Unpretentious Eatery in Israeli Town Offers Tastiest Kebab

In Yehud, not far from Israel's international airport, a small diner couples terrible service with mouth-watering food and the best kebab in the country

Eitan Leshem
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A pita at Pundak Express.
A pita at Pundak Express.Credit: Eitan Leshem
Eitan Leshem

The worst thing a meat lover might experience can be encountered at the Pundak Express, a structure which, surprisingly, has not been torn down yet. It is situated between a gas station and a huge mall in Yehud. For 60 years they’ve been serving kebab here, but it’s not just any kebab. This kebab contains bread. People come here because of the price, 28 shekels ($8) per portion in a pita, and because of the simple dish on offer – kebabs, hummus and tahini, a tomato, an onion (grilled if requested) and that’s it.

People have been coming here for decades following the word of mouth, but they mainly come to a place where the big city’s suburbs give way to open fields and moshavim because this is where the best kebab in the country is served.

However, service is not the reason the masses land here, since the two owners’ philosophy boils down to “why did you come?” [if you don’t like it]. But people are masochists by nature, attracted like moths to a candle to people who are not delighted with their company. Thus, with no smile or eye contact, and an understanding that you’re physically in the way of someone with more important work to do, a pita landed in my hands. In order to evaluate it, one should first ask what is a kebab.

Israeli kebab is apparently the result of a blend. The word was taken from the Turkish Doner Kebab, and the idea was taken from the Soviet “shashlik.” A good mix gave us the much-loved kebab, which is basically a patty.

There is no one truth around what a kebab should be, so that any rules apply only to the person preparing it. Every kebab fan can decide for himself or herself what a kebab is. With or without onions, parsley or garlic, two kinds of meat or more, and even, with or without bread. There are many recipes for patties, some of them with various types of bread. After all, what is kebab if not a patty?

This particular kebab is a particularly fluffy patty, placed inside a pita in such a way as to enchant anyone who loves the perfect bite. Not only does the kebab not resist the soft pita, it submits to it so well that the mouth cannot distinguish between the textures of the pita and the delicate meat. That is, until the taste hits you. With the help of minimal spicing, which relies on the meat and its capabilities, contrasting flavors arise, between the juice of the meat and the crunchy onion, giving the dish a slightly sharp crumbliness.

Every bite of this kebab is a wonder. How can you make such meat? Kebab (or a patty) that’s both crumbly and firm, yet soft to the point of melting in one’s mouth. It is made perfect with a simple slice of tomato, adding an enjoyable sour flavor. The diner attacking this pita finishes it with unexpected ease. It is tasty and filling and stands out even in the dense and overcrowded ocean of kebab joints in the area.

Hovering over this place is one question – bread in a patty, for or against? Jokes about Romanians who fill their kebabs with all manner of strange things have become the bon ton of Kebab purists. If so, what do we care what they put in our kebab mix? If there is no such thing as “kebab” why can’t it contain garlic, soft fat or bread? All you have to ask yourselves is whether you prefer a correct kebab or a perfect one. Fans of the latter can find it here, where the suburbs turn into open fields.

Pundak Express, Altalef Street 2, Yehud; Sunday-Thursday 07:00-17:00.

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