February 7, 2018
Posted in: Culinary Arts

Why Israeli food is considered ‘cuisine of the year’

Bringing favorite dishes from foreign cuisines to a fresh, appreciative audience is a time-honored tradition in the culinary world. Students pursuing an online culinary certificate can see evidence of this common strategy in a variety of situations. From Quebec’s top comfort food, poutine, rising in popularity south of the Canada-U.S. border to Thailand’s massaman curry – itself inspired by Muslim dishes – becoming well-known far beyond Southeast Asia, there are plenty of examples.

One of the most recent cuisines to make an appearance in the spotlight is Israel’s, with a variety of traditional and modern dishes appearing on menus from leading chefs and at trendy eateries. Let’s look at why Israeli food is making a case to be considered the cuisine of the year.

Array of Israeli foods.Hummus, falafel and more are popular Israeli cuisine staples.

What makes Israeli food so appealing?

Restaurant development group Andrew Freeman & Company went so far as to call Israeli meals and snacks the cuisine of the year in a report filled with projections for 2018. The chance to tap into many types of food that aren’t commonly served outside of dense city environments and sizeable expat communities is a challenge plenty of chefs want to take on.

Israel’s sharing of many common Middle Eastern dishes and longstanding, worldwide Jewish favorites is another important element to consider. Although many eaters may not be familiar with egg-and-vegetable dish shakshouka or fried halloumi cheese, which are both popular in the country, they’ll likely recognize some staples served in Israeli cuisine, such as hummus, falafel and matzo ball soup. Chefs can bridge the gaps between old and new by mixing each kind of offering in an Israel-inspired menu.

The flavor profiles of many dishes also appeal to customers, whether or not they have any prior knowledge of Israeli foods. There are plenty of herbs, spices and more fully formed flavors to work with, which have their place in breakfasts, dinners, desserts and everything in between. The Andrew Freeman & Company report specifically cited shakshouka – with tomatoes, chili peppers, onion and cumin – and donuts spiced with sumac as two examples of rich, unique flavors.

Highlighting a few potential meals to bring to the table

There’s a wide range of Israeli dishes out there, from comforting classics to cutting-edge culinary triumphs. Consider these popular favorites when adding one or many to your menu:

Hummus

Popular throughout Israel and far beyond its borders, hummus is a versatile food that is equally at home when served as a snack or incorporated into a meal. Food & Wine shared a recipe for hummus crafted by chef Michael Solomonov, who toured Israel to ensure his offering, at his Philadelphia restaurant Zahav, would be authentic and delicious. The secret is softening the chickpeas with baking soda overnight, prior to starting the rest of the preparation.

Shakshouka

Coming to Israel from northern Africa, shakshouka is a delicious combination of flavors that is popular both as a breakfast – thanks to the presence of eggs – and throughout the rest of the day. While the combination is novel and delicious, its constituent parts have all likely been encountered many times, even by less-adventurous diners. Serious Eats recommended using whole canned tomatoes instead of diced ones to improve consistency and flavor.

Sufganiyot

It might be a little oversimplified to call sufganiyot a jelly donut, but there are many strong similarities between the two dishes. This treat is especially popular around Hanukkah. Bon Appetit has a rich, full-flavor recipe and suggestions for filling besides the classic jelly.