Food in Israel
While many of Israel’s famous dishes are characteristic of Middle Eastern cuisine, the country’s cuisine is as varied as the people that populate it. Food in Israel is usually of extremely high quality, and immigrants from all over the globe have contributed virtually every genre and kind of cuisine to the country. Food that is kosher is readily accessible. Even eateries that do not have Kosher certification observe certain Kashrut rules to some degree. Paying is extremely prevalent at sit-down restaurants with servers; not tipping is frowned upon in sit-down restaurants, although it is recognized as a signal of poor service. It is customary to allocate 10% to 15% of the total budget (or more for exceptional service). A generous tip of 20% is considered generous. In Israel, it is no longer allowed to include a service fee in a bill, and it should not be paid. Restaurants have started collecting a “security charge” of about 1-2 dollars per guest in recent years. This charge is not required, and it is usual to request that it be deleted from the bill, which you should do. The majority of establishments accept credit cards, but not personal checks. If you want the tip to be included in your credit card bill, let us know before you pay. Restaurants are obliged to accept this as of 2012.
Fast and popular
Despite the fact that falafel and hummus do not originate in Israel, the Israeli population considers them to be national cuisine. Falafel is made out of falafel balls, which are tiny fried balls of mashed chickpeas and/or fava beans eaten with hummus-chips-salat (hummus, French fries, and vegetable salad) and tahini inside a pita bread. More salad options are typically available, and you may stuff your pita with as much as it can hold. It’s typically the cheapest meal (between $10 and $15), plus it’s vegetarian (and often vegan). Half-servings are also available (“chat-TZEE mah-NAH”). If you’re unsure which falafel restaurant to visit, choose one with a steady stream of customers, since falafel balls taste best while they’re still warm. Hummus is a popular dip prepared from garbanzo granules and a variety of ingredients (such as olive oil, raw garlic, lemon juice, and tahini) that is often served on pita bread. Hummus may be covered with chopped lamb, fried chicken breast, and a variety of additional toppings such as cooked masabacha grains, shakshuka, ground beef, pine nuts, fried onions, mushrooms, and more at restaurants that specialize in Hummus (often referred to as “hummusiot”).
Shawarma, sliced turkey or lamb meat served within a pita, or its bigger cousin lafa, with hummus-chips-salat, is another popular choice. Many additional foods will fit in your pita, such as Me’orav Yerushalmi (Jerusalemite mix), which contains a variety of offal meats, or Schnitzel, a batter-fried chicken breast that is reminiscent of the Viennese original.
The Iraqi sabich, a pita bread filled with a hard boiled egg, batter-dipped deep fried eggplant, hummus, tehini, potatoes, and salad, is another famous street dish.
The ancient Jewish kosher food regulations have had a big impact on Israeli cuisine. The term kosher refers to everything that is permissible under Jewish religious rules, such as food laws. Among other things, kashrut demands full separation of meat and dairy meals, plates, and utensils; only some kinds of fish are kosher, while most’sea foods’ are not; meat must be slaughtered ritually; and all foods must be cooked under strict supervision. Local rabbinical authorities provide kosher restaurants and hotels with a valid, dated certificate; kosher eateries shut for the Sabbath. Because of the meat-and-milk limitations, kosher eateries are labeled either (b’sari, “meat”) or (b’sari, “milk”) (chalavi, dairy). Dairy eateries will also offer fish (which is not considered meat under Jewish law) and egg products. If you see cheeseburgers or pizzas with meat toppings at a kosher restaurant, you can bet they’re prepared with soy or other meat or cheese replacements.
Because most of Israel is secular, both kosher and non-kosher meals and restaurants may be found. In Arab regions, restaurants seldom follow kosher regulations (unless they cater to a mixed clientele), although they often follow Halal laws (the Muslim equivalent).
Most hotels in Israel are kosher, thus breakfast is dairy, and you won’t be able to obtain milk for your coffee or butter for your bread at lunch or dinner (although soy milk and spread are common substitutes). Most large supermarkets offer exclusively kosher goods, although non-kosher supermarkets and convenience shops have sprung up in recent years, thanks in part to the influx of secular Jews from the former Soviet Union. When it comes to restaurants, things differ depending on where you go: in Tel Aviv, a significant percentage of eateries are non-kosher, while in Jerusalem, almost every restaurant is kosher. Keep in mind that eateries that are open on Shabbat cannot be certified kosher. So, although some restaurants offer kosher cuisine without being certified, this does not mean that every establishment claiming to do so is speaking the truth.
The kosher McDonald’s restaurants are one of the attractions for practicing Jewish (and other) visitors. It’s worth noting that the majority of the branches are not kosher, so double-check before purchasing. Burger Ranch, an Israeli burger franchise, has kosher locations. Pizza Hut locations in Israel are kosher and will not sell meat-topped pizzas, while Domino’s locations are not kosher and will provide a toppings menu identical to their Western locations.
