Purple Pixie Eggplants - Sabich, An Israeli Street Food Sandwich

August 14, 2011
Good Morning everyone, I couldn't wait to share with you all these gorgeous purple Pixie eggplants. They are so petite and pretty I am going to go and get some more at Wegman's, but first things first....I already pickled a small batch of them in leftover brine from Red Wine Vinegar Heirloom Green Tomato Pickles, and we love having eggplants simply roasted with olive oil and salt, maybe a touch of parsley as a garnish, now and then. Question is can you share in the comment section ideas, recipes for these beauties? Also, if you know anything about these Pixies I would love to learn. Thank you and excited to hear your suggestions and information.
August 20, 2011
Many thanks for all the wonderful suggestions and comments my friends. You guys were such a large part of this important brainstorming process. Many readers and friends suggested roasted eggplants, some suggested marinating, some Caprese salad among many other incredible suggestions and links to recipes. This process triggered some thoughts and ideas and it all came full circle as the Sabich (Hebrew: סביח). The Sabich ties together the India street foods and snacks series and the simultaneously running Israel series.
Some very familiar Middle Eastern street foods, such as the Falafel and the Schawarma, are wide spread Israeli street foods, but the lesser known to all is the Sabich. The Sabich is very unique to Israel and was brought by the Iraqi Jews when many emigrated in the 1950's to Israel and mostly settled in Ramat Gan just outside Tel Aviv. Traditionally the Iraqi Jews eat on the morning of the Sabbath, on flat Iraqi bread stuffed with fried eggplant slices, sliced browned egg from cooking on low heat overnight, Israeli salad and drizzled with parsley lemon Tahini (sesame paste) sauce and an assortment of other salads and condiments according to personal taste. Continue reading and you will find out what I mean when I say 'according to personal taste'.
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Today, the little Sabich shops, stands and kiosks scattered mainly throughout central parts of Israel, serve the pita pocket with sliced hard boiled egg. Since I didn't want to fry the eggplant, I served it with roasted slices of eggplants instead. I switched to the roasting method years ago anytime a recipe calls for fried eggplants, and honestly I achieve very similar, if not identical, results sans (too much) oil. The name Sabich is said to be derived from the word Sabah which means morning in Arabic. Others claim it was named after Sabich Sasson, the owner of the first Sabich stand near Tel Aviv. Lastly there is the camp that says Sabich is an Israeli acronym for Salat (salad), Beytza (Egg), Yoter (more) and Chatzil (eggplant).
The Iraqi Jews brought with them to Israel not only the Sabich but also the Amba condiment to go with it. Yes, you might be as baffled as I was growing up, and ask what an Indian green mango pickle, the Amba, has to do with Iraqi cuisine?! Since then I grew up and learned a bit about the history of how this came about.
Muslim merchants and sea fareres landed on the Malabar Coast in Southern India as early as the 7th century, trading spices and other gooods with India. The Iraqi merchants travelling through the Gulf Coast and the Indian Ocean first arrived in India during Medieval Ages with the 7th century marking more of the beginning of that period. They brought the Amba to Baghdad and Iraq proper. Now a staple in the Iraqi pantry, the Iraqi Jewish community in turn brought the Amba to Israel. (note: this paragraph ensued an entire discussion with Jonathan on accurate portrayal of history and if Medieval Ages term was used by the Muslim world for that period of time, etc. I tried to do my best with the research)
Just for point of reference: The Iraqi Jews who arrived in India and settled there, known as the Baghdadi Jews, are thought to have arrived later, during the British Raj, British Colonial times in India (1858 and on). Indian Jews in general (as there are five different distinct Indian Jewish communities) trickled into Israel in the 50's but the majority arrived in the 60's with many Indian products now available in Indian spice and other shops in Israel. I wrote a bit about the Jewish community in India in my Malida, Sweetened Poha Breakfast Cereal or Ceremonial Offering?! if you wish to read more.
Many Israelis having Sabich mid-day at lunch time, though a delicious pickle, they forgo the Amba as the pungency and strong aroma might stay with them throughout the work day. Many feel they do not wish to 'sweat Amba' throughout the day. I added a touch of Amba to Jonathan's first Sabich today. The tahini and Amba in the Sabich are a natural fusion of the Mediterranean with the Indian flavors.
The most notorious, long waiting line, Sabich stand in Israel is Oved's in Givatayim, just outside Tel Aviv. Oved the owner developed his own Sabich lingo unique only to his Sabich universe. Ingredients take verb form and some soccer world terms and teams are thrown in the Sabich lingo. Then there are 'massive' and 'aggresive' terms for the measure of the intensity of the heat you wish for the hot sauce or Amba in your Sabich. All ordering lingo is proudly displayed on the menu board on the wall behind the counter.
Super nutritious, especially when the eggplant is roasted, the sandwich contains many necessary nutrients including protein rich Tahini and egg. Many Israelis also add protein rich Hummus. Vegetable are in abundance in this pita pocket, in addition to the eggplant we have the Israeli salad and coleslaw. The Iraqis also add sliced or diced boiled potatoes into the mix.
Super surprise for the New Yorkers among us, when heading to Taim, instead of Falafel, indulge in Sabich next time. While googling for Taim's link I came across Chow's YouTube video on Taim's Sabich.
For the rest of us who do not have Falafel shops who offer Sabich, or Falafel shops in our neighborhoods at all for that matter, this sandwich is super easy to assemble. Pitas, pickles, hummus and tahini are freshly available, the rest easy to dice and put together. Keep in mind I also keep seasoning very light throughout the components for the flavors to blend in harmony and complement and not overpower each other.

