Israeli Cuisine

Israel is a melting pot. Since it’s inception in 1948, the Jewish State has absorbed immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. And each immigrant group has contributed the foods they were accustomed to in the ‘old country’ to our ‘national kitchen.’ All of these culinary influences have been fused together and influenced by a healthy Mediterranean diet to create the Israeli cuisine of today.

On your travels in the Promised Land, I encourage you to try some of the classic Israeli dishes – whether it be Middle Eastern style street food, or fine dining in of our reknowned gourmet restaurants.

A Great Way to Start Your Day—the Israeli breakfast

The breakfast typically included with your hotel accommodations has become famous around the world. The “Israeli breakfast” is usually a lavish buffet offering a huge array of fresh salads, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, eggs, savory pastries and quiches, yogurts, olives, smoked fish, breads – you name it and you’ll find it there.

Classic Israeli dishes you might want to give a try include:

Chopped salad

The traditional Israeli salad is a simple affair. It’s nothing more than finely chopped fresh vegetables dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Very healthy and with the quality of our vegetables, it’s delicious.

Falafel

Ask folks overseas what Israeli food is all about and chances are the first thing to pop out of their mouths will be falafel. Falafel, the pita sandwich stuffed with fried chickpea-based croquettes, chopped salad, humus and tehina, remains the ultimate Israeli street food.

Humus

If you really want to eat like the natives, grab some pita bread and dip straight into a bowl of humus. That classic chickpea based spread has found its way onto the menus of restaurants as far away as Chicago and Sydney, and even beyond. But the origins of this healthy spread are right here in our own backyard. Humus is served in numerous variations in Israeli restaurants—the best is usually found in tiny dives, often in Arab neighborhoods and towns.

For the “complete” humus experience, order it with a dollop of “ful” (fava beans) and a hard boiled egg.

Schnitzel

The generation that founded the State of Israel was largely comprised of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe, known as the “Ashkenazim.” These folks still make up about 50% of Israel’s population.

The single greatest contribution that European Jews made to the modern Israeli palate is one of our most beloved dishes—schnitzel. When the classic European Wiener schnitzel made its debut in David’s Land, it was modified to fit local tastes and realities. Israeli schnitzel is breaded and fried chicken or turkey breast fillet. For the ultimate Ashkenazi experience, order it with mashed potatoes and a chopped Israeli salad.

Kebab & Shishlik

Regardless of one’s ethnic origins, all Israelis seem to love their barbecue. Only here in David’s Land, it’s not about hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, but rather, kebab and shishlik. And if you can’t enjoy these grilled meats out in the parks like Israelis do on the weekends and holidays, you can partake of these carnivore’s delights at a multitude of inexpensive restaurants around the country. Kebabs are spiced ground beef patties and shishlik usually refers to skewers of grilled boneless chicken thighs. These grilled delicacies are usually served with a vast array of small salad dishes, pita and rice or French fries.

Shwarma

Want to try the Israeli meat lover’s street food? Then by all means, go for a shwarma. You’ll see these huge revolving skewers of meat (in Israel it’s usually turkey) on nearly every corner of our cities. If you’re really hungry ask for the meat wrapped in a “lafa,” otherwise go for a pita sandwich. And the shwarma tastes great when accompanyied in that pita with humus, tehina and chopped salad. For the most adventuresome, ask them to add a bit of “amba” – a mango chutney introduced to Israel by the Jews of Iraq.

St. Peter’s Fish

Your tour will likely include the Galilean countryside, including the Sea of Galilee itself and its northwest shore, the center of Jesus’ public ministry. When up north, be sure to enjoy a St. Peter’s fish meal. This is the fish associated with the apostle Peter in the New Testament.

Israel is a melting pot. Since it’s inception in 1948, the Jewish State has absorbed immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. And each immigrant group has contributed the foods they were accustomed to in the ‘old country’ to our ‘national kitchen.’ All of these culinary influences have been fused together and influenced by a healthy Mediterranean diet to create the Israeli cuisine of today.

On your travels in the Promised Land, I encourage you to try some of the classic Israeli dishes – whether it be Middle Eastern style street food, or fine dining in of our reknowned gourmet restaurants.

A Great Way to Start Your Day—the Israeli breakfast

The breakfast typically included with your hotel accommodations has become famous around the world. The “Israeli breakfast” is usually a lavish buffet offering a huge array of fresh salads, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, eggs, savory pastries and quiches, yogurts, olives, smoked fish, breads – you name it and you’ll find it there.

About Kashrut—the Jewish dietary laws

Israel is, of course, a Jewish State. But what that really means is open to interpretation. Traditional Judaism has a strong influence on life in Israel, even in the most secular of circles.

During your visit, you may notice certain limitations during the meals you enjoy at your hotel. That’s because nearly all hotels—and many restaurants too (especially those in Jerusalem)—adhere to kashrut, the complex set of Jewish dietary laws.

“Any animal that has divided hoofs and is cloven-footed and chews the cud—such you may eat. But among those that chew the cud or have divided hoofs, you shall not eat… the pig, for even though it has divided hoofs and is cloven-footed, it does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.”

Leviticus 11:3-11:83

“Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the streams—such you may eat. But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales…they are detestable to you and detestable they shall remain. Of their flesh you shall not eat…”

Leviticus 11:9-11:12

“You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”

Deuteronomy 14:21-14:21

Many of the Jewish dietary laws are derived from passages in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible. The Jewish sages interpreted these laws over the ages into what eventually developed into a complex set of regulations that define precisely what one may eat, how it must be cooked and how it is to be served.