One complication with obtaining kosher food is that some scam artists have discovered that selling phony kashrut certifications is a lucrative business. As a result, anybody seeking for kosher food should look for a certificate from a recognized kashrut organization [www] or a certificate from the local rabbinate. Unknown organization certificates [www] should not be trusted.
In Modern Hebrew, the word kosher is pronounced kasher (), whereas the Hebrew word for “fitness” is Kosher (in Israel, gyms are known as kheder kosher, i.e. fitness room). The roots of the terms are the same: kosher food is food that is “fit” for observant Jews to consume.
Dietary restrictions during Passover
During the seven days of Passover, leavened bread (hametz) — defined as any grain product that has come into touch with moisture and therefore begun to ferment — is prohibited. Some Jews extend the prohibition to include grains and beans. Matza, the notoriously dry and tasteless flatbread, is the most common bread replacement, and you can even buy a matzoburger from McDonalds during Passover.
Prominent local snacks
- Krembo is a popular Israeli chocolate dessert. It is a combination of the words KREM and BO, which mean “Cream” and “In it,” respectively. It’s made out of a round cookie with cream (usually vanilla, but there’s also a mocha version) on top, everything encased in a chocolate shell. Krembos are fragile and are wrapped in aluminum foil. Due to their propensity to melt in hot temperatures, they are seldom seen in the summer.
- Bamba is a famous peanut butter-flavored snack that is one of the most popular snack foods in Israel. Because they consume Bamba as children, Israelis have a low incidence of peanut allergies.
- Bissli is a famous wheat snack that comes in a variety of tastes, including onions, Falafel, and BBQ.
Many diverse culinary traditions were introduced to Israel by Jews who immigrated from all over the globe. Most of them are currently only available at a few specialized places, so go through the chapters and ask around. Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish), Bulgarian, Turkish, North African, Iraqi, Iranian, and other ethnicities are among the choices. Excellent local Arab food is also available in regions with significant Arab populations, namely in the north of the nation and around Jerusalem.
One dish, on the other hand, is well-known across the Jewish Diaspora. It’s a stew that’s been cooked for several hours over a low fire in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa, and it’s known as Cholent in Europe and Chamin in the Middle East and North Africa. It is typically a Shabbat meal, since it is forbidden to start a fire or cook on the Sabbath. Meat (typically beef or chicken), legumes (chickpeas or beans) and/or rice, eggs, and vegetables such as potatoes, onions, and carrots are all common components. Chamin is available in delicatessens on Friday and is offered at certain restaurants on Saturday.
The majority of Israelis like instant coffee and will order it in restaurants and retail establishments. This coffee is often of excellent quality. Israelis, on the other hand, enjoy a café culture. While popular concoctions like “botz” (mud) coffee, also known as “cafe turki” or Turkish coffee (an inexpensive extra-finely ground coffee, often spiced with cardamom, cooked on a stove and served unfiltered/unstrained), the coffee culture in Israel has refined and the quality has drastically increased in the last couple of decades. Most coffee beverages now use high-quality espresso instead of instant coffee. There are a number of well-known local coffee chains as well as many small coffee shops. Many Israelis like just sitting and talking with friends while drinking their café latté (the most popular coffee in cafés). Sandwiches and salads are also good options for a light supper. Aroma is Israel’s biggest coffee chain, and their coffee is excellent. There are three sizes of sandwiches to select from, as well as three kinds of bread. Arcaffé is a bit more costly, but some claim their coffee is superior. Elite Coffee, cafe cafe, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Cafe Hillel are some of the other chains (of which some branches are Kosher dairy). Israelis dislike American-style coffee, and Starbucks flopped badly in Israel owing to the locals’ perception of its coffee as inferior.
Vegetarians and vegans
In Israel, vegetarians and vegans should have a simple time eating. Many restaurants offer solely dairy cuisine according to “kashrut” (kosher laws), which makes them popular among vegetarians. Be warned that fish is often served at these establishments. Vegan eateries may also be found in certain areas of the nation. In the Galilee, Amirim is a vegetarian/vegan town with numerous eateries. “Israeli Salad” (also known as Arab or Chopped Salad) is a finely diced tomato and cucumber salad. It’s extremely common and may be found almost anywhere that serves meals.
Drinks in Israel
In Israel, the legal drinking age is 18. It is unlawful to drink and drive, and it is aggressively prosecuted. Between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the selling of alcohol outside of pubs and restaurants, as well as public drinking, has been banned since 2010.
