5 gastronomy experiences in Israel

Falafels, hummus and shawarma are the traditional building blocks of Israeli cuisine but, in truth, the country’s food has become far more diverse than that…

Team Wanderlust
01 August 2022
Promoted by
Israel Travel

1. Don’t skip breakfast

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and in Israel, it’s also the most delicious. Israelis take it very seriously and go all out – there are no half measures here. No matter where you stay, you’ll wake up in front of a feast, with a spread of omelettes, cucumber and tomato salad, cheeses, olives and pastries. This super-sized start to the day dates back to Israel’s early kibbutz counter-culture, where a big breakfast was needed for the energy to work the land. You’ll need a good hunk of bread on your plate, too, as locals love to smother it in baba ghanoush (a smoky aubergine dip) or labneh (Israel’s version of cream cheese). But there’s one dish that is synonymous with Israeli breakfasts and that’s shakshuka, a pan of baked eggs in a tomato sauce. Its versatility epitomises Israeli life, whether it’s served as a one-pot meal for brunch in a Tel Aviv café or a huge pan for sharing with friends.

2. Stroll around the markets

As you’ve probably guessed, food isn’t merely a passion in Israel – it’s a way of life. The country’s gastronomy is always a good conversation starter and somewhere that’s especially the case is its shuks (open-air food markets). Pronounced ‘souk’ in the Arab world, shuks are a showcase of Israel’s plethora of fresh produce, with the wafts of aromas, tastes and sounds combining to make a multi-sensory experience. But they’re popular socialising spots for locals, too, and when you combine its people and food you have the fundamentals of Israel’s personality. For visitors, then, it’s a first-hand glimpse of the country at its most raw. Life in Israel rarely gets more electric than strolling Carmel Market, Tel Aviv’s largest shuk, where smells of fruit and spices intertwine with the echoes of customers bartering for bargains. Mahane Yehuda’s rustic appearance in Jerusalem points to a market that has changed little since Ottoman times, while the kaleidoscopic stalls of Akko’s Old City Market slot snugly within the city’s ancient ramparts.

3. Stay at an eco farm

Such is the country’s passion for agriculture, Israelis don’t have to look far for the ingredients to make their breakfast. Another legacy of the country are kibbutzim, pockets of seemingly arid rural land have been transformed into flourishing organic farms dotted around the country. Increasingly, they’re throwing open their doors for you to not only witness their green-fingered expertise but get your hands dirty, too. Cooperative smallholdings (known locally as a moshav) like Talmei Yosef in the Negev Desert offer three-hour agronomist-led tours showing you how they use cutting-edge agricultural technologies in their fields and greenhouses. Many eco-farms now offer overnight stays and nearby to Talmei Yosef is Naot Farm, where recycled concrete pipes now serve as snug capsules to bed down in after learning how the farm makes its goat’s cheese. Matnat Midbar Farm is another desert escape offering you the chance to pick fresh herbs and spices.

With all of that local fruit and vegetables, it is little surprise that Israel is such a vegan and vegetarian-friendly place, and those who prefer plant-based diets will have ample choice on almost every menu in every restaurant across the country.

4. Visit a vineyard

Israel’s arid Negev Desert isn’t just a surprising hotbed for eco-farms, it’s an unlikely spot for a string of wineries, too. Like its futuristic outlook to farming, its wineries adopt similar pioneering techniques to allow them to flourish in such a harsh environment. Cutting-edge wineries like Nana, Ramet Hanegev and Rota invite you on in-depth guided tours of their vineyards and wine tastings so you can see exactly how they work their magic. But the Negev Desert is just one of Israel’s six different wine regions, each one drawing from 10,000 years of ancient viticulture heritage dating back to biblical times – it’s said Israel is part of a wider region where serious winemaking began. The country’s vintages are suitably varied, with Flam Winery paying tribute to the past with its Old World-style vintages in the Judean Hills, while tastings at Tabor Winery allows you to sample shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay under the gaze of its namesake mountain in the Galilee.

5. Take a cookery class

You don’t get more authentic than a lesson from cookbook author Orly Ziv, who will unpick the ingredients you’ll find at Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market before whipping up dishes like shakshuka back at her home. Or, tap into Israel’s forward-thinking fusion food at Tel Aviv cooking school by fashioning dishes using a sous-vide machine and dehydrators, while Druze cook Pnina teaches you some of the ethnic minority’s dishes in the Galilee village of Maghar like zalabia (fried spiced bread) and sinye (meat kebabs).

Feeling inspired?

Head over to the official Israel website now to start planning your dream visit.

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