Thanks to my wonderful colleagues and friends in Israel, I have wonderful memories of my first visit to Tel Aviv. It was here I was introduced to the wonderful food duo in the form of hummus and pita bread.
I was warmly welcomed by my dear friend and colleague, Dorit, in Tel Aviv, who took me around the ancient city of Jaffa. As we rambled across the beautifully restored Old Jaffa, we came across the ‘Artists Quarter’ located in one of the narrow lanes. Among these quaint ‘creative coves’ one can browse, admire and buy some beautiful works of art. Unfortunately, as it was late in the evening, most of these galleries were closed, though we managed to catch a glimpse of the ‘wonderful art pieces’ through the glass lined windows and doors.
My food memories in Old Jaffa:
As we were wandering across the cobbled streets and admiring this first Jewish town, to be established in Israel in modern times – Jaffa, I started feeling hungry. Dorit graciously invited me for dinner at a fine restaurant. As we, were walking past some of the streets, I noticed some type of flatbreads which reminded me of the Goan ‘poli’. And I wanted to immediately taste this ‘pita bread, as the wonderful aroma of these baked goodies wafted through the entire street, tempting me to take a bite. Dusk was setting in, and these ‘traditional Israeli breads, were being, baked fresh in the huge ovens, in many bakeries, which lined the streets of the old Jaffa market. In the meantime, Dorit bought some ‘hot’ flavored with Zahatar (hyssop) pita bread for me. She asked me whether I wanted to sit and eat it with any dip. I took one bite of this pita bread and knew immediately that it was a meal in itself. At this instant, I exclaimed ‘this is divine’ and I do not need any other accompaniment with it. Happily, I gobbled these ‘heavenly treats’ as we wandered through the streets of ‘Old Jaffa’. This was indeed a ‘fine treat’ and a wonderful ‘dining experience’ for me!
Introduction to ‘Hummus’ in Tel Aviv:
Thereupon, the next day I had dinner with another friend and colleague, David. He showed me around an old train station area in Tel Aviv, which was renovated, altogether retaining its rustic charm. This was the ‘restored Tahana Railway Station’. Then, we had dinner at one of the beautiful cafes located in this area. They had limited vegetarian options. But I was happy to try out some ‘Israeli vegetarian cuisine’. The chef immediately suggested pita bread along with a cream colored dip. I was excited to try my ‘first formal Israeli meal’. In the first place, looking at the ‘tastefully decorated spread’, I thought it must be the paste of some flour. But when I dipped a piece of the warm pita bread, in it and put it in my mouth – this was an ‘aha ‘ moment for me.
In essence, the subtle, soft and wholesome grittiness of the chickpeas lent a wonderful base to bring out nutty richness of sesame seeds, the sharpness of garlic and the hint sourness of the lemon juice all of which mingled well with the olive oil. Hmm, this is hummus!
The ‘delicious’ superfood!
In general, this traditional protein rich dip is usually savored with warm pita bread or vegetables. It makes a wonderful appetizer and/or a snack. ‘Hummus’ means chickpeas in Arabic. In fact, the full name of this spread in Arabic is: hummus bi tahina which means “chickpeas with tahini”. To summarize, this ‘nutritious’ spread consists of mashed chickpeas, blended with lemon juice, tahini (sesame seeds paste), olive oil, garlic and salt. To summarize, it is a ‘healthy dish’ packed with protein, Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin B6 and fibre, too!
In fact, the origin of hummus is not clearly known, but is said to have been basically a Lebanese dish. And is very popular in Middle East, Turkey and North Africa.
Everyone likes ‘hummus’!!
Moreover, to further express the love of the common man towards this dish, a beautiful documentary film, Hummus The Movie was made by the Israeli filmmaker, Oren Rosenfeld in 2015. This is one of the best films I have enjoyed watching so far! Check it out at: Hummusthemovie.com
Did you know?
Ah, the love for hummus continues to grow. A Guinness World record was set in May 2010, for the largest dish of hummus in the world by Lebanon. This dish was cooked by 300 cooks in the village of Al-Fanar, near Beirut, which weighed approximately 10,450 kilograms.
And, the earlier record for making this dish was set by Israeli Arabs and Jews, in Abu Ghosh in January 2010, who cooked approximately 4100 kilogram of hummus. This included eight tons of boiled chickpeas, two tons of lemon juice, two tons of tahini and 70 kilogram of olive oil! A lovable mammoth dish indeed!
Here are some interesting articles about why you should opt for hummus:
May 13, 2017 is International Hummus day, let us celebrate this ‘nutritious and sustainable dish’!