The Colors of Israel, in Food

Israel has some very popular national dishes, namely hummus, falafel and schwarma. I could eat hummus every day and adore falafel but don’t really like shwarma as I have an aversion to shaved meat.

Despite the delicious flavors of Israel, I do have to say that I find the food in this country to be a little redundant in that they are light on variety. Of course in addition to their most popular meals they eat fish, chicken and beef, along with fruits and vegetables like everyone else. Still, because they are a kosher country, there is very little mixing of meat and milk products, which really limits menu choices. What Israeli food lacks in variety, though, it makes up for in appearance. The foods in Israel are colorful, texture rich and delicious. Here’s a look at the many colors and textures of Israeli food.

Hummus:

Israeli’s most popular dish is undisputedly hummus. Made from chickpeas, tahini and olive oil, this is my favorite Middle Eastern meal.

Plate of hummus in Nazareth, Israel

Vegetables:

Israelis are big on vegetables, but not the leafy green varieties that are so popular in the U.S. My Israeli friends and I frequently had barbecues in Tiberias, at which time halved tomatoes and onions and whole green peppers were always thrown on the grill. These are the vegetables of Israel.

Onions, tomatoes and green peppers in Israel

One vegetable I’ve never seen anywhere but Israel is pink cauliflower. Yes, pink cauliflower. Whether they pickle it to turn it pink or grow it in this color, I don’t know, but it is a little tastier than regular white cauliflower.

Pink cauliflower in Jerusalem, Israel

Knafeh:

This very sweet treat is popular with the Arab population in Israel. Made of ricotta and mozarella cheeses, along with semolina and syrup atop a phyllo dough crust garnished with ground pistachos, this is one of my all-time favorite desserts.

Delicious knafeh in a pan in Nablus, West Bank

Olives:

I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where olives play as big a dietary role as in Israel. This country is on the Mediterranean, a part of the world that is known for their olive oil consumption, but Israel consumes not only this but the olives as well. You’ll find them accompany many dishes as well as, in this case, for sale on the street.

Olives for sale in Nazareth, Israel

Salad:

Salads in Israel are very basic. Diced cucumbers and tomatoes. That’s it!

Cucumber and tomato salad in Israel

Ramadan Sweets:

When Israelis’ Muslim population observes the month-long Ramadan holiday each year, they know how to break the fast in a tasty way. Shortly before darkness falls each night of Ramadan in Jerusalem’s Old City, Paletinians begin bringing out the food so everyone can partake as soon as the sun is safely set. Sweets, like those, seen below, are a big part of the feast that goes on after the fast.

Ramadan sweets in the Old City, Jerusalem for Ramadan 2011

How about you? Do you have any favorite colorful treats you’ve tasted on your travels?

18 Comments Post a Comment
  1. jan says:

    Hi, We recently returned from Spain and Morocco. Both places are really big on olives. As soon as you sit down in a bar/cafe a plate of gratis olives arrives. The olives are arranged in huge displays in the markets. I found spanish olives to be much nicer than Australian olives. Love the look of the Ramadan sweets. Nice pics!
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  2. Sabina says:

    Hi, Jan – Thanks! I’ve never seen a plate of gratis olives, but that works for me because I don’t like them anyway :)

  3. Gray says:

    Wow, I think I’d really enjoy a Middle Eastern diet. I love olives and grilled vegetables, and that knafeh sounds fantastic! (Can you get that in the US anywhere?)
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  4. Sabina says:

    Gray, I found knafeh at a Druze restaurant in NYC, but that’s it. I’m sure it’s served at other Middle Eastern restaurants too. Seriously, if you come across it, you should try it. It’s a fabulous dessert!

  5. Erik says:

    Thanks for the stroll down Memory Lane-

    Seeing these things was like taking me back to May 2010, when I spent a month there.

    Pink Cauliflower— I remember that from the souq right outside my hotel in Jerusalem.
    Erik recently posted..Photo of the Day- Old Post Office Tower, Washington, D.C.My Profile

  6. Sabina says:

    Hi Erik – I’m happy you enjoyed it :)

  7. Wow! You’ve sure made me hungry :) As much as I’d like to just dive in and have everything, I must admit that nothing beats good hummus :)
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  8. Steve says:

    I’m surprised you don’t like Schwarma. I tried it for the first time a few months ago and loved it. I tried it at this new Greek restaurant – yum.

    I have to agree that Israeli food has good appearance. From the colors of that pink cauliflower to the salads and sweets, you have a lot of interesting food to look at.

    I never knew that cauliflower could come in pink. Just when I was getting used to white asparagus, out comes another strangely colored vegetable. But seriously, out of all the colors, I would never have guessed that one. I’d hope it tastes better than the regular kind though since the white kind is rather bland.
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  9. I love baklava and all its cousins. Last year in Israel, I was constantly scouting out the desserts and did the same this year in Greece and Turkey. I love your picture of Knafeh. I had it for the first time when I went to Egypt in college.

    Ahh travel and food. They go hand in hand.
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  10. Now that actually looks like my kind of salad – I like to keep it simple, too! Hummus is amazing and I crave it so much here in Korea – the Israeli version looks like it beats what I can get in a pot in Asda, for sure ;)

    This post plus another one I saw earlier on 5 top places to go in Israel are seriously making me consider taking a jaunt to Tel Aviv…
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Seoul Grand ParkMy Profile

  11. Sabina says:

    Samuel – hummus is one of my all-time favorite dishes. I’m happy I can easily find it at home as well as in Israel.

  12. Sabina says:

    Hi, Steve – I tried to like schwarma for a long time but I just couldn’t get it to happen. And the pink cauliflower I’ve never seen in the supermarket – only sometimes in restaurants. The pink must come from the preparation and not the growing.

  13. Sabina says:

    Hi, Jenni – I love baklava too. And knafeh is always wonderful, no matter where you find it :)

  14. Sabina says:

    Hey, Tom – I’m happy to hear you’re a fellow hummus lover. :) I really miss it when I’m somewhere that it’s not available too.

    And I think it’s great that you’re starting to consider a trip to Tel Aviv. You will love that city!!

  15. I never thought of Israeli food as colorful, good point! Now I’m hungry :)
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  16. Donna Spears says:

    I’m interested to see that pink cauliflower. Honestly, it’s odd to see that but it’s really beautiful and that taste must really be good too.
    This must be Nicki Minaj’s favorite cauliflower (just kidding).
    Thanks for sharing this.
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  17. MARIE MILLS says:

    LOVED THE MOUTH-WATERING ARTICLE & I TOO ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE PALESTINIAN NATIONAL FOODS & SWEETS THAT YOU MISTAKENLY DESCRIBE AS ‘ISRAELI NATIONAL FOOD’, UNFORTUNATELY THAT HAPPENS QUITE OFTEN.

  18. Great pictures, but you can’t never forget that Israeli food has many influence, not only Muslim. Russian, Polish, French. And I really can’t agree when you say that the variety of food is small. I do travel to Israel 5-6 times a year and Kosher is no more the problem to be frank, in Tel Aviv there is only couple of restaurants that are strictly Kosher and in Jerusalem I never had a problem either. Israel has some amazing restaurants even outside of Tel Aviv (which is a heaven for foodies with all chef’s restaurants) like Mahneyuda Restaurant in Jerusalem, Uri Buri in Akko or Idi in Ashdod. For me food in Israel is too die for!
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