Hummus: Israel’s Hidden Treasure?

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Sabra hummus has brought a taste of Israel to America and it is spreading around. 

Before I moved to Israel five years ago, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was considered to be the “national food” of Israel.  Even though I grew up in the United States, far from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, I remember my mother telling me that falafel was sold on almost every street corner in Israel. She described it as being similar to the hot dog vendors I would see on every corner in New York City, or the soft pretzel vendors you would see on the streets of Philadelphia.

What my mother didn’t tell me was that Israeli falafel was NOTHING without its “partner in crime”, hummus. Even in the fanciest of restaurants or the most unusual events here in Israel, hummus somehow becomes part of the menu.   From hummus served with meat, at the Basarim restaurant in Tiberias; to hummus with mushrooms at Marvad Kasamim (The Magic Carpet) in Jerusalem; to the local hummusiyah (hummus vendor/restaurant), the flavor of hummus is ubiquitous in Israel.

So what is this hummus stuff anyway?

Hummus is a thick paste of chickpeas (“hummus beans” here in Israel!), garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and sesame paste called “tahini”. The earliest incarnation of hummus appears in 13th-century Egypt. Back then hummus consisted of chickpeas mixed with vinegar and pickled lemons, instead of the garlic or tahini we use today.

Hummus as we know it today was first documented as part of a recipe in Syria in the late 19th-century. It is unknown when hummus first appeared regularly at dinner tables throughout Israel.

Ok, so hummus tastes good, but is it good for me?

Hummus is a great source of iron and vitamin C.  It also contains amounts of folate and vitamin B6. As the main ingredient of hummus is the chickpea, it’s a great source of protein and fiber. Besides being a common “salad” found on Israeli tables, it’s also a staple of both vegetarian and vegan diets.

So what does hummus have to do with Purim?

A friend called me up shortly before I was going to write this article to ask me for my hummus recipe. She didn’t explain what she was going to pair it with, but she decided to include it into her Misloach Manot. I hope she serves it with falafel or carrot sticks – two favorites in our household!

How do you make hummus?

Joy of Kosher has all sorts of hummus variations, but click to see my “top secret” hummus recipe.

Ideas of what to pair hummus with for Purim:

  • Carrot/vegetable sticks
  • Homemade pita chips
  • Falafel
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Pickles