What do Israelis eat on Shabbat?

December 2020

Food. It’s a major theme in our country and religion. Each holiday and event has its own traditions and customs. Shabbat is no different. Here in Israel, there is a long list of foods that are traditionally eaten on Shabbat, stemming from the various backgrounds of Israelis. In one small country, it’s amazing the true abundance of dishes dating back to their origins all around the world.

As we celebrate Shabbat in our monthly box, let’s dive into the wide range of amazing Shabbat foods in the land of milk and honey. WARNING: don’t read this if you’re hungry!

Chrimee

 Chrimee is a Libyan fish dish, traditionally eaten as an appetizer on Friday night. Whole pieces of fish are cooked in a shallow SPICY tomato-based sauce and served in a “pool” of sauce with challah (non-sweet!). It’s traditional to dip the challah in the sauce first (it’s delicious itself- with garlic, spicy paprika, cumin, etc.) and once finished, to eat the fish.

Jachnun

Jachnun is a Yeminite dish, served on Shabbat morning after baking all night in its traditional pot. Jachnun is a type of dough that is rolled out and brushed with spiced butter, giving it a unique taste. Some people like to add a bit of honey. It is baked and steamed overnight in a pot (with the lid on to prevent drying). In the morning, the dough will be a dark color with a sweet, amazing taste. Jachnun is typically served with hard-boiled eggs, grated tomato sauce, and tsug (green spicy sauce). Jachnun can be purchased all over the country (on Shabbat only), but if you have a Yemenite friend to make you a homemade version, you’re in for a real treat!

Shakshuka

Continuing on the Shabbat morning trend, Israelis love to make Shakshuka for Saturday morning brunch. The origins of Shakshuka aren’t agreed upon, dating back to Ottomon Empire and being common throughout the Middle East. The Northern African countries have a long history with Shakshuka, some claiming that it originated in Morocco, Tunisia or Libya.

No matter what, Shakshuka is one of our favorite Israeli foods today. It includes poached eggs in a tomato sauce, onions, garlic, peppers and a host of spices. Some people enjoy adding cheese or even making green Shakshuka with spinach. Shakshuka is typically served with challah in order to scoop of all of the deliciousness.

Hamin, Cholent, Tabit

Say Shabbat food to an Israeli- they’ll probably answer Hamin (or Cholent). Hamin is considered a traditional Jewish dish due to the fact that it is forbidden to cook on Shabbat. Hamin is prepared before Shabbat begins and then cooked slowly at a low temperature in the oven or on a hotplate overnight. Hamin is traditionally eaten in the winter in Israel when the days are cooler and everyone is in the mood for a warm, delicious lunch.

Hamin has a wide range of varieties, from both Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Mizrachi traditions. It is usually eaten after returning from synagogue on Shabbat morning. Most Hamins include meat, potatoes, beans and barley. Some traditions replace the barley with rice or chickpeas. Sephardic customs typically add whole eggs to the pot, which turn brown overnight. The slow cook allows the flavors to blend together amazingly for a true treat on Shabbat!

Tabit is the Iraqi version of Hamin, featuring chicken and rice. The chicken is typically stuffed with rice and slow cooked together with flavored rice, tomatoes and pine nuts. The rice turns soft and packed with flavor, perfect for a Shabbat afternoon

Shabbat foods – What’s your tradition?

We could go on all day about the traditional foods eaten on Shabbat. Each family has its own traditions, often based on family recipes dating back generations. The beauty of Israel is that we have such a melting-pot of cultures, and therefore get to experience such a wide range of culinary options.

As the Israeli kitchen becomes more and more popular worldwide, use the opportunity to try out one of these Israeli dishes next Shabbat. You won’t be disappointed.

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