★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Sabich, Iraqi, Street food
42 Frishman Street
Sunday-Thursday (Until midnight)
Friday (Until an hour before Shabbat)
Saturday (Opens an hour after Shabbat)
Sabich: a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, hummus, tahini, Israeli salad, amba (a spicy pickled mango paste), and parsley. Some places even throw in a potato.
Sabich is said to have been created by Iraqi Jews in the 1940s or 1950s. Despite this, and the fact that my grandparents are Iraqi, I didn’t realize what it was until I got to Israel and looked up the word after seeing it plastered on street vendors’ carts and fast food restaurants. Growing up, my Turkish mother would often make sabich for my Iraqi father. A Tupperware full of fried eggplant was a staple in our refrigerator. But for some unknown, inexplicable reason, I never really ate it. I also didn’t realize that what my mother was making was a very popular food in Israel. How I managed to miss this, despite the numerous trips I made to Israel to visit family while growing up, I honestly don’t know.
Thankfully, my sabich-free days are over. As Doug and I walked down Dizengoff the other night, we spotted a line curling around the corner of Frishman. A long line. A very promising line. While I now know that Sabich Frishman is quite famous, this is how we stumbled upon it. After walking a little closer and smelling the delicious scent the stall exuded, I decided that it was time to get back to my Iraqi roots.
We ordered sabich im gvena, sabich with cheese, because I am a firm believer that everything tastes better with cheese. The man deftly put together our pitas, all the while being very cooperative and friendly about my incessant photographing. We got the sabich to-go—the seating was limited there and I wanted to be able to savor every moment of my first sabich experience without feeling the frantic rush to finish my food so that people glaring at me for my table could sit (a common feeling in Manhattan, perhaps).
On the walk home, we decided to pick up some French fries… because after cheese, French fries complement all foods best.
Upon arriving home and digging in, I wished I had started eating sabich from the very first time I saw my mother make it. The texture of the crunchy eggplant with smooth hummus was fantastic combined with flavorful, creamy egg yolk, fresh Israeli salad, and cooling cheese. The tangy amba gave it all a kick both refreshing and addictive. Before I knew it, my plate was empty.
While I mourn the lost sabichless years, I’m looking forward to a life full of eggplant and egg stuffed pita, both homemade and vendor-bought.
PS – If you’re looking for the best sabich in Tel Aviv, keep your eyes peeled for my Top 5 Sabich post! Coming soon!