, tahini sauce, pickles, and vegetables.
Kebabs, on the other hand, are skewered meat that’s grilled to perfection. They can be made with a variety of meats, such as lamb, beef, or chicken, and are seasoned with spices and herbs for an extra kick of flavor. Kebabs are often served with rice, salad, or pita bread.
One of the best places to try shawarma and kebabs in Jerusalem is at Abu Shukri, a popular restaurant located in the heart of the Old City. They serve some of the most delicious shawarma and kebabs in the city, along with other traditional Middle Eastern dishes like falafel and hummus.
Another great spot for kebabs is Jaffar’s Grill, a cozy restaurant located near the Damascus Gate. They offer a wide selection of kebab dishes, including lamb, beef, and chicken, that are cooked to perfection and served with a side of rice and salad.
No matter where you go in Jerusalem, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious Middle Eastern cuisine to try. From falafel and hummus to shawarma and kebabs, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So why not take a culinary tour of the city and discover the delicious flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine for yourself?
Delectable Sweets: Baklava and Kunafa
No meal in Jerusalem is complete without indulging in some traditional Middle Eastern sweets. Baklava and kunafa are two of the most famous sweet treats that originated from the region. These sweet pastries are rich in flavor and loved by locals and tourists alike.
Baklava is a sweet pastry made of thin layers of filo dough filled with chopped nuts, syrup, and honey. It’s believed that baklava originated in the Ottoman Empire and later spread to different parts of the Middle East. In Jerusalem, you’ll find a variety of baklava flavors ranging from classic walnut and pistachio to chocolate and almond.
Kunafa, on the other hand, is a cheese pastry made of a crispy layer of shredded phyllo dough, melted cheese, and sweet syrup. It’s served warm and is one of the most popular Middle Eastern desserts. In Jerusalem, you’ll find different variations of kunafa, including ones with rose water, orange blossom water, or even filled with Nutella.
When in Jerusalem, don’t miss the chance to try both baklava and kunafa. Some of the best places to sample these delicious sweets include Al Jibneh Bakery, Jaffar Sweets, and Zalatimo Brothers for their famous warm cheese-filled kunafa. You can also find them in most bakeries and sweet shops around the city.
So, if you have a sweet tooth, be sure to try some of the Middle Eastern desserts when in Jerusalem. The flavors are unique, rich, and an excellent way to end a meal in the city.
Where to Find the Best Middle Eastern Food in Jerusalem
If you’re visiting Jerusalem and looking for authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, you’re in luck. The city is filled with amazing restaurants, street vendors, and food markets that offer a range of mouth-watering dishes.
If you want to sample some of the best falafel in Jerusalem, head over to Falafel HaZkenim, a popular food stand located in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. They serve their delicious falafel with a range of toppings, including pickles, onions, and tahini.
For a truly authentic hummus experience, check out Abu Shukri, located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Their creamy hummus is made fresh daily and served with warm pita bread and drizzled with olive oil.
If you’re a meat lover, head over to Shawarma Hamousta, a small eatery located near Mahane Yehuda Market. They offer a variety of meat-filled sandwiches and platters, including shawarma and kebabs, all cooked to perfection.
For those with a sweet tooth, you can’t leave Jerusalem without trying baklava or kunafa. You can find these desserts at any Middle Eastern pastry shop, but some of the best can be found at Jafar Sweets, located in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.
And last but not least, if you’re in the mood for a full Middle Eastern meal, visit Azura in the Mahane Yehuda Market. This family-run restaurant has been serving traditional Middle Eastern dishes for over 60 years and is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
No matter where you decide to eat in Jerusalem, you’re sure to find delicious and authentic Middle Eastern cuisine that will leave you craving for more.