• Photo by Barry A. Kaplan

Chickpeas are among the oldest cultivated plants and are native to northern Persia. They are a staple of peasant cooking, a source of cheap protein, and they’ve been included in the diets of Jews living along the Mediterranean coast and North Africa for centuries.


Chickpeas form the basis of two of Israel’s most popular street foods—humus which also contains tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic and lemon; and falafel.


Felafel probably came from Egypt where it was created by Egyptian Christian Copts who served up this dish with fava beans during Lent when meat was not eaten.

It is a combination of chick peas, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Sometimes burgul, dry bread crumbs and eggs are added. The mixture is shaped into small balls, often popped into deep oil to fry by a gadget called a falafel maker which scoops up the mixture and then releases it into the oil.

Felafel is served inside a half or whole pita with your choice of salads, sauces, dill pickle, techina, sometimes eggplant and sometimes French fries.

It is best eaten from the stands near Machaneh Yehudah, the Jewish produce market, and the stands on King George, downtown.

Humus is one of Israel’s national foods because it is “filling, nutritious and cheap” and requires no forks and knives–just “pita bread and an expert wrist.”

Tahini is usually placed in the center with sauce on top of that; olive oil and chopped parsley are used as a garnish.Scoop it up off the plate with pita and enjoy!

In this photo taken at the Maalot Restaurant in Jerusalem  (Maalot Street 7), the red techina, made from red peppers, sits atop the humus made with chick peas, hot sauce, olive oil and basil and garnished with some salsa.