Tourist tip #10 / Bite into sabich
Introduced into the country by Iraqi Jews and given its own unique Israeli twist, sabich is tasty, packed with protein and good on the go.
For many tourists, one of the fun things about traveling to new places is the opportunity to sample the local cuisine. Should you decide to nosh on some Israeli food on your trip, you’ll be happy to know that your quest for tasty eats needn’t be an expensive one, as Israel is renowned for its cheap, readily available and extremely delicious street food.
While none of the grub on the go here is uniquely Israeli – falalel, hummus and shwarma (a pita bread sandwich stuffed with shavings of meat) being available throughout the Levant – sabich is probably as Israeli as it gets. Its roots lie with the wave of Iraqi Jews who settled in Israel during the 1940s and 50s, bringing with them their tradition of eating a cold meal of potatoes, hard boiled eggs and slow-cooked eggplant on Shabbat, when no cooking is allowed.
Many of these new immigrants ended up settling in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, generally accepted to be the birthplace of the savory sabich. In the 1950s and 60s, street vendors began selling this winning combination from open-air stalls, and their unique local adaptation has now become a cult classic that’s available throughout the country.
Like any fast food worth its salt (if you’ll pardon the pun), everyone seems to have their own opinion on what constitutes the best sabich, and Israelis also have strong views on the best places to eat it – surely the mark of a cult classic.
However, everyone agrees that the basics need never change: A pita packed with boiled egg, fried eggplant slices, salad, slices of boiled potato and amba (a spicy mango pickle) is what you’re going to find at any sabich stand. Other common additions include chopped onion, scallions, skhug (a spicy chili and coriander paste that is a staple Yemeni condiment), red cabbage, garlic sauce, parsley, pickled cucumbers and feta cheese.
This winning combination of vegetables and protein packs a hearty punch, and the prices – usually around NIS 15 per serving – are equally mouthwatering. One thing is for certain: Sabich is an inexpensive and enjoyable meal that will keep you full for hours.