My culinary journey at Jerusalem’s shuk

Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda Market offers a cornucopia of foods from around the world.
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Sarah Berkowitz's Israeli food tour goes way beyond the confines of her birthplace. (Photo: Sara Liba Tolwin)

It’s a well-known fact that Israelis take their food pretty seriously, and their cuisine – culled from the foods of people who have moved to Israel from around the world – is one that has become increasingly popular over the years.

But Israelis don’t limit their offerings to the well-loved falafel, shawarma and hummus. Strolling through a small area in the Jerusalem outdoor market (aka, the shuk), you can taste authentic Italian gelato, fabulous French pastries, American street food (think beer and sausages), serious sushi, British fish ‘n’ chips, Argentinian empanadas, and many more cuisines from around the world – all done to perfection.

One of the most passionate shop owners we interviewed was Ephraim Greenblatt, owner of Hatch Brew Bar. The Hatch team brews a new type of wild experimental beer each week, and offers stuffed homemade sausage sandwiches with toppings that made this vegetarian’s mouth water like mad. Greenblatt says food science fascinates him; he invested in Modernist Cuisine to study tricks and tips, and read about 40 books on sausage making.

Ephraim Greenblatt owns Hatch Brew Bar
Ephraim Greenblatt owns Hatch Brew Bar, which specializes in craft sausage sandwiches. (Photo: Sara Liba Tolwin)

“Our sausages are changing all the time,” says Greenblatt. “We make our buns from scratch and toast them in beef tallow, and constantly change up their menu to continually attract that flavor-driven crowd.” He’s had to put sausages back on the menu after fans started online petitions.

“We constantly strive for that crave-worthy experience,” he said. On the day we visited, the team was experimenting with desserts – a chili chocolate cookie, and a well-loved Toll House chocolate chip cookie baked with kettle-cut potato chip shards.

Hatch's sandwiches are famously stuffed to perfection./Sara Liba Tolwin
Hatch’s sandwiches are famously stuffed to perfection. (Photo: Sara Liba Tolwin)

We chatted with guests dining at Wok Street Market, who raved about the food and graciously offered their traditional Thai soup, Laksa, as a food model for our photo shoot. Wok Market offers a full menu of Asian foods, including Maki rolls, sashimi, nigiri, veggie and Asado bao sandwiches, and dim sum dumplings with goose, chicken, mushroom, spinach, or sweet potato fillings. As a nod to their host country, the menu includes sabich, falafel, or chraimeh sushi rolls. You’ve got to try those!

Traditional Laksa soup from Thailand at Wok Street Market./Sara Liba Tolwin
Traditional Laksa soup from Thailand at Wok Street Market. (Photo: Sara Liba Tolwin)

Crave Gourmet Street Food has an edgy, trendy vibe with graffiti art all over the place, including the walls, tables, and chairs. Their menu offers a host of well-made popular street foods – think Philly style burritos, nachos, crispy wings, sliders, tomahawk steak, New York-style pickles, and a chocolate dessert bar that incorporates one of America’s best-loved cereals – Cocoa Pebbles. Their sandwich lineup includes a traditional Reuben, pulled brisket, and “When Harry Met Sally” – a sandwich of New York-style pastrami, house-cured mustard, coleslaw and house pickles on rye.

Sliders at the shuk are made to order./Sara Liba Tolwin
Sliders at the shuk are made to order. (Photo: Sara Liba Tolwin)

For dessert, we checked out Aldo Gelato. The popular gelato chain was started by Aldo Deconsilio, who moved to Israel from Italy and opened a shop in Tel Aviv. The shop now has more than 50 franchises in Israel, as well as their American counterpart Screme.

Authentic Italian gelato with all the fruity, sweet toppings your sweet tooth is jonesing for./Sarah F. Berkowitz
Authentic Italian gelato with all the fruity, sweet toppings your sweet tooth is jonesing for. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

Ram Zaken, owner of Aldo’s in the Shuk, says he sources his products directly from Italy. They offer a huge variety of fabulous flavors, including Creme Rocher, Dark Chocolate Mandarin, Mascarpone Dulce de Leche, Halva, Malaby, and one of my favorites: Cinnamon Ginger.

Boutique Central has more than a dozen locations throughout Israel, and they’re known for their French macarons in a dazzling array of colors and flavors, stunning petit fours, crispy butter croissants, the classic French financier, sponges made with fresh fruit and many more gourmet desserts.

Boutique Central boasts dazzling rows of French macarons for sale./Sara Liba Tolwin
Boutique Central boasts dazzling rows of French macarons for sale. (Photo: Sara Liba Tolwin)

So yeah, it’s a little nontraditional to go to Israel and eat American, French or Asian food. But my food journey at the shuk proved that Israelis don’t just stick to the status quo when it comes to food. They’re not scared to branch out and bring in the best the world has to offer.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on FromTheGrapevine.com in 2019.

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