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Shira: Welcome back to HebrewPod101.com, the All About Hebrew Series. This is All About Lesson 7 – Top Five Israeli Foods. I'm your host, Shira.
Amir: [ואני אמיר] (Ve'a'ni a'mir)
Shira: I think many people have a basic idea of what Israeli cuisine is.
Amir: I bet the first thing people think of is falafel.
Shira: Yeah. Even I thought that at first.
Amir: Well, Israeli cuisine is a lot more than just falafel and pita. I can proudly say that we have some of the most diverse and delicious food in the world.
Shira: You would say that being Israeli and all. But I do agree, I was very impressed with the variety and quality of the foods when I first came to Israel.
Amir: So today's lesson will be about the gorgeous dishes Israel has to offer.
Shira: And we're going to take you all the way from deciphering menus to some insider tips on which foods to try.
Amir: Well, we don't want you to go hungry, so we'll start with Israeli menus.
Shira: Luckily, menus in Israeli are quite straight forward and often have pictures.
Amir: And due to Israel's popularity among tourists, many times the menu will have an English translation on it or restaurant may even have a separate English menu for you.
Shira: Or you could just try to use what you've learned so far to figure out the menu in Hebrew.
Amir: Either way, you should be able to recognize some basic ingredients with the Hebrew you've learned so far.
Shira: Ok, I say to jump right into it. What can people expect to find in Israeli food?
Amir: As I've mentioned earlier, one common ingredient in Israeli food, as you might have guessed, is olive oil.
Shira: Actually, Israeli olive oil is really good, even just to dip a little bread in. Besides olive oil, fruits and vegetables are very basic foods for Israelis because there's so much agriculture in Israel.
Amir: You can get fresh fruits and vegetables very cheaply if you go to the [שוק] (Shuk).
Shira: Yeah, the [שוק] (Shuk). Now that is a cultural experience. The [שוק] (Shuk) is the local market where vendors sell anything from vegetables to toys.
Amir: I think everyone should visit a local [שוק] (Shuk) at least once when they're in Israel. You can find lots of local foods there as well, like my personal favorite food, olives.
Shira: Yum, I love olives too and they come in many, many different flavors so try as many as you can. Now what else can people expect to see in Israeli cuisine?
Amir: Well, it sort of depends on where you are. The same dish can be slightly different in different places in Israel.
Shira: A lot depends on who's making the food. Israel is full of immigrates and full of children and grandchildren of immigrants who came from all over the world. So the dishes you will find in a restaurant will depend on the ethnic history of the owners and the customers.
Amir: That's right, but generally all restaurant in Israel have some basic dishes that you can find anywhere in the country.
Shira: What are some other common ingredients?
Amir: Well, there's also a lot of meat in Israeli dishes. That would be kosher meat, of course.
Shira: Of course. And the food is usually accompanied by rice or cous cous.
Amir: Yeah, cous cous is a very basic part of Israeli food and rice too, actually.
Shira: And something unique to Israel is that it has its own type of rice shaped pasta called [פתיתים] (Ptitim) and that's used in many dishes.
Amir: [פתיתים] (Ptitim) is our own little Israeli invention. It was created at a time when they couldn't import enough rice to meet the demand. So they started making this rice substitute out of wheat.
Shira: I was a little confused the first time I ate [פתיתים] (Ptitim). It's something between rice and pasta.
Amir: It's very popular with kids today. They'll eat it plain or mixed with tomato sauce. They just love it.
Shira: Ok, let's move on. When you're trying new food, you should look for seasonal and holiday dishes.
Amir: Yes, there are some very special dishes that are made only for specific holidays.
Shira: One of those special dishes is [matzo ball] or [קניידלך] (Kne'i'dalakh).
Amir: [קניידלך] (Kne'i'dalakh) comes originally from the [אשכנזי] (Ash'ke'na'zi) cultures, but it's a popular started for Passover for Israelis from all different backgrounds.
