Shawarma and Falafel – “Unofficial” National Foods of Israel

Anyone who has been in Israel long enough will surely have eaten and fallen in love with Shawarma and Falafel. Indeed, these two food fares are some of the most delectable dishes in the state. Despite being Arab in nature, both the two have acquired become national foods (unofficially) of Israelis.



This is a pita sandwich that’s filled of  lots of strips of meat; which can be beef, turkey, chicken, or beef, and fat. The meat is cooked evenly as the spit rotates in a slow fashion in front of a heat or flame, much like a rotisserie.

Specialty restaurants in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, or even just small food kiosks; have one or two skewers cooking two different meats everyday to accommodate eager, hungry clients. In Israel, shawarma is a national food, I must say. It was brought to the country by the Arabs and Mizrachi Jews of the country. The fare started as lamb-based during the 70’s and 80’s. In the 90’s, poultry meat, especially the turkey meat, became a popular option.

The best-tasting one can be had using the freshest of pita and some delicious cucumber salad. Most restaurants sell it with hot (and a little soggy) French fries and hummus. I love to have it with a few pieces of jalapenos. Yummy! Photo by: Ronny Nussbaum


This is another great food that Israelis have learned to love to include in their daily fare. It is a ball made from grounded chickpeas and deep-fried in hot oil. Traditionally an Arab food, it is served in pita; which the bread working like a pocket to accommodate a number of balls.

Many food stores allow their customers to be the ones to place the balls into the pita. I try my best to squeeze in 10 to 12, pushing the balls further down onto the bottom of the pita. I like my sandwich best with green salads, onion, hot sauce, hummus, and tahina. Wow, mine was a really packed one! If your hunger can’t be satiated by my sandwich, I don’t know what can!

Falafel is not an original Jewish food. However, the Israelis have taken this dish as their very own. Again, it was brought to the country by the Mizrahi Jews and adopted by the earliest Jewish groups of immigrants to the land of Palestine. I just love this food, and considered it as a regular snack while I stayed in Israel - especially whenever I strolled along Ben Yehuda, or had to take a quick bite while I did my grocery at Shuk HaCarmel.

There you have it – two of the most popular Israeli dishes that you must try if you get the chance to go to Tel Aviv, Israel. They may not be originally Jewish, by the people have embraced them as their own, and even made variations that might be considered as a whole lot better. Which of the two I like better? Hmmm, do I need to choose? All I can say is that I can brag about being able to eat both in a sitting. Both are simply favorites! Pic source: Premshree Pillai


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