Behind the Scenes Tour of the Biggest Hummus Factory in Israel
What's the secret to the best hummus? It's not really a secret. It's actually quite simple. Use the best tahini and the Bulgarian chickpea, according to the Strauss company, the largest manufacturer of storebought hummus in Israel and the owner of the Sabra brand in America.
How's the Bulgarian chickpea different from all the other chickpeas? Smaller, closer to pea-sized, and it makes for a smoother hummus. Tahini is the roasted sesame seed paste that gives the hummus its fatty, buttery richness. While the hummuses (hummusi?) made here are tahini-rich, others skip it altogether for a more chickpea-centric and healthier version.
The Strauss factory stocks tons (literally, mondo bags in units of 2,000 pounds) of tahini at a time. More tahini than you've ever seen, even in your wildest tahini dreams. Thousands of tons of tahini each year are blended with boiled chickpeas and a secret spice blend (only a few Strauss employees actually know the blend) to make hummus at the Strauss factory.
Other dips, particularly baba ghanoush, are also produced here. Strauss goes through a whole 50 tons of eggplants a week! This specific eggplant variety is sweeter than your average eggplant, grown specially for Strauss at nearby Israeli farms. "People don't like bitter baba," said one of the Strauss employees leading the tour, as he sliced open a smooth-skinned, violet-coated eggplant to tear out the raw meat inside and give us a taste. It was almost as sweet as dried apples, and you can imagine how much sweeter it'll become when roasted.
Hummus is a staple in Israel, traditionally eaten with pita for a hearty, belly-filling breakfast. But hummus has spread its wings, becoming a staple all over the world beyond just the Middle East. Strauss dominates the global hummus market. They've even formed a Chickpea Alliance, a global partnership to advance the knowledge of chickpea. (Seriously.)
"The fascinating part is the garnishes. That's where it really varies around the world." In Mexico, they just launched a hummus brand called "Obela" where you can find a chipotle-flavored hummus, and one topped with beans.
Note: Erin traveled through Israel on a 7-day eating tour thanks to Kinetis.