Israeli street food delicacy: Sabikh


Todays’ recipe comes from Israel and it is as simple as can be, but it’s a must for all those visiting the Holy Land. I thank my friend David Steinberg, a professional Tour Guide from Tel Aviv for sharing this recipe with me.

Post by David Steinberg

In the Holy land there is hardly anything which is not contested. Let alone the land (some call all of it Israel, others call it Palestine, mutually accusing each other of having stolen it, the land) but also… the food! Local Palestinian cuisine is superb, as this land has been for millennia the crossroads between Africa, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Europe and Asia. It has been enriched by various other cuisines which immigrant Jews have brought over from their original countries -from Iran and Iraq to North Africa, the Balkans, central and eastern Europe, the USA and South America. These have culminated into a fusion cuisine, in recent years, which had gained international recognition, the most renown are the cookbooks of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi – two chefs, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, who have collaborated to create amazing dishes.

The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock – Jerusalem. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Hummus and tahini, two condiments used in this dish, are staple foods in the Holy Land. They are clearly of middle eastern, Arabic origin, but everyone sees it as their own. These, two condiments could be attained in middle-eastern shops, Tahini in its unprocessed, crude form and hummus – canned, or in a middle eastern restaurant.

Sabikh is a sandwich, whose origins are probably Judeo-Iraqi and has not been adopted nor is it sold in local Palestinian street food stands. The urban legend is that it was developed in Arab speaking Iraqi Jewish families as a Sabbath breakfast, thence its name deriving from the Arabic word for morning – Sabakh. It was initially sold in a falafel stand in Ramat-Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, then becoming a mass hit. Today it is sold in falafel stands all over Israel. It has gained popularity because it has its particular, distinct taste.

Sabikh – Photo by David Steinberg

The Sabikh is a vegetarian sandwich. It is served generally inside a flat pita bread like the Falafel, but it has two particular ingredients, essential for the definition: slices of fried aubergines and a hard-boiled egg. Salads, condiments and additional sauces may vary, but these ingredients are basic. It is advisable to have at least two of the three condiments: Middle eastern hummus paste (paste of cooked chick-peas). Middle-eastern Tahini sauce (paste of sesame amalgamated with a little water into a creamy consistency). Finally, Amba spicy mango sauce, or liquefied Indian Mango Achar (optional).

Ingredients for 2-4 people

For the Pita Bread

Procedure

  1. In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, and sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in 65 grams flour (½  cup)  and let sit for 15 minutes, until the mixture foams. 
  2. Add oil, salt, and 250 grams of flour (approx. 2 cups) and stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy mass forms. Dust a clean surface with flour and knead until it gets smooth and elastic, (knead at least for 5-7  minutes, adding more flour if the dough gets sticky. Wrap the dough with a film and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature  until it doubles in size
  3. Dust a clean surface with flour. Divide dough into pieces (you should be able to make 7-8 pieces) and roll into balls. Cover with a film and let rest 10 minutes. 
  4. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Working one at a time, roll each ball into a ½ cm-thick circle about 20 cm wide, sprinkling dough with extra flour if it starts to stick. 
  5. Cook each pita one at a time in skillet until an air pocket balloons, then flip, and cook 1 minute more. Slit it on top to allow filling.
Pita Bread – Photo from Pixabay

Stuffing:

  • 2 Pita bread (1 per person, slit at the top, to be filled) in the absence, any flat bread that could be made into a pouch or even a panino or ciabatta.
  • 1 Medium aubergine, sliced and fried.
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, finely chopped.
  • 1 sweet red cabbage, very finely chopped
  • 2 tbs of chopped parsley
  • 1 large salad tomato cubed
  • 1 cucumber cubed
  • Finely sliced onion (optional)
  • Hot red pepper sauce, or any hot sauce
  • Mango Achar or Amba sauce (optional)
  • Prepared hummus paste
  • Slightly diluted tahini sauce (in absence – some crème fraiche or mayonnaise)
  • A sprinkle of cumin
Composing the Sabikh – Photo by David Steinberg

Peel the aubergines, slice them lengthwise, then slice them in half, sprinkle with salt and let them sweat for half an hour.

Meanwhile put the eggs to the boil. Then cut the tomato and cucumber into small cubes and mix them to a salad. Cut some leaves of the red cabbage, them chop them finely in a food processor with the parsley.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the aubergine slices till golden brown, then lay down on some absorbent paper to cool a little. Peel the eggs and chop them. Both eggs and fried aubergines can cool to room temperature.

Now put the sandwich together, in a clockwise order as per the picture

Stuffing the Sabikh – Photo by David Steinberg

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