Shira: It's one of those feel good foods that makes you feel like you're at home.
Amir: So does the way I feel about my mom's cooking on [שבת] (Shabat).
Shira: Yeah. The [שבת] (Shabat) meal is a very special time for families.
Amir: Well, [שבת] (Shabat) is the most important day of the week for both religious and secular Jews. The [שבת] (Shabat) meal is usually when the families share together.
Shira: I always feel so special when someone invites me over to their home for [שבת] (Shabat).
Amir: You know, in Israel, if someone finds out you're going to be alone on [שבת] (Shabat), they'll probably invite you to eat the [שבת] (Shabat) meal with them.
Shira: The ceremony that surrounds [שבת] (Shabat) and traditional families is also very interesting.
Amir: A typical meal in a religious home will include singing, prayers and reading of scripture. But actually there will be some amount of ceremony in most homes, not just in the religious ones.
Shira: Yes, I think in almost every [שבת] (Shabat) meal I've attended, they've at least lit the [שבת] (Shabat) candles.
Amir: These traditional candles remind us that we should observe and remember the [שבת] (Shabat).
Shira: Hey, Amir, what kind of food does your mom make on [שבת] (Shabat)?
Amir: My mom always makes a fresh [חלה] (Khala), which is braided egg bread, and we usually also have chicken soup, meatballs, different kinds of salad, and cooked vegetables.
Shira: On [שבת] (Shabat) almost everything is closed from Friday afternoon, a little before [שבת] (Shabat) begins, until [מוצאי שבת] (Mo'tsa'ei shabat), which is sundown on Saturday.
Amir: Although in the past few years it's become more common to find a few stores that are open, but you should be sure to have everything you need before the [שבת] (Shabat) begins, because you may have a hard time shopping on [שבת] (Shabat). Let's go on to the top five foods you must try when you're in Israel.
Shira: Ok, these are some of our favorite dishes.
Amir: Of course, number one is falafel.
Shira: Falafel is considered the national dish of Israel.
Amir: It's probably the most famous Israeli fast food.
Shira: Basically, falafel is fried chick peas eaten in a pita with salads and hummus.
Amir: You can find it in falafel stands all over Israel.
Shira: The fried falafel ball with all the salad and hummus are a great combination.
Amir: Oh, Shira, you're making me so hungry just talking about it.
Shira: Yeah. Falafels are loved by Israelis everyone. A friend of mine even told me about an Israeli falafel stand all the way over in Hawaii.
Amir: Hawaii of all places. Next up is [קובה] (Ku'ba).
Shira: I love [קובה] (Ku'ba). Whoever thought of this was a genius.
Amir: And it comes in so many forms too.
Shira: To put it simply, [קובה] (Ku'ba) is spiced minced meat surrounded by [בורגול] (Burgul) or cracked wheat.
Amir: It's usually served fried with salads on the side.
Shira: But my favorite [קובה] (Ku'ba) is [קובה חמוסטה] (Ku'ba kha'mus'ta), which is [קובה] (Ku'ba) used like dumplings in a rich soup with lots of vegetables. It's a favorite of Iraqi Jews.
Amir: So the third dish I'd like to introduce is [שקשוקה] (Shak'shu'ka).
Shira: This is one of the best breakfast foods in Israel.
Amir: Basically [שקשוקה] (Shak'shu'ka) is eggs cooked in tomato sauce with onions and lots of spices.
Shira: When you say it like that it sounds so simple.
Amir: Ah, but the secret is in the spices.
Shira: Aha.
Amir: It became popular in Israel after it was introduced by the Tunisian Jews.
Shira: It's really tasty, but it's also really spicy, so be careful not to burn your mouth.
Amir: Next up is something popular for breakfast and parties. It's called [בורקס] (Bu're'kas).
Shira: Savory pastries. We love them.
Amir: You can find [בורקס] (Bu're'kas) filled with cheese, mushrooms, spinach or potatoes.