What does it all mean for you? Well, since kashrut calls for the strict separation between meat and dairy products, your hotel breakfast will include no meat products. And you won’t receive butter for your bread or milk for your coffee during or immediately after a lunch or dinner in which meat or poultry are served. And, of course, pork and seafood will not be included on the menu in any kosher restaurant.

But don’t let this discourage you. Israeli chefs have learned to create even gourmet meals within the guidelines of Jewish law. And, of course, if you venture outside your hotel, you’ll find an abundance of both kosher and non-kosher restaurants you can enjoy.

Classic Israeli dishes you might want to give a try include:

Shakshuka

A spicy tomato-based egg dish typically enjoyed with good bread for dipping into the sauce. This dish was brought to Israel by the Jews of Tunisia.

Chopped salad:

The traditional Israeli salad is a simple affair. It’s nothing more than finely chopped fresh vegetables dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Very healthy and with the quality of our vegetables, it’s delicious.


Falafel

Ask folks overseas what Israeli food is all about and chances are the first thing to pop out of their mouths will be falafel. Falafel, the pita sandwich stuffed with fried chickpea-based croquettes, chopped salad, humus and tehina, remains the ultimate Israeli street food.


Humus:

If you really want to eat like the natives, grab some pita bread and dip straight into a bowl of humus. That classic chickpea based spread has found its way onto the menus of restaurants as far away as Chicago and Sydney, and even beyond. But the origins of this healthy spread are right here in our own backyard. Humus is served in numerous variations in Israeli restaurants—the best is usually found in tiny dives, often in Arab neighborhoods and towns.

For the “complete” humus experience, order it with a dollop of “ful” (fava beans) and a hard boiled egg.

Schnitzel:

The generation that founded the State of Israel was largely comprised of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe, known as the “Ashkenazim.” These folks still make up about 50% of Israel’s population.

The single greatest contribution that European Jews made to the modern Israeli palate is one of our most beloved dishes—schnitzel.  When the classic European Wiener schnitzel made its debut in David’s Land, it was modified to fit local tastes and realities. Israeli schnitzel is breaded and fried chicken or turkey breast fillet. For the ultimate Ashkenazi experience, order it with mashed potatoes and a chopped Israeli salad.

Kebab & Shishlik

Regardless of one’s ethnic origins, all Israelis seem to love their barbecue. Only here in David’s Land, it’s not about hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, but rather, kebab and shishlik. And if you can’t enjoy these grilled meats out in the parks like Israelis do on the weekends and holidays, you can partake of these carnivore’s delights at a multitude of inexpensive restaurants around the country. Kebabs are spiced ground beef patties and shishlik usually refers to skewers of grilled boneless chicken thighs.  These grilled delicacies are usually served with a vast array of small salad dishes, pita and French fries.


Shishlik

Shwarma

Want to try the Israeli meat lover’s street food? Then by all means, go for a shwarma. You’ll see these huge revolving skewers of meat (in Israel it’s usually turkey) on nearly every corner of our cities. If you’re really hungry ask for the meat wrapped in a “lafa,” otherwise go for a pita sandwich. And the shwarma tastes great when accompanyied in that pita with humus, tehina and chopped salad. For the most adventuresome, ask them to add a bit of “amba” – a mango chutney introduced to Israel by the Jews of Iraq.


St. Peter’s Fish

Your tour will likely include the Galilean countryside, including the Sea of Galilee itself and its northwest shore, the center of Jesus’ public ministry. When up north, be sure to enjoy a St. Peter’s fish meal. This is the fish associated with the apostle Peter in the New Testament.

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About Kashrut—the Jewish dietary laws

Israel is, of course, a Jewish State. But what that really means is open to interpretation. Traditional Judaism has a strong influence on life in Israel, even in the most secular of circles.

During your visit, you may notice certain limitations during the meals you enjoy at your hotel. That’s because nearly all hotels—and many restaurants too (especially those in Jerusalem)—adhere to kashrut, the complex set of Jewish dietary laws.

“Any animal that has divided hoofs and is cloven-footed and chews the cud—such you may eat. But among those that chew the cud or have divided hoofs, you shall not eat… the pig, for even though it has divided hoofs and is cloven-footed, it does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.” Leviticus 11:3-11:83

“Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the streams—such you may eat. But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales…they are detestable to you and detestable they shall remain. Of their flesh you shall not eat…” Leviticus 11:9-11:12

“You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” Deuteronomy 14:21-14:21

Many of the Jewish dietary laws are derived from passages in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible. The Jewish sages interpreted these laws over the ages into what eventually developed into a complex set of regulations that define precisely what one may eat, how it must be cooked and how it is to be served.

What does it all mean for you? Well, since kashrut calls for the strict separation between meat and dairy products, your hotel breakfast will include no meat products. And you won’t receive butter for your bread or milk for your coffee during or immediately after a lunch or dinner in which meat or poultry are served. And, of course, pork and seafood will not be included on the menu in any kosher restaurant.

But don’t let this discourage you. Israeli chefs have learned to create even gourmet meals within the guidelines of Jewish law. And, of course, if you venture outside your hotel, you’ll find an abundance of both kosher and non-kosher restaurants you can enjoy.