Cuisine of the Land of Israel is considered Mediterranean Levantine, but over time it has been influenced by other cultures and ethnic groups. Because of its unique location at the intersection of trade routes and climate zones, the food in the Land has transformed to critically acclaimed fusion-style dishes found in restaurants and street food stalls enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. The Land of Israel has important religious sites with millions of tourists visiting them every year. The lively food culture is also attracting culinary tourists as well.
The large fertile plains and valleys produce vegetables and legumes. Grapes, almonds, olives and olive oil come from the mountains. With the abundance of locally grown food, Israeli, Arab, Druze, Circassian restaurants and street vendors provide opportunites for extraordinary farm-to-table dining experiences.
Main dishes include mansaf which is a traditional Arab dish made of lamb cooked in a rich sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur.
Another popular dish is kubbeh (or kubbe) orginally from Iraqi and Kurdish Jewish origins. Kubbeh is a soup with filled dumplings.There is a wide array of fillings and soup broths with many versions containing ground beef and beets.
Vegetable dishes such as madjara are popular. Madjara is made with lentils and caramelized onions and served with steamed basmati rice which is seasoned with local spices.
A discussion of popular dishes would not be complete without including shawarma, a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine consisting of meat such seasoned marinated lamb, mutton, veal, beef, chicken, or turkey cut into thin slices roasted on a slowly-turning vertical rotisserie or spit. Thin shavings are cut off the rotating stack and served in flat bread wrap such as laffa or pita bread. Popular toppings include garlic or tahini sauce, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, pickled vegetables, hummus and grilled peppers.
Probably the most popular street food is falafel, a traditional Middle Eastern food which consists of deep-fried balls or a patty made from ground chickpeas and / or fava beans and served in a pita or Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern food, commonly served in a pita or wrapped in a flatbread known as taboon.
Three top Israeli fast foods: Shawarma, Falafel, Hummus!
Maqluba is another very famous dish served in the Levant consisting of meat, rice and vegetables placed in a pot. When it is served, it is flipped over onto a platter, hence its name which means upside down. Delicious!
Israel is famous for its numerous coffee shops which serve traditional sweets alongside regionally acclaimed coffee. Here, a coffee break is an experience not to be missed!
Basbousa is a sweet cake made of semolina which is made of wheat used to make pasta and couscous. The cake is soaked in simple sweet syrup which may be flavoured with coconut or rose water. Basbousa can be eaten with nuts, heavy cream but is also delicious served plain.
Another popular treat is Umm Ali, an Egyptian sweet pastry pudding.
Umm Ali, literally translated "the mother of Ali", considered Egypt’s national dessert. Easy-to-make and economical, Umm Ali dates back to the Ayyubid dynasty in the the late 12th and early 13th centuries.
If you enjoy cheesecake, Middle Eastern knafeh is a must-try dessert for you! A sweetened cheese filling (similar to ricotta cheese) is baked upon a crust of shredded filo pastry and traditionally topped with pistachios. This sweet, rich and creamy treat is perfectly accompanied by espresso.
Perhaps the most widely known pastry in Arab nations and worldwide since the early Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, baklava continues to be a traditional favorite. Delicate sheets of phyllo dough are adorned with nuts, butter, honey and spices, then baked. There are multiple variations of this treat and the characteristic diamond-shaped slices can be found in Arab and Jewish coffee shops, restaurants and markets.
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