A Culinary Tour of Machane Yehuda Market (Part IV: What I Ate On My Israeli Vacation)

I would be very remiss if I were to only focus on restaurants in Israel. Throughout the small country, there are many, many outdoor markets or “the shuk.”

Photo Jun 04, 10 30 05One of the most well-known markets in Israel is Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem. The market has over 250 vendors and sells everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, spices, meat, fish, cheese, breads, pastries, and more. It’s a cornucopia of smells, textures, flavors, sights, and beautiful food scenery—food porn really.

Photo Jun 04, 11 25 51Photo Jun 04, 11 47 06Photo Jun 04, 11 20 13Photo Jun 04, 11 47 27My trip was lucky enough to go on a culinary tour of Machane Yehuda, and have a fabulous guide—or madrich in Hebrew. Residents of Jerusalem come to this market from all over the city in order to do their shopping for the week, and on Thursdays and Fridays it gets super crowded with all the people doing their shopping for Shabbat. In fact, on Friday afternoon there is a bugle that plays to signify the market is closing for the Jewish Sabbath. Our guide gave us a funny anecdote on the market as well: How do you know if a woman is married, has children, etc., in the market? On Wednesdays the grandmothers shop since they have lots of requests from their grandchildren for special treats, on Thursdays it’s the mothers since they cook all day Friday, Friday morning it’s the married women, so they can cook Friday afternoon, and Friday afternoon it’s the single women since they forget to cook until the last minute 😉

Photo Jun 04, 10 16 47 Photo Jun 04, 10 16 49 Photo Jun 04, 10 16 51 Photo Jun 04, 10 16 53To start off our culinary tour, our guide went into the market and brought out some traditional appetizers and snacks sold throughout the shuk. Kibbeh, also sometimes known as kubbeh are football-shaped croquettes made of bulgar wheat, stuffed with minced lamb or beef, and baked. It has a thick skin that keeps the meat inside moist and delicious. It is often served with tahini to dip, and a staple dish in many Middle Eastern countries. The next treat for us to sample were cigars, which are not tobacco, but get their inspiration from it—they somewhat resemble cigarettes and consist of ground meat or potatoes rolled inside phyllo dough that’s then deep-fried. Though it sounds very heavy, it’s actually light and delicious. They have a nice kick of spice as well. The final pre-tour sample was stuffed grape leaves. The grape leaves are a vegetarian option and are filled with a mediterranean rice mixed with herbs, lemon, garlic, and other spices. They have a briny quality, very acidic and has a wonderful cleansing quality for the palette.

Photo Jun 04, 10 32 24 Photo Jun 04, 10 34 15 Photo Jun 04, 10 35 44The next stop on our tour was for the #1 food of Israel—Hummus! Waiting for us at a small cafe across from one of the entrances to the market  was a table filled with a variety of hummus and hummus-themed dishes. One of the plates had sautéed mushrooms, one with fresh chickpeas, one studded with roasted garlic, a bowl of tahini and a plate of fresh, hot, crispy falafel and more. The falafel balls, especially, were fresh from the fryer and even though they burnt the roof of my mouth a bit, they were soft and pillowy on the inside and a crunch while biting into the outer coating.

Photo Jun 04, 10 58 22 Photo Jun 04, 10 58 23 Photo Jun 04, 10 58 56We next stopped at an Eastern European cafe further into the market area for some khachapuri. Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian (the country, not the state) snack of cheese filled bread. This dish is so popular among Georgian people that it is sometimes believed to be more popular than pizza, and is, at times, used to measure inflation—similar to the butter and guns model in Keynesian economics. The stuffed bread is cooked in a pizza/laffa oven, which makes it chewy, but also slightly charred with a nice crisp crust. We also sampled a khachapuri filled with beans as well. While not as popular as the cheese version, it was tasty as well.

Photo Jun 04, 11 16 42 Photo Jun 04, 11 22 07 Photo Jun 04, 11 23 13 Photo Jun 04, 11 23 18We then spent some more time walking around the market and had the opportunity to taste delicious, fresh juices and smoothies, homemade spice blends, zahtar flavored flatbread and also buy some fruit, cookies, and more gifts to take home.

