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Israel’s culinary city of Tel Aviv is awash with food markets that attract professional chefs, amateur cooks and foodies. Together with the city’s population, they come to shop for the finest, local, seasonal produce they can find. The Middle Eastern market, or shuk, is a chaotic, vibrant food hub, captivating the very essence of the Israeli food culture of today.
In North Tel Aviv, Shuk HaNamal is the newest and only fully covered food market in Tel Aviv, standing proud in a prime location overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Namal is the Hebrew word for port, which is where this young shuk sits, showing off its produce to a rapidly growing trade. Every Friday morning, Shuk HaNamal’s clientele look for organic, home farmed produce in the form of a Farmer’s Market. Locally grown fruit, vegetables and herbs and freshly produced cheeses together with hand pressed oils, handpicked flowers and homemade beers are all on sale directly from the producer to the buyer. This custom is soaring as more of Tel Aviv’s citizens are turning to vegetarian and vegan diets and are all looking for high quality, organic produce to eat at home with their family or in highly acclaimed restaurants when dining out with friends.
The Hadar Yosef Staduim, also in North Tel Aviv, plays host to the world’s first monthly Paleo market, offering boutique stalls of foods eaten by our cavemen ancestors. A fast growing trend, the Paleo diet is simply a diet packed full of meat, nuts, fruits and vegetables that were available 10,000 years ago, as it is believed that the cavemen had a very similar digestive system to humans today. Stall wares include dried, cured meats such as Biltong, gluten free pitas, and gluten free beer. All the food is fresh and many of the stalls are kosher, but as a result, the prices tend to be higher than other food markets in the culinary capital.
The most famous of all Tel Aviv’s food markets is undoubtedly Shuk HaCarmel. Centrally located on HaCarmel Street, the stalls here are full to the brim with the freshest produce one can find in this lively, gastronomic capital. This street has been renowned over the years for its shops and stalls of fresh and dried fruits, spices, breads, flowers and bric a brac, but now the culture is changing, and eating and drinking well is as important as buying well. Stalls selling Yemenite, Persian and Moroccan fast food spill out onto the road, hoping to attract the shoppers meandering along, intoxicated by the smells, sounds and tastes of Shuk HaCarmel.
Levinsky Market is located in the Florentin area of South Tel Aviv and has become a cosmopolitan foodie’s market, showcasing the best food on offer around the city. The foods sold at this market originate from immigrants from Iran, Greece, and Turkey, among others, where the spices are fragrant, Middle Eastern sweetmeats are made fresh and bought daily from Nazareth, and the roasted nuts are the best in the city. Shuk tours can be arranged from here, where experienced guides take you on a culinary adventure of spots you might miss on your own. The tour will take you through the alleys and cobbled back streets, to where you can find salted fish from Bucharest and authentic Chai Masala from India, and will have you stop along the way in Café Kaymak, for a well deserved cup of vegetarian coffee.
Born from the inspiration of many of the world’s most famous food markets, such as London’s Borough Market and Barcelona’s La Boqueria, Sarona market houses 89 of Tel Aviv’s boutique food businesses. Each and every one is looking to attract the elite foodies in Israel, from up and down the country and beyond. A former German templar colony renovated to a high standard, Sarona has become the haven for local produce in its raw state, as well as for local chefs and restaurateurs turning the finest of ingredients into the perfect burger, the best executed sushi, or simply a freshly squeezed vegan smoothie. Sarona is bursting at the seams with restaurants, cafés and bars, all selling the best cup of coffee, the finest Israeli breakfast, or the freshest homemade pasta, and knowing that their name alone speaks for itself in Israel’s most talked about food market.
baharat: a Middle Eastern blend of spices which includes nutmeg, black pepper, coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and paprika, used widely when cooking with meat or fish
baklava: a rich, syrupy Middle Eastern sweetmeat, made from layers of filo pastry and pistachio nuts
bourekas: baked filled pastries, sold as street food all over Israel
challah: egg enriched, braided, Jewish bread typically eaten on the Sabbath and during festivals
cinnamon: cinnamon bark is used as a spice to flavour Middle Eastern food and is both sweet and savory
coffee: coffee has become part of the culture in Israel and only an exceptional quality of coffee beans are accepted in coffee houses and drunk across the country
cumin: with a warm flavour and heady aroma, the seeds are used commonly in Israeli food and have the health benefits of aiding digestion
halva: Israeli confection made from tahini (sesame paste) and a variety of flavors including chocolate, pistachio, vanilla and even chili
kohlrabi: known as the ‘German Turnip’or a turnip cabbage, kohlrabi is a crisp vegetable which is eaten raw in salads, adding a touch of sweetness
nana: nana or mint is grown widely in Israel and used in many culinary dishes, whether fresh or dried ‘tea with nana,’ which is simply boiled water with mint and is drunk throughout Israel
rugelach: a Jewish pastry of Ashkenazi origin, traditionally crescent shaped, rolling a triangle of dough around a filling such as chocolate, cinnamon or nuts
pomegranates: steeped in tradition, the pomegranate is referred to in the Old Testament as one of the seven species and is still used today in many of the modern dishes of Israel, both savory and sweet
pomelos: grown all over the country in citrus groves, the pomelo resembles an overgrown grapefruit with a thicker skin
sumac: a piquant, lemony spice from the bright red berries of the genus Rhus shrub, grown all over the Middle East and often used as a souring agent instead of lemons
tahini: hulled sesame seeds ground to an oily paste and used as a dressing for many Middle Eastern dishes or in the making of halva
za’atar: a mix of sesame seeds, oregano, dried marjoram, sumac, cumin and salt, great on freshly cooked flatbreads and in salad