When you walk into a restaurant in a foreign country, even if you have a refined palate, you’re not always able to detect the individual ingredients that formed together to make the delectable dish that you’re about to consume. So you ask “What’s in it?” Even if the waiter or waitress knows, it’s not always likely that you’ll be familiar with all the ingredients or their names in English.
Not many Israelis know how to translate the herbs: petrozillia and nana(parsley and mint). These are common! What about Jewish foods like latkes? Surely they must know what latkes are., so why can’t you find them on any menus? They’re here. But, here they are called levivot.
If you don’t have your Hebrew-English dictionary handy, you never get to try to remake that Shor-aba or Batinjan because you’ll never know what’s really in it. Instead it will forever remain in your memory as the great meal in that tiny restaurant off that street, what was it called? It will grow and grow in your mind as the best meal you’ve ever consumed and even if you tried to find the place again, it will be as if it never existed. As if the Shor-aba was a figment of your overactive and tantalizing memory.
All over the world, travelers are experiencing the depressing phenomenon of not being able to bring a little of their vacation home with them. But locals in many cities around the world, Tel Aviv included, have decided to help put a stop to this troubling issue, by creating food tours.
A food tour isn’t cookie-cutter. It can be a tour of restaurants, or a one-stop destination for sampling, cooking and working together as a tour group to create a tasty, now not-so-foreign meal. It could be a cheese tour, wine tour or a market tour.
We want to reveal to you the heart and soul of Israel, to showcase the wondrous bounty of dew-fresh produce with biblical roots, to explore the myriad cultural influences in this marvelous melting-pot, to experience the authentic Israel by getting to know Israelis and what they eat. To give you knowledge, recipes and great memories to take home with you.
A great cooking tour isn’t just about learning how to make food or interacting with people in the country you’re visiting. It’s about the whole experience. It’s about walking to the market and engaging with the shop owners about the vegetables, nuts, or spices you’re buying. It’s partly about learning, but it’s also about trying new ways to do things. It’s about letting your senses explore a new world in a way that they couldn’t if you were just getting on and off a bus looking at historical sites or attending cultural events. Israeli food is a melange of different cultures, ingredients and customary dishes. Some are clearly old world European and some are Eastern with clear influences from Persian and North African cultures.
Typical Israeli dishes vary in recipe, but while you’re here you absolutely must try all(or some) of the following: Shakshuka, Tabouleh, shnitzel, kubbeh, tahina, burekas, jaknoon, sabich, malabi and, of course, hummus.
Learning to make shakshuka isn’t about tomato sauce and eggs, it’s learning about the people behind the dish, why they began cooking this way and how it(and the people cooking it) developed over time. A cooking tour in Israel is fantastic for people who visit Israel often and aren’t interested in returning to the main tourist sites, but it’s also a terrific way for newcomers to engage with the Israelis, learn about cultures and customs directly from the people and see, for a few hours, what’s it like to be one of them.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener