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Exploring Israeli Street Foods - The Sabich

By Billa


As a native-born Israeli, I have always loved the quintessential Israeli foods that I grew up with: falafel, hummus, and tahini. And, about ten years ago, when shakshouka came on the scene, I loved the taste of it too.


Lately, however, a whole new category of Israeli foods has appeared (and become trendy) - Israeli street foods. In fact, there are even three restaurants in Manhattan that specialize in Israeli street food, all owned by the same chef - Miznon Chelsea Market, Miznon Hudson Yards, and North Miznon (uptown). (Miznon means cafeteria in Hebrew.)


So, I decided to get acquainted with some of these new (to me) foods and see if I liked them.


I started with sabich (also spelled ‘sabih’).

Sabich was developed by Iraqi Jews in the city of Ramat Gan, in Israel, in the 1950’s. It incorporates elements of Arabic (fried eggplant, tahini), Sephardic (hard-boiled egg), Yemeni (zhoug), Israeli (chopped salad), and Indian (mango pickle) cooking.


The first time I made it, I followed the recipe from the book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Here’s the recipe (for 4 servings):


SABIH

2 large eggplants (about 1 and 2/3 lb. total)

1 and 1/4 cups sunflower oil

4 pitas, slices of white bread, toasted, or mini-pitas (avoid using supermarket pitas, if possible get authentic pitas from a Middle-Eastern grocery)

1 cup tahini sauce

4 large hard-boiled, peeled eggs, cut into 3/8” slices or quartered

4 tablespoons Zhoug (recipe below)

Amba or savory mango pickle (optional)

Salt and black pepper


CHOPPED SALAD

2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 3/8” dice

2 mini cucumbers, cut in 3/8” dice

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 and 1/2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil


Use a vegetable peeler to peel away strips of eggplant skin from top to bottom, leaving the eggplants with alternating strips of purple skin and white flesh, zebra-like. Cut both eggplants widthwise into slices 1” thick. Sprinkle on both sides with salt, then spread them out on a baking sheet and let stand at least 30 minutes to remove water. Use paper towels to wipe them.

The zebra eggplant slices

Heat the sunflower oil in a wide frying pan. Fry the eggplant slices in batches until nice and dark, turning once, 6-8 minutes total, adding more oil if necessary. When done, the eggplant pieces should be completely tender in the center. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.


Make the chopped salad by mixing together all the ingredients and seasoning with salt and pepper.

The chopped salad

Just before serving, place one slice of bread or pita on each plate. Spoon 1 tablespoon of tahini sauce over each slice, then arrange the eggplant slices on top, overlapping. Drizzle over some more tahini without completely covering the eggplant. Season each egg slice with salt and pepper and arrange over the eggplant. Drizzle some more tahini on top and spoon over as much zhoug as you like; being careful as it’s hot! Spoon over mango pickle as well, if you like. Serve the vegetable salad on the side, spooning some on top of every serving, if desired.


ZHOUG

1 and 1/4 oz. cilantro, coarsely chopped

1/3 oz. parsley, coarsely chopped

2 hot green chiles, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon superfine sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons water


Place all ingredients in a small food processor. Pulse a few times to get a coarse paste. Do not overmix. Store in a sterilized jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

The zhoug

The traditional sabich

I thought the sabich was tasty. It’s a jumble of many ingredients that I've always liked.

But I wanted to try to put my own spin on it. So, I made a second sabich, this time with a homemade mango salsa to substitute for both for the optional amba and the Israeli salad.

The mango salsa

To make the mango salsa, I mixed together 1 diced mango, 2 tablespoons chopped red pepper, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons red onion, 1 tablespoon chopped pepperoncini peppers, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime sauce, and salt to taste.

Sabich with mango salsa

The mango salsa complemented the eggplant and tahini well, providing a little brightness that counterbalanced the residual bitterness of the eggplant and the spiciness of the zhoug.


So, I ended up liking both versions. The only thing I would change next time is to try grilling the eggplant rather than frying it.


Now that I’ve had a sabich, I’m looking forward to exploring other Israeli street foods.







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