Prior to traveling to Israel, Jonathan was a tad apprehensive about me working on food stories while there. We hadn't been back in awhile so I don't blame him. He didn't wish to chauffeur* me around, he knows me, I could get used to it way too easily. He also dreaded me dragging him from one fancy, white linen covered tables restaurant, to another. All his apprehensions unraveled. Exhale! I took him to Shuk HaCarmel (The Carmel Market) in Tel Aviv. An incredible tour lead by the lovely Inbal @DeliciousIsrael, the owner of Delicious Israel, a culinary tour company, introduced to me by my twitter friend Sarah @Foodbridge of Foodbridge. Inbal, a former attorney, is an American out of the DC area, who now lives in Israel, a destination for the ever increasing gastroculinary tourism.
Yes, Israel is bubbling with new trendy restaurants outfitted with uber talented young and established chefs alike, but today we had something else in mind. The Carmel Market is a hodge podge of sensations, even as an Israeli I get discombobulated. Jonathan told Inbal, just when we think we know Israel so well, only to discover there is so much more. I am skipping here to our second stop at the market, Itzik's spice shop. Many vendors including Itzik were born and raised in the Kerem HaTeymanim (Yemenite Vineyard) neighborhood at the Shuk (Market) and still happily living there, except Itzik's childhood friend, pictured with his hand wrapped, who lives and owns a few restaurants in Brooklyn, NY and came to visit his ailing mom. They were reminiscing about nicknames that stuck with them and childhood mischief. Bonfires they built on the beach just across the street by stripping neighbors' wooden windows.
In the first picture you see hawayedge (חוויאג') for soup, a specialty Yemenite mixture of spices including cumin, turmeric, dried cilantro, black pepper and cardamon for soup. I also got hawayedge for coffee, another specialty mixture. It has cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon among other spices in the mixture. Hilbe (Fenugreek חילבה) known from Indian cooking is often used by Yemenites for its culinary and medicinal value. They make a sauce by the same name by fermenting the fenugreek (hilbe חילבה) overnight with water. I will reveal another use for hilbe in my next post. I did not know hilbe has a fermentation trait to it, to me it was a new discovery.
Our first stop of the day was at this lovely lady, Irit, a literal translation, chive, another Yemenite born and bred here and still living in the neighborhood. She is my age and has one preteen daughter. She was not prepared, she didn't have her first cup of coffee yet and was washing the floors of her green awning little shop with no sign or name. She swept the water onto the front stoop of her store and into the street curb. Jonathan had to go exchange some dollars so we warned her he will come by as we moved on to let her collect herself. She adopted him, made him coffee and as you can tell he got situated quiet comfortably. Taking all the comings and goings in. At some point she left her shop and had Jonathan hold the fort. He got a kick out of her regulars stopping by and asking 'is Irit in?'
She made shakshuka for Jonathan and an omelet sandwich for the truck driver who swung by but couldn't park as the police were giving out tickets. Sound of arguments were just out the door though I couldn't see the participants in this pseudo quarrel. Have I imagined it, a figment of my imagination, or did it really take place?! I am jet lagged and cannot differentiate between reality and fiction at this moment.
Irit taught me how to make a traditional Yemenite dish which will remain a mystery for now but I will share it in the next post. Meanwhile see below how we put the lovely Inbal of Delicious Israel to work at Irit's little shop. Jonathan and I wouldn't discover these gems if it weren't for Inbal.
Inbal pointed out that even the Asian produce that we see in the market is locally grown and not imported.
I am realizing the next few photographs should have been posted earlier on as it was one of our first stops. Burekas, savory sesame cookies with anise seeds, I believe, and the most delicate date cookies piping hot just coming out of the oven. On any ordinary day I am not a fan of date cookies, I love dates though, but these fresh out of the oven with a soft crumble were one of the best cookies I have ever had.
Next couple of stops were a new trend in Shuks that didn't exist when I grew up: Boutique artisanal shops and health food stores. Nitzat Ha'Duvdevan (Cherry Bud ) a large health food store chain in Israel where I tasted the best unsweetened dried pineapple, the essence of the fruit so purely intensified. I also got a hefty bag of carobs. Carobs, my trip to Israel wouldn't be complete without having some. The orange on the left is dried papaya.
At checkout this Nigerian man was just in front of me and I was ogling his groceries. I was curious where did he pick up the habit for oats. He's been living in Israel for over 10 years now and prior to that in Great Britain after emigrating from Nigeria. He started having oats in Israel he said. He has them for their fiber and does not cook them. He does not wish to lose any of their nutritional value. He mixes them with yogurt, honey, dried blueberries and has them for breakfast. He did mention another dried fruit but I don't recall which one.
We briefly discussed his life in Israel and the Sudanese refugees, then I dashed off to the next stop just below while Jonathan had an intriguing conversation with him.
*Jonathan objected (choice of word 'objected' for dramatic effect) to me writing "He didn't wish to chauffeur me around." He gave me a few completely sound reasons why I should take it out. It is irrelevant was one. You don't want the introduction to be too long was another. :)
Other posts in the Israel Travel Series:
Druze Pita in Jerusalem's Old City's Arab Shuk (Market)
Capitolina's Indian Kulfi Ice Cream
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