I just came back from three weeks vacation in Israel and let me tell you, it is a wonderful place for vegans! Hummus, Falafel, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with a real taste, wonderful olives, vegan restaurants and cafes… and vegan options in almost every restaurant… oh the joy!
So today I would like to introduce you to a really special and popular sandwich in Israel – the Sabich.
The history of this unique Iraqi-Israeli fusion is not clear (more than a few people in Israel claim to have invented it) however, it is known to arrive with the Jews that emigrated from Iraq in the 50’s, in Iraq it was a popular food for the morning of Sabbath – the day of rest for religious Jews (where no cooking was allowed hence cold meals were consumed). In one urban legend, the name Sabich is acronym for what’s inside it: SAlat – BItza – CHatzil (salad, egg, eggplant) but others point out that it comes from the word morning in Arabic – Sabah, and since it was eaten for breakfast it does make sense.
That’s how a typical Sabich looks like in Israel – fried eggplant, tahini, pickles, lots of parsley and of course, a fresh pita!
Nowadays Sabich is being sold in almost every Falafel stand; and because there is only one non-vegan ingredient in it (that can be easily omitted – hard-boiled egg) it is the perfect vegan sandwich in my opinion and is really easy to make at home. Unlike Falafel that requires lots of soaking and evil deep frying, Sabich is pretty much easy and clean – both calories and kitchen wise!
So here we go – my version of Sabich!
Ingredients and directions– please note that the only thing that requires some kind of preparation is the eggplant. The rest can be cut and made quickly on the spot. One eggplant is enough for 2 hungry people – I usually make more for the next day.
- Pita or some kind of hearty bread. I do have a winning recipe for homemade pitas but it will have to wait a bit. I did however, discover a wonderful Turkish bread I just used it instead. It cannot be made in between two slices of bread – we need thickness and a pocket!
- Roasted eggplant – original Sabich is with fried eggplant but frying is not really taking place in my kitchen so I just wash the eggplant, cut the tips, slice it, brush it with olive oil, add some salt and roast it for 30-40 minutes on 200c / 400f
- Sliced pickled cucumbers (AKA Kosher Dill, Deli Pickle)- in salt, not vinegar, I buy them at the Turkish store as well
- Sliced onion with sumac – sumac is a lovely garnish spice that is being used a lot in the Middle Eastern kitchen
- Fresh Parsley leaves
- Tahini – the staple of the vegan Israeli kitchen – recipe here
- Amba – yes, you read it right, Am-ba. I cannot really explain this wonderful thing but if you know it you either LOVE it or really HATE it. Amba is a pickled Mango sauce with lots of spices;super popular in the Israeli-Iraqi kitchen and also in Iran and Afghanistan and India (so I was told by friends from those countries). The name is actually Mango in Sanskrit and some say it is a version of Mango chutney, I don’t really feel the mango in the Amba because it has Fenugreek and let me tell you, this spice takes over everything. I never made Amba alone, I just buy a jar or two every time I visit Israel and because it is such a dominant sauce I only use a bit of it in my Sabich. Try looking for it at your local Oriental/Asian store.
Other optional ingredients:
- Israeli/Arabic salad – finely diced tomatoes, cucumber and onion with olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper
- Cooked potato
- Spicy sauce – Skhug – originally from Yemen – if you like it hot and have no Skhug you can use Sriracha
- Roasted peppers
And now all you need is to fill your pita/bread according to no order – just load what you love, as much as you love, enjoy every bite and no worries if it leaks and drips all over!
And some random photos from the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv: