Thursday, December 16, 2004

Humus - a cultural icon

In the past month or so, I have been lucky enough to eat at some of Jerusalem's best restaraunts - generally on someone else's bill (one of the side effects of getting married - long may it continue) - La Guta, Joy, Limonim, Beit Anna Ticho, Vacqueiro - all highly recommended - go and get your money off vouchers and try them out!

All of these restaraunts are good in their place but when I really fancy chowing down without ceremony, you simply can't beat the old fashioned Israel Humus joint. Serving food that is simple, cheap, tasty and filling, it has a broad appeal and is a great leveller - you can find yourself eating in the company of a beggar off the street and the CEO of a NASDAQ listed company. To be "happy eating Humus with the workers" is a (somewhat cliched) compliment when given to figures in the management.

Humus joints gain cult status, people coming from far and wide to try the fare - Abu Ghosh on a Shabbat is full of non-observant Jews eating the food for which the town is famous. Pinati on the corner of HaHistadrut and King George is also a place of pilgrimage and well worth detouring for.

The menu is straightforward - Humus, Humus with Ful (beans), Humus with meat, Humus with mushrooms, Humus with felafel - in Pita or on a plate with Pita by the side. When served on a plate, you use the pita to scoop it up (Hebrew "LeNagev" lit. "to wipe") and into your mouth - a fork would be most impolite! Felafel, Sabich (egg, fried Hatzil, ful, parsley, techina and various other delights served in Pita are also often on the menu. You'll find it hard to spend more than NIS 20 - 25 on a main course.

There is only one Humus joint in the immediate vicinity of my office but thankfully it's a really good one. From Azza to Berlin is situated on the corner of Derech Azza and Rechov HaRav Berlin. Like all good Humus joints, it's small, the decor is very basic and the owners are behind the counter welcoming in their regulars. Being a cold day and not having eaten breakfast, I order one of my favourite treats - Kuba Soup. In the cold weather, there is usually Kuba on the boil there - varying between the red, beet based soup and the sour, lemon flavoured yellow variety (Hamusta). Today it was Hamusta - wonderfully flavoured, with 3 cannon ball sized Kuba floating amongst the celery and other greens. Kuba are made from Burghul, carefully shaped into a ball with a cavity into which is stuffed some sort of filling, in this case flavourful ground beef. Kuba can be deep fried but for soup they just cook in the broth. The soup and Kuba taste homemade because they are - I don't know who's Mother rolls them in the kitchen but I'd love to know her secret!

I wouldn't give up the fancy restaraunts, but Humus is a comfort food which I am happy to eat all year round, at any time of year. The Humus bar is an Israeli institution and is an important stop, along with the Kotel and Masada for any overseas visitor.



Jack's Shack said...

One nice thing about living in Los Angeles is that there are about 50,000 Israelis here who all frequent many of the same restaurants I do.

Which means that I can still find good humus and an authentic experience to go along with it.

Your description is making my mouth water.

Anonymous said...

Hey there, sonny, I was blogging about kuba soup way back before you even knew what a blog was! (OK, so your description was better..)


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