• photos by Barry A. Kaplan

Two very typical Israeli foods, particularly in Middle Eastern restaurants are shashlik and kebab. These words are often used interchangeably, although they mean different things. Shashlik or shishkebab dates back to ancient Persia but was popularized by Turks during the Ottoman Empire, particularly the Turkish soldiers camping out.

Chunks of meat, most often lamb, are marinated and threaded on a skewer and grilled.

Kebab or kofta is ground meat (often lamb) combined with parsley, onions and garlic and made into an oval shape then wrapped around a skewer and grilled.


Shwarma is the Turkish word for grilled and brought by the Turks to Israel. See that large, vertical rotating spit? Originally lamb or turkey was marinated overnight and then wrapped in layers around the rotisserie or large skewer, covered with mutton fat and roasted on the spit. Today, one finds boned turkey, sometimes with lamb fat on the top for flavoring. Pieces are then shaved off and served inside pita or laffa, the pizza-size pita, as a wrap and served with salads.

Sabikh/Sabikh-like Borekas

One street food which Israelis claim they invented or brought from Iraq is sabikh. Sabikh means morning in Arabic. In fact, sabikh is pita stuffed with deep-fried eggplant, boiled egg, potatoes, tchina, tomatoes, onions and parsley. It is often topped with ambah, an Indian mango pickle.

Sometimes an oval-shaped, phylo-dough boreka is warmed and served with a hard-boiled egg and dill pickle. All of these are readily available around Shuk Machaneh Yehudah; some also on Ben Yehudah Mall or King George.

  • Featured in the picture above are various kinds of borekas served with a dill pickle and hard-boiled egg.

The image to the right is of the Ktsitsot restaurant in Machaneh Yehudah on Carob (Charuv) Street–in front is sheep; at right are skewered DSC_0109-002meats; and in back, Moroccan sausages.