A-Sham: the annual Arab Food Festival in Israel!

arab food festivalLast year saw the initial Arab Food Festival take place in Haifa – and thanks to its huge success, it’s back!

This year the festival runs from December 7-9, in Downtown Haifa, and will once again celebrate the world of Arab cuisine via unique and varied tastings in restaurants and pubs, culinary meet-ups, musical and dance performances, cookery and craft workshops, lectures and more, from morning to night.

More than 45 leading chefs from the Arab and Jewish sectors will work together to give their personal, contemporary interpretations of traditional dishes from the Levant food culture. A map detailing the participating venues and events will be available in downtown Haifa, at information points in the train station (Mercaz Hashmona), Palmar Street and the Turkish Market.

Each participating venue will serve its own festival dish, priced from 5 – 35 shekels. This year’s festival menu includes dishes that are slowly disappearing from the local culinary scene, such as:

  • Yahudi Misafer – a cooked dish of bulgur wheat, tomatoes, and eggplant, that the Jews of Syria called Muslem Harban (the Muslim is fleeing) and the Muslims, in turn, called Yahudi Misafer (the wandering Jew). Ha, once, it was easy to solve conflicts!
  • Kibbeh Adas – a vegan kibbeh that is common in the Idlib region of Syria and in Armenia, and is associated with Christian fast days.
  • Mulukhiya in fish and shrimp sauce – “you can guess one’s religion through their Mulukhiya dish”. The Christians in Israel make it from whole leaves, the Muslims finely chop them, and the Druze don’t eat it at all due to their fear that it will arouse their sexual desire.
  • Kibbeh Mashwiya – kibbeh from the Syrian kitchen, made in the shape of a dome, and grilled. The stuffing contains a large quantity of fat, and so it is mixed with pomegranate seeds.
  • Hobiz Asfar (yellow bread) or Hobiz ala-amawat (bread of the dead) – yellow bread with bitter touches of mahleb and black cumin; its preparation is connected to the first Thursday in the month of Nissan, Khamis ala-amawat, when people distribute the bread with colored eggs, from which – so the pharaohs believed – life began.
  • Arais – brides, this is the name for the pita bread filled with meat, that has been crowned Israel’s culinary trend for 2016.
  • Kibbeh Mabromeh – stuffed with pistachio nuts and common in Syria.
  • Harak Osba’u – a lentil dish. Its name means “finger burner” because that’s what happens when you can’t resist and stick your fingers in to taste straight from the pot.
  • Fatet Betinjan – small pieces of toasted or fried bread, covered in layers of chickpeas, meat, and tahini. A Levant dish that owes its names to fatafeat, meaning crumbs.
  • Daka Gazawiadak means crushed, to indicate it is prepared with a mortar and pestle. Onions, garlic, chili peppers, dill seeds, and tomatoes are ground one after the other. Ten peppers for every four tomatoes – that’s how the Gazans like their salad.

And the list goes on – so yes, go hungry!

You can also enjoy hummus from around the world, as various chefs try to tempt you with their own special version of hummus, as well as various pop-up stores, tastings and workshops, cooking and arts and crafts direct from the artisans themselves.

Those of you into something a bit more lively, and to burn a few calories, will be delighted to know there will also be some Arab parties and concerts organized by Qahira Eineen, a leading producer on the night life and contemporary Arab music scene. Watch out for dabke and belly dancer performances alongside live appearances by modern Arab musicians and bands. Downtown pubs will host musical performances and serve Arab-made alcohol: Shepherds’ beer from the Birzeit brewery, Arak Ramallah, and a selection of wines from the Jascala Winery, with warm, spicy lupin beans served as a snack.

Some of the hosting eateries, patisseries, pubs, hummus joints and restaurants include: Morel, Cheese, Chang Ba, Habankim Bakery, Mosi, Kings Road, Café Eva, Shany Bakery, Shamli Bulgarian Grill, Burekas Bahar HaAgala, Burekas Izmir, Jadon Bakery, Joseph Bakery, Jack and the Beanstalk, Angus, Jyoti, Dovrin 7, The Diner, Haogen, Hanamal 24, Hamaagan, The Pint Pub, Venya Bistro, Talpiot, Kula, Libira, Lahza, Maayan Habira, Hummus Abu Maron, Studio Pasha 99, El-Puerto, Urban Street Bar, Saint Étienne, Yaakov Kebab, Eli’s Pub, Hummus Fadi, Hummus Faraj, Café Sammy, Star Restaurant, Syncopa Bar, Bet Habobot, Johnny’s Kebab, Suidan Naama, After Dark, Barki, Bora Bar, Hummus Hanamal Abu Ramy, Hummus Eliyahu, Chicho, Hasirim shel Kati, Salute, Kalman’s, Kizler’s, Spira Bakery, Cafe Strudel, Salut.

Time to go eat!

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