Sabich

Whole grain or regular pitas:
Store, bakery bought or my Pita, Plain, with Zaatar and Tomatoes recipe. See comments on post for further tips.

Eggplants:
2 Large eggplants or a 22 oz package of purple Pixie eggplants  (I got Pixies at Wegmans)
Olive oil for brushing
Sprinkle of salt

Slice eggplants and layer on a parchment paper layered cookie sheet. Brush with oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt. Roast in a 350F oven until golden at the bottom. Flip and keep roasting until golden on the flipped side. This will take about 45 minutes total. Once flipped after 30 minutes or so it takes less time for the eggplant to golden on the flipped side. This step can be prepped a day or two ahead. Refrigerate if not immediately using roasted eggplants. Some choose to roast at 400F, then the time will be shorter.

Hard boiled eggs:
I found on Simply Recipes site a good article on How to Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs. I would not add vinegar and we usually like our eggs immediately after cooking them.

Coleslaw:
1/2 large cabbage, sliced into long thin strands
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients. I massage the coleslaw with my hands. This step can be made a day ahead but will lose a bit of the crunch. It's really east to toss it together last minute.

Israeli Salad:
2 baby cucumbers, peeled (if desired) and diced
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
1/4-1/2 small onion, diced (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Splash of lemon juice (optional)

Add all ingredients and mix just before assembling sandwich.

Tahini sauce:
Buy ready tahini sauce or make it yourself in minutes. Tahini sauce is now available in most grocery stores in the ethnic isle or ready in the refrigerated section along with the Hummus. You can also find it in Middle Eastern shops.
Equal parts of raw Tahini and water. I made a large batch:
1 cup raw Tahini paste (sesame seeds paste)
1 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste (1/4 teaspoon first than taste -1/2 teaspoon)
Bunch of chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)

Mix all ingredients and keep refrigerated until serving.

Hummus:
I sometimes buy, most of you are familiar with Sabra,  but I usually make my own. Since I make it as I go and feel the recipe until I reach the consistency and flavor desired, I haven't posted one yet. Meanwhile if you wish to make from scratch here is a good option from Tasty Recipes Hummus without Tahini recipe. SKIP the cumin at least for this Sabich.

Amba:
I just buy pickled green mango at the Indian grocery store but you can also order it on nutsonline. I found this fantastic Amba recipe on food.com.

Additional variations:
-Peeled boiled, diced and slice potatoes
-Sliced or diced cucumber in salt or vinegar pickles

Sabich assembly:
Slit pita pocket open half way around. Spread some Tahini, Hummus and Amba if desired. Add 2-4 large eggplant slices or 8-10 Pixie ones. Layer with slices of one egg, Israeli salad and coleslaw. Drizzle with some more Tahini and serve. Can add boiled potatoes (I never do) and sliced or diced pickles according to taste.

In addition to all who commented below I wish to thank my twitter friends who came up with recipe suggestions. I also wish to thank my Facebook friends who participated in the fun 'guess which Israeli street food am I posting next?'on Shulie FoodWanderings and FoodWanderings facebook page.

I asked on twitter for peeps to link me to their hummus recipes. I was looking for recipes without Tahini in them but since these are such fantastic options here are some more Hummus recipes. Thank you guys.
@ordinaryblogger Hummus, plus 3 tips to get kids to eat healthy post and recipe.
@nomnivorous Hummus, or why I am a horrible daughter post and recipe.
@nella22 Hummus Recipe and Tahini Review post and recipe.
@BobMarchese uses Rachael Ray's spicy hummus: quick chickpea spread recipe as a guide.
@wanderingspice a duo of dips: hummus + smoky eggplant post and recipe.
@CookKosher chunky parsley hummus recipe.