While traveling to Israel to sample exciting local flavors is on hold for the time being — as coronavirus lockdowns continue to restrict tourism – bringing the country’s delicious tastes into your home is as easy as a click of a button.
Israeli cuisine initiatives are bursting with this country’s traditional flavors in online cooking workshops, subscription snack boxes and follow-along video tutorials.
“You can’t travel right now but you can still get the physical taste of Israel in your home kitchen,” says Harry Rubenstein, a pastry chef and food tour guide who runs online Israeli cooking workshops. “During this time, when people aren’t able to visit Israel, this is a great opportunity for them to get a taste of Israel in their own homes. And not by watching a YouTube video but by interacting with someone in Israel.
“People are under lockdown and they want something to do. It’s not like watching a video. You can ask questions in real time,” he says.
Rubenstein’s cooking workshops, which range from private to pay-as-you-can, include how to make Israeli dishes, tricks he has learned from his pastry chef studies, and the history of the dishes.
Most importantly, Rubenstein makes sure that everyone taking part in the online workshops can access all the ingredients from their home countries. “Using high-quality and accessible ingredients,” he shows people how to create “authentic local cuisine.
Israel’s food scene is famous, after all. The diverse food culture is bursting with flavors. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel was listed by international media as a must-visit foodie destination for 2020.
“People miss travel. They are literally craving the tastes of their travels and the places they love,” Inbal Baum, a foodie entrepreneur and founder of Delicious Israel food tours, tells NoCamels. “It’s a hard time, people are thinking about where they want to be, where they had amazing memories with their families, where they got to have great experiences and Israel is at the top of the list for so many people.”
Indeed, Israeli food is exciting, delicious, and memorable. NoCamels offers this list of how to enjoy a taste of Israel in your own home:
Harry Rubenstein – Harry’s Baked
Rubenstein’s cooking workshops spotlight the multicultural fabric of Israel. While he can teach how to make hummus or challah, Rubenstein prefers to present the history behind ethnic dishes that have become staples of the Israeli culinary scene and show how to make them.
He has taught online classes on how to make arais/arayes (Middle Eastern meat-stuffed pita pockets), shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato-based sauce), and sambusak (savory stuffed pastries)
“I like talking about the history of the ingredient and how it came to be used in Israel, whether it is a local ingredient that the Palestinians have been using for many years or it’s something that was brought from Iraq or elsewhere to Israel,” he tells NoCamels. “I’m trying to bring that knowledge of the ingredients, not just how to use them but the history, too.
A food tour guide before Covid-19 hit, Rubenstein also shows and tells about local food items viewers can sample when the borders open once again.
His workshops are not just about eating but about learning, too.
“If there is a recipe that has pomegranate molasses in it, I’m clearly not going to have pomegranate molasses in the recipe because that’s not so accessible, especially during the lockdown. But I will show what it is and talk about the specialty store at which I bought it in the Levinsky Market. I will show it to them and explain how it’s made and how it’s used,” he says.
This inside knowledge is Rubenstein’s calling card. And he’s only too willing to share it with the online community.
Phyllis Glazer – Healthy Comfort Food
Repeatedly dubbed by local and international media as the Israeli guru of healthy cooking, Phyllis Glazer brings nutritious Israeli cuisine into your home via online cooking workshops.
Glazer – a chef, writer, TV personality, and best-selling cookbook author – tells NoCamels that her personalized workshops focus on the “healthy” aspects of “quality Israeli food [which is] delicious and interesting.”
She builds vegan and vegetarian menus around Israel’s ethnic and culinary traditions, adding “a touch of mom” to every recipe. That “touch of mom” she says, belongs to the multicultural roots of Israeli culinary traditions hailing from places as varied as Bulgaria, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Ethiopia and Europe.