Fun Foodie Facts from Israel
In our last food blog, we touched on the evolution of ethnic dishes brought to Israel by immigrating Jews from all over the world. Of course, most signature dishes of any culture evolve into such as a result of that region’s natural food supply; so recreating these ethnic dishes in Israel, which was quite economically challenged in its early years, led to a colorful mash-up of ingredients and flavors, as immigrants learned to make the dishes they knew with the ingredients available to them.
Many of these mismatched ethnic meals have since turned into iconic Israeli dishes that pay homage to those early years of the pioneers and the rich cultures they brought with them. There is a well-known Hebrew expression that aptly depicts Israel’s determination to survive and thrive that says, “This is what we have, and with it we shall succeed.”
One dish with a surprising story behind it is ‘ktzitzot khobeza’, or khobeza patties. These Israeli patties are made of khobeza leaves (a mallow plant indigenous to the Levant region that is particularly rich in iron and vitamins), bulgar (cracked wheat), eggs, spices, garlic, onions, and olive oil. Khobeza patties became an important food source for the Jerusalemite Jewish community under siege during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
During that long and difficult war (in which Israel was attacked by Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Arab Liberation Army immediately following its declaration of statehood in May 1948), Jerusalem came under siege by the Jordanian Legion, and its Jewish inhabitants were cut off from supplies and food convoys. In order to eat, these Jerusalemites went out into the fields to pick khobeza leaves.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem radio station of that time, Kol Hamagen, broadcasted instructions for cooking the leaves that were heard by the Jordanians, consequently causing the Arabs to be convinced that Jerusalem’s inhabitants were dying of starvation and that their victory was imminent.
Well, we all know how the story ends – the war ended with the miraculous victory and continued survival of the Jewish people in their biblical homeland, and the rest of the story is history – tasty history.
Today, khobeza patties remain popular in Israel, specifically in Jerusalem, and are often prepared as a celebratory dish on Israel’s Independence Day. They are traditionally served with a savory tahini sauce (a rich and creamy sesame seed sauce) or a spicy skhug sauce (made with fresh hot peppers, coriander, garlic and various spices), making them both delicious and nutritious!
As we say in Israel, Be-Te-A-von! Bon Appetite.
See you soon in Israel.
Your Genesis team.