Israeli beer comes in three varieties:
- Goldstar is the most popular Israeli beer in Israel. It is a Munich-style dark draught. KHE-tsi and shlish (Hebrew for “half” and “third”) may be found in 0.5 and 0.3 liter bottles and cans (1 pint and half a pint, respectively), or KHE-tsi and shlish (Hebrew for “half” and “third”). Because Israel utilizes the SI system, the quantity is expressed in litres. It’s also accessible to drink straight from the tap (meh ha-kha-VIT, Hebrew for “from the barrel”). Some believe it goes well with Bissli, a traditional local dish.
- Maccabee is a lighter and smoother pilsner than Goldstar. It’s available in bottles, cans, and on tap. In Israel, this beer has a poor image for having a horrible flavor. Its formula was recently altered, and the beer is regaining popularity in Israel. Despite this, many pubs refuse to serve it owing to its poor reputation. Be careful that the local Maccabee variety differs from the exporting type in flavor.
- Nesher – mainly malt, comes in bottles.
There are also Palestinian beers available:
- Taybeh. — produced at the Middle East’s first microbrewery, “Taybeh Beer Brewery” is located in Taybeh hamlet, only a short cab ride from Ramallah, and is a popular beer with Palestinians, Israelis, and visitors alike. It’s mostly found in Israeli Arab neighborhoods, Jerusalem, and Palestinian towns. Taybeh Brewery provides free tours of its facilities and sells 5 shekel beers on site. Every year during the first week of October, Taybeh village holds its own Oktoberfest-style beer festival. The event drew a large number of international visitors and is becoming more popular.
Several microbrewery companies have recently emerged, and a broad range of boutique beers, including Sins-Brewery, Bazelet, Golda, Laughing Buddha, Asif, Dancing Camel, and many more, may now be available at select alcohol establishments and certain chain retail shops.
Furthermore, a broad range of foreign brands, some of which are locally brewed, are accessible across Israel. Heineken, Carlsberg, and Tuborg are among the most popular beers.
Arak is a popular liquor in Israel. It’s clear and anise-flavored, akin to Pastis or Aguardiente from Colombia. It’s typically served in a 0.3-liter glass with an equal quantity of water and ice. Some people like to drink it with grapefruit juice. Arak is often stored in the freezer. Aluf Ha-Arak and Elit Ha-Arak (both from the same distillery) are two popular brands, with the former having a greater alcohol per volume and the later having a stronger anise taste. Although the amount is somewhat different, the pricing is also varied.
There are many large vineyards in the area, as well as a rising number of boutique vineyards, some of which are of excellent quality.
Most common Western soft drinks are accessible, and many have local variations that aren’t all that dissimilar in flavor. Coca-Cola, RC Cola, and PepsiCo are all actively competing for the soft drink industry. Cola aficionados believe Israeli Coca-Cola is sweeter and more genuine than other brands because it is produced with sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. Tempo (not to be confused with Tempo Industries, Ltd., which brews most Israeli beer and bottles most soft drinks, including the local Pepsi) and Super Drink are dirt-cheap local versions with bizarre flavors.
The general term for Coke or Pepsi is “cola,” which typically refers to Coca-Cola; if the establishment offers Pepsi, they will usually inquire if it is okay. Also, “soda” is not a generic term for carbonated soft drinks; it usually refers to “soda water.”
There are a few more genuine soft drinks to choose from:
- Tropit is a low-cost fruit-flavored beverage that is typically grape. It’s packaged in a durable aluminum-like bag with a straw. The straw is used to puncture a hole in the bag through which you may drink. A highly portable (until holed) drink that has become in popularity in summer camps. The straw should be placed into a designated location in the newer kinds. Even then, if you are from the United States, it may take some effort to insert the straw without the juice squirting out; it is similar to the Israeli version of “Capri Sun.”
- Chocolate milk — a variety of sterilized chocolate milk (SHO-ko) brands are available in plastic bags and small cartons. The milk is sucked out when the bag’s tip is bitten or cut off. It is extremely portable (albeit not as much as Tropit owing to its milky nature) until opened, after which it is difficult to reseal. It’s worth noting that chocolate milk in a bag is typically served cold, and warming it would be a terrible idea.
- Spring Nectar is a fruit-flavored beverage available in cans or 1.5-liter bottles. Most supermarkets, convenience shops, and gas stations, as well as many take-out restaurants, sell it. It’s available in a variety of flavors, including peach, mango, and strawberry.
- Prigat is a fruit-flavored beverage sold in plastic bottles. Is available in almost every supermarket, gas station, and small shop in Israel. It comes in a variety of tastes, including grape, orange, apple, tomato, and a few more unusual ones.
- Primor is a fruit juice that is sold in plastic bottles. Almost everywhere sells it. It comes in a variety of tastes, the most common of which being citrus and apples.