5 Quintessential Sephardic Foods Every Jew Should Try
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6th May, 2012

Sephardic cooking. The spices, the flavours, the overabundance of chickpeas. Is your mouth watering? Of course it is! Who could resist?

But, unfortunately for us British Jews, many of the delights of Sephardic cooking have passed us by. In a shocking confession, one twenty-something Ashkenazi Jew told me last week that the only Sephardic dishes she had tasted were a Saturday night shwarma, the standard falafel, and of course, the quintessential food staple, humous.

Yep, the sad thing is that most of us don’t realise that there are a wealth of incredible dishes just waiting to be cooked and eaten. Readily available in Israel, some of this grub may be a bit harder to track down in UK restaurants, but are also incredibly easy to whip up yourself.

Want to know what they are? Tastebuds at the ready, lets dive in!


1. Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a tasty concoction of tomatoes, peppers, and onions with eggs poached on top. If you are a bit of a carnivore, add a meaty twist by introducing some ground beef to the mix. And of course, an obligatory pitta should be used to mop up that incredible sauce! Yum. For the geography buffs, Shakshuka originates from Tunisian and Moroccan cuisines and has become one of the most popular dishes in Israel.

Give it a try with this Shakshuka recipe.


2. Sabich

Even though it sounds exactly like the sound sickly ducklings make when they sneeze, Sabich is one of those meals that you never knew you’d been missing until you’ve tried it. Of Iraqi origin, it consists of fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, humous, tachina, amba and parsley stuffed into a pitta, and is a staple part of Israeli street food. Apparently the word Sabich comes from the Hebrew acronym for Salad (Salat), Egg (Beitza) and more eggplant (Yoter Chazil) but the jury is out on whether this is an urban legend, clever marketing ploy or just plain made-up. Regardless, its a raucous party on your tastebuds.

Make it yourself with this Sabich recipe.


3. Burekas

Burekas are little filled pastries, similar to the popular Turkish “Burak”, that are served piping hot. Burekas can come with a variety of fillings, most popularly, cheese, potato or mushrooms. Israelis aren’t precious about their fillings though – if you look hard enough you can find all sorts of crazy things going on – pizza flavoured burekas have actually been spotted in the wild! But don’t worry – you can normally tell what the filling of the bureka will be as most have distinctive shapes to denote particular fillings.

Here’s a Burekas recipe for you to try.


4. Kouba

Kouba, from the Arabic word kubbah meaning ball, is an Arabic food made from ground beef, minced onions and pine nuts. They are generally torpedo shaped and tasty as hell. Interestingly, Kouba are the only food on this list that I’ve actually seen on a menu in a kosher restaurant in London (though I’m happy for readers to disprove this statistic?) as they are served as a starter in Sollys. If you were wondering what interesting dish you could cook up for some guests next, kouba are a much nicer, more interesting alternative to falafel and well worth it.

Here’s a delicious Kouba recipe!


5. Malawach

Malawach were introduced to Israeli cuisine by Yemeni Jews. Thanks Yemen! Malawach is an incredibly versatile dish, consisting of fried bread that can be served with a variety of fillings and toppings. Now I know what you’re thinking – “well, she’s basically described a pancake!” – and you’re right, at first glance malawach do indeed resemble pancakes. However, because of the special dough that is used, malawach taste completely different, like if you took pancakes and imbued them with unicorn dust and leprechaun juice. They’ve gotta be tried to be believed, and trust me, your stomach will thank me.

Make them with this Malawach recipe!


Yum! Your stomach is definitely in for some tasty treats. Get printing off some recipes and give some of these must-taste dishes a go. And if you have a life list, don’t forget to add your favourites to make sure that you get round to actually eating them!

What other Sephardic foods do you love to eat and recommend to others? Let us know in the comments!

Note: This article is part of a series looking at some of the best and most essential experiences of modern Jewish life! To play along at home, make your life list and add your favourite experiences each month.


One Response to 5 Quintessential Sephardic Foods Every Jew Should Try

  1. Great article with some tasty foods :)

    Actually, if you know where to look you can get good kosher sephardi food in London. Taboon on Golders Green Road does Shakshuka and sells homemade Melawach (as well as other Yemeni breads, spicy green zhoug and the best falafel – 50 balls for a fiver). I love kouba but by far the best type are those in soup. Samis in Hendon does great Kouba soup with a beetroot broth. You get two massive kouba and pieces of chicken in the soup – really tasty :) Of course, you can get burekas in lots of places but my favourite are from Mr Baker in Hendon – they do the large Turkish variety. Most kosher bakerys and cafes seem to do Sabich and I have certainly seen in it Orlis (branches in Hendon, Finchley, Edgware and Borehamwood).

    As an out and Askenazi, my family could *only* pass down their cholent and chicken soup recipes – so I have had to rely on this Claudia Roden book for Sephardi inspiration – http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Book-Jewish-Food-Samarkand/dp/0140466096 – its a proper encylopedia of recipes, history and stories.


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