What happens when you bring the culinary sophistication of the west to the spice, color and vibrancy of the east? You get a hot and dynamic food scene – one that reflects the incredible cultural diversity of Israel. 80% of Israelis are Jews of whom more than half were born in Israel. But most of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents came to Israel from more than 120 countries, bringing with them dishes, recipes and food traditions from six continents. What’s more the 20% of non-Jewish Israelis have their own food traditions too.
So what’s on the menu? Thirty years ago typical fare would have been falafel, humus, couscous or gefilte fish. While you can still find those dishes today, a lot has changed. Israel has it all now, from hamburgers (Israel’s first McDonald’s opened in the 90’s) to pizza and sushi (more sushi restaurants per capita in Tel Aviv than in any city on earth, including Tokyo), the cuisines of India and China, along with the finest influences of Paris, Brussels, Lyon, Barcelona and New York. Many of Israel’s leading chefs have studied, prepped and apprenticed at some of the finest restaurants in the world.
But there’s more. There are restaurants in Israel that serve cuisines that exist nowhere else on earth: particularly the cuisines from areas now devoid of Jews, where large Jewish populations created their own eclectic cuisines, such as in Salonika, Dubrovnik, Tripolitania, Mesopotamia, Persia, Yemen and Bukhara.
There are two elements that make food in Israel so unique. One is our location on the shores of the Mediterranean. Like Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and Spain, Israeli cuisine reflects the warm sun, the olives that grow on the trees, the olive-oil pressed here, and the breads, fish and meats that have made the Mediterranean the source of what is considered by many as the world’s healthiest diet and, quite simply, the source of the best things to eat.
Secondly, Israel produces some of the world’s best fruit, vegetables and dairy products. From the legendary Jaffa oranges first exported to Europe in the 1930s, to the kiwis, star fruit, citrus fruit, tomatoes, peppers, flowers, yoghurts and cheeses exported today, Israel offers visitors from around the world culinary treats.
The ancient land of Canaan was one of the earliest countries to cultivate wine. True to its history, modern Israel produces superb, internationally acclaimed wines. There are currently over 25 commercial wineries and over 150 boutique wineries in Israel. So as they say in Hebrew, le’chayim [to life]!