It’s only been 3 days since I got to Tel Aviv and I’m sunburnt and footsore and absolutely stuffed full of hummus and pita. I’m visiting my friend Dan in TLV and we’ve walked from Center City to Jaffa to Neve Tzedek and back, all in the name of seeing and eating the best the city has to offer. And sample the best we certainly did, starting with a morning pilgrimage to what is generally acknowledged to be the best hummus place in Tel Aviv if not Israel or the entire world, Abu Hassan. You might think your hummus or your friend’s hummus is the best in the world but take a look at the picture above for some visual proof – can’t really argue with that, can you?
However, we went on an Indiana Jones-style adventure trek through the city to get there, starting with a fantastic coffee affuk (upside down cappucino) from a cute shop called Boutique Central which I’ve seen dotted all over the city. They also have amazing pastries…
or rather amazing looking pastries, because Dan wouldn’t let me ruin my appetite for hummus.
This face says: ‘NO CROISSANTS BEFORE HUMMUS!’ I bet that’s what the sign says too.
We wandered all over the city, along the beach and through the winding streets of Old Jaffa and past the port and up and down some streets that didn’t exist on the map and past other streets that didn’t seem to exist in real life and finally ended up on a tiny street with a tiny storefront packed full of people. We expected to do the classic eat-your-takeout-hummus-on-the-street-overlooking-Jaffa-port-and-the-Mediterranean move, but got lucky when a table for two emptied right in front of us.
You’ve already seen the amazingly fresh and creamy hummus and masabacha mixture (hummus with whole chickpeas and hardboiled egg), which we rapidly downed with fluffy thick pita and the classic accompaniment of chunks of raw onion with hot pepper sauce and a malta, or black beer.
According to an Israeli friend who hosted us for an incredibly delicious shabbat dinner later that night, the onions are soaked in some sort of salt mixture rather than completely raw, which might explain how they were so incredibly delicious and not the painful experience one might assume. The malta? It tastes like coke. And beer. At the same time.
The atmosphere? Bustling, loud, fast-moving, full of rich smells and the clink of plates and hot wafts of steam, yells for hummus orders and people reaching over your head and jostling your table for bags of pita and raw onions. Seated right next to the kitchen and the takeout counter, we got to enjoy the madness at its finest.
Main lessons learned:
1. Hummus is a meal and an art form unto itself. Rather than a side dip or an afterthought, in Israel it is very much the main attraction. No falafel, no salad, no nothing besides the basic and the best.
2. When visiting Abu Hassan, get there early. When the pot of hummus is gone, they close up shop for the day and it’s all over.
3. Big bowls of hummus and chunky rounds of pita bread are seriously filling. We were full after about 10 bites, but continued on for about 1oo more.
After stuffing our faces, we waddled on past the Jaffa port and on to the famous Carmel market…photos to come soon!