The 25 Best Things I Ate in Israel

[Photographs: Erin Zimmer]

You could say that the Israeli food culture is very young, as Israel only became a nation in 1948. But its roots go back thousands of years. If you want to dig real deep, you could flip through the Old Testament and start talking about the magical manna that sustained the Hebrews in the desert. But we won't go quite that deep.

What's become known as Israeli cuisine today is a delicious melting pot of North Africa (Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria) and its Middle Eastern neighbors (Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq), as well as the Mediterranean countries, and don't forget the Jews from all over Eastern Europe and Russia. Jewish immigration began at the end of the 19th century, and the early settlers brought with them food cultures from far and wide.

Many Salads, Pickles, Olives from Haj Kahil (Jaffa)

This wave of people, mainly from Arab countries but also European Holocaust survivors, flooded the new State of Israel. They tenaciously clung on to their culinary heritages as a way of preserving their identities, but eventually started swapping and sharing cooking styles.

So, what is Israeli food? The closest thing to a one-sentence answer: a cross-fertilization of all of the above, and it's still evolving. Arab and Jewish, Eastern Europe and North Africa, religious and secular.

Most of my trip was centered in and around Tel Aviv, with a day in Jerusalem, and a drive up north to the seaside town of Acre. Some reoccurring themes all over: olives, falafel, fresh vegetable salads, pita, filo dough pastries, and many (many!) bowls of hummus.

Check out all of my favorite bites in the slideshow >>

Hummus, Falafel, Breads, Etc.

Khachapuri, the Georgian Cheese Bread
Challah (Bnei Brak)
That Feast at Haj Kahil (Jaffa)
Preserved Lemons


Breakfast Feast at Manta Ray (Tel Aviv)
Egg in Challah Toast
Israeli Salads


"White Cheese"
Cottage Cheese
Fried Haloumi

Meat and Fish

Lamb Shawarma from Shawarma Bino (Jaffa)
Carpaccio from Salon (Tel Aviv)
Salmon and Wasabi Sorbet from Uri Buri (Acre)
More Fish


Mutabak from Zalatimo (Jerusalem)
Kanafeh Pastry
IKA Chocolates (Tel Aviv)
Ice Cream from Endomela (Acre)


Pomegranate Juice
Arak Cocktails

Note: Erin traveled through Israel on a 7-day eating tour thanks to Kinetis.