Hunting for hummus in Israel
A few kilometres south of Tel Aviv, in the Ajami neighbourhood of Jaffa, is one of the holiest temples of hummus. The much-revered Ali Caravan (1 Dolphin Street; 972-03-682-8255), also known as “Abu Hassan”, has been a place of pilgrimage since opening in 1966. Everyday, queues of people wait patiently, and impatiently, for warm plates of masabacha – a type of hummus that is recognisable by its red colour, thanks to the added paprika. Abu Hassan, the owner and the local master of masabacha, is so popular that a few imitation Abu Hassans have opened elsewhere in the country.
Jerusalem also has its fair share of heavenly hummus. Lina (42 Akava El Hanaachah Street; 972-02-627-7230) is a tiny restaurant located in the Old City's Christian Quarter and specialises in delicious no-frills hummus. But locals say Abu Shukri (63 Al-Wad Road, 972-02-627-1538) has the best hummus in the Holy City. Its thick and creamy dip is so loved that Jordanians order giant frozen tubs of it from across the border.
Around 10km west of Jerusalem, the town of Abu Ghosh has been dubbed the “Capital of Hummus” by the Guinness Book of Records, once holding the world record for the largest dish of hummus, which weighed more than four tons, before it was beaten by a town in Lebanon which cooked up 11 tons in May 2010. Although predominantly a Muslim town, Abu Ghosh welcomes Jews and Christians, who come to see the Church of Notre Dame -- said to be built on the site where the Ark of the Covenant once rested. No visit here is complete without also going to Abu Ghosh Retaurant (65 HaShalom St; 972-02-533-2019), which has been featured in the New York Times and specialises in barbecued kebabs and sliced shwarma meat along with its excellent hummus.
Heading north, the port city of Akko has nearly 30 hummus places, but the most famous is undoubtedly Hummus Said (Old City; 972-04-955-2232), pronounced “Sayeed”. Just a short walk from the sea, Said has a breezy Mediterranean feel offering Greek-style salads with their hummus drenched in olive oil, which is made from the owner's own olive press.
On the outskirts of Akko, the small village of Kfar Yasif is home to Abu Adham (Highway Route 70; 972-04-9996245). One of the most popular hummusiot in the country, Israelis have been known to travel hours just to try their famous hummus with fuul – a thick paste made from fava beans.
But all this is just a drop in the hummus ocean. Across the northern Galilee region there are dozens of Arab and Druze villages, each offering their own homemade variety. The Druze, an Arab religious tribe separate from Islam, bake uniquely thin pita bread and serve hummus with za’atar (hyssop herb), a shrub that grows locally in the Carmel Mountains on the outskirts of Haifa in northern Israel.
Like pasta in Italy, each community adds its own unique flavour to the world of hummus. “While the media often focuses on division in this region, when it comes to delicious food like hummus, the people of the region are quite united,” said Baum. “The only division between Muslims, Jews and Christians is, who is ordering the masbacha and who is ordering the fuul.” In an often-troubled region, it seems the love of hummus is a great unifier.