Tourist tip #138 / Expand your Israeli culinary horizons with jachnun
Originally a doughy Yemenite Shabbat breakfast dish, it's become an Israeli favorite for any time of day, with a helping of skhug.
If your exposure to Israeli cuisine has been limited to falafel, shwarma and hummus, it’s time to branch out. Israel, a land of immigrants, has a cuisine as multicultural as its population, with diverse flavors that span the spectrum.
Take, for example, jachnun – a pastry of Yemenite origin now enjoyed by all Israelis.
For centuries, Yemenite cooks have made jachnun by rolling up butter-brushed thin pastry dough and baking it on a low oven in a closed vessel all night. These days you can find it served all week long, but jachnun is traditionally eaten on Saturday. (Since lighting and dousing fire on Shabbat is prohibited, the oven then stays on until Saturday evening.)
Ready jachnun resembles a small golden-to-dark brown log. Its fans say it tastes better than it looks, with the same sweet-savory flavor as a butter croissant but richer, doughier and heavier.
It is served up with sides of grated tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg and skhug – a snappy Yemenite hot sauce.
These days you can find jachnun all over Israel, at cafes, bistros and even kiosks and corner markets. But your best bet, if you’re interested in tasting the dish at its very best, is to head on over to Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter, located just adjacent to the tremendous Shuk HaCarmel, and ask any of the many Yemenite grandmas who serve up home-cooked fare in little corner canteens to help you expand your Israeli cuisine horizons.