Shira: There are bakeries all over Israel that serve [בורקס] (Bu're'kas) so they are easy to find.
Amir: And they're a great little meal. Finally, we can't conclude without mentioning the healthiest meal in Israel - the Israeli breakfast.
Shira: This is a meal that you would typically get in restaurants or hotels.
Amir: This meal sounds rather simple and it consists of special Israeli salad, eggs, freshly baked bread, butter, olives and several types of cheese.
Shira: It sounds simple, but after people have visited Israel and they've eaten Israeli breakfast, they can't stop talking about it. And Israeli often eat this on Friday mornings in the cafés.
Amir: I think you should definitely try it.
Shira: So having mentioned all the famous, popular and delicious foods, we're going to give you the top five foods for the brave.
Amir: These foods may seem a bit strange to you, but they're really popular in Israel.
Shira: I think we should go backwards this time, so we save the best for last.
Amir: Ok, let's do that. So we'll start with number five. And number five on our list is [לבנה] (Laba'ne).
Shira: [לבנה] (Laba'ne) is a very sour, strange yogurt cheese made of goat's milk.
Amir: You can find it made from cow's milk too, if you prefer a milder taste.
Shira: I think many people might find the goat version a bit too smelly and too strong.
Amir: Speaking of smelly and strong, next we have some [סלט במיה] (Salat Ba'mi'yah).
Shira: One of my favorite.
Amir: The [במיה] (Salat Ba'mi'yah) or [אוקורה] (O'kura) as some people call it, is cooked in tomato sauce, of course, with many spices.
Shira: It's delicious.
Amir: I guess some people find [במיה] (Ba'mi'yah) a bit slimy.
Shira: Well, the texture is something not typical for most foods, but many people like it. Ok, what next?
Amir: Number three is [סחוג] (Skhug), which is a spicy pepper spread.
Shira: There are three versions of [סחוג] (Skhug); red, brown and green. My personal favorite is green.
Amir: [סחוג] (Skhug) was brought to Israel by the Yemenite Jews and has become really popular as an addition to falafel and other street vendor foods.
Shira: It's made of red or green fresh hot peppers, coriander, salt and garlic.
Amir: Well, traditionally it's ground by hand using a mortar and pestle. And Israelis love it and call it [חריף] (Kha'rif), which just means spicy.
Shira: I had a Yemenite neighbor once who had a special stone he used to grind his [סחוג] (Skhug). It was his most treasured possession.
Amir: Indeed. Our next dish is rather unique dish for special occasions and it's definitely not a dish for the weak hearted. It's called [שיפוד לבבות] (Shi'pud le'va'vot).
Shira: Grilled hearts on a skewer? Was there a pun in that?
Amir: Yes. Grilled hearts are one of my favorites.
Shira: Ok, ok, I hear you, but I'm just not a fan of eating animal organs.
Amir: Then you won't be a fan of our next dish either.
Shira: Oh, no. What is it?
Amir: Are you ready for this? Our number one food for the brave is Jerusalem mixed grill or [מעורב ירושלמי] (Me'o'rav ye'ru'shal'mi) as we call it in Hebrew.
Shira: That doesn't sound so bad. What's in it?
Amir: Well, besides chicken hearts, there's liver, spleens mixed with bits of lamb, onions, garlic and, of course, spices.
Shira: Oh, no. That's definitely something I won't be trying anytime soon.
Amir: You should, Shira. It's really tasty.
Shira: I'll think about it?
Amir: I hope everyone gets the chance to try some of the dishes we've mentioned, and many others that we haven't.
Shira: Me too. Israeli food is really delicious and there's so much variety. I think everyone can find things that they will really love.
Amir: Just don't forget to be a little brave and try some new dishes.
Shira: Was that directed at me or the listeners? Well, I guess if you can't understand the menu, you'll have no choice but to be brave.
Amir: You just close your eyes and point and hope for the best.
Shira: Good…