Photo Jun 04, 11 18 18 Photo Jun 04, 11 19 59 Photo Jun 04, 11 22 31 Photo Jun 04, 11 23 57 Photo Jun 04, 11 24 09 Photo Jun 04, 11 24 16

Photo Jun 04, 11 45 48 Photo Jun 04, 11 14 04Photo Jun 04, 11 38 22 Photo Jun 04, 11 38 31

Photo Jun 04, 10 50 50 Photo Jun 04, 11 09 50Photo Jun 04, 10 51 03 Photo Jun 04, 10 51 07

Photo Jun 04, 11 19 48One of the interesting place we passed towards one end of the market was Casino de Paris. It’s a new project that developed from an entrepreneur that already opened another coffee shop in the market and has been very successful in transforming parts of the market into modern, chic hotspots. Casino de Paris is open after the market closes, and there are other locations, including in London and Paris.

Photo Jun 04, 11 26 09 Photo Jun 04, 11 26 25 Photo Jun 04, 11 27 17 Photo Jun 04, 11 27 24 Photo Jun 04, 11 30 51 Photo Jun 04, 11 38 00The final stop on our gastronomic journey was at Kingdom of Halva or Mamlechet Ha’Halva in Hebrew. Kingdom of Halva has multiple stalls around the market and is known as the place to buy halva in Jerusalem. Halva is a traditional, Jewish dessert usually made with some sort of nut butter, and most Israeli halva is made from tahini or sesame paste. Kingdom of Halva makes all of its halva varieties homemade, and uses a blend of 90% sesame paste made from whole grain, Ethiopian sesame seeds and 10% sugar. They have over 100 flavors available including, but not limited to: pistachio, Belgian chocolate, pecan, coffee, nougat, piña colada, and more. The halva here is so delicious. It has a nutty taste from the sesame, a non-cloying sweetness, and a slightly grainy texture that melts in your mouth. Another great thing about halva is that it can be stored at room temperature for most of the year and last for months. Kingdom of Halva also makes many varieties of tahini that can be used to make delicious falafel or hummus, as a condiment on Mediterranean sandwiches, as a dip for bread, or even eaten on its own.

Photo Jun 04, 12 04 42 Photo Jun 04, 12 04 45Although our tour of the market was over, our guide surprised us with another treat to end the afternoon of Marzipan rugelach. Marzipan rugelach—as often assumed—do not actually have any marzipan in them, but rather are named since they were first made at the Marzipan Bakery in Jerusalem. These rugelach cookies differ from traditional rugelach, often flavored with cinnamon or raisins, with a flaky exterior, as they are filled with chocolate. In addition, marzipan rugelach are sticky, fudgy, intensely chocolatey, and have a cult following in Israel (and among many Jews around the world as well). They are super decadent with a wonderful richness, doughy and exceedingly sweet. They are almost like crack rugelach—they are that good and worth a trip to Jerusalem just to try these treats. What a perfect way to end our afternoon at Machane Yehuda market.

Photo Jun 04, 11 16 13

Photo Jun 04, 11 54 41So I hope you’re inspired to go out and eat some tasty Israeli treats, or even take a trip to Jerusalem and visit the market yourselves! B’Teiavon and stay hungry!

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Philly Food Fests

Sorry I’ve been a little MIA the last couple of weeks as I’ve been out of the country, but I have a special week’s worth of posts from my yep starting next week. In the meantime, I’m going to start the Summer season with some outdoor food market experiences. 

I am a big fan of food festivals since they’re a great way of trying out local vendors–especially with friends. Philadelphia has so many food events over the summer including Night Market and the Italian Market Festival. Night Market is a roving food market that moves to a new neighborhood once a month and has a ton of local food trucks,’carts and food artisans selling their products. From cupcakes, to cookies, to dumplings to sandwiches, there are so many foods to try. The Italian Market Festival is a once a year two day, weekend celebration of the Italian Market neighborhood of Philadelphia and features live music, local artists and artisans, and stalls for Italian market vendors. If you’re a fan of Italian food, this is one event to definitely pencil in! 

Although I couldn’t try everything, I think I got a good sampling of foods at both events. Night Market began in Philadelphia, in 2010, as an homage to outdoor Asian markets, and showcases hot Philly neighborhoods, and street foods. Each month it moves to a new area of the city such as Lancaster Ave, East Passyunk, Chinatown, Northern Liberties and more. 

 

  The Night Market season kicked off this year on South Street last month. The South Street area is funky, with a mix of cool restaurants, bars and shops. It’s a new area for the market–for me–to take place, but they were up to the challenge. 

  

We really started out the night Philly-style at the T & N Homemade Kitchen truck with Phried Hoagie ($6), which was exactly how it sounds. They took a quarter of an Italian hoagie, dipped it into a tempura batter made with Ginger Ale and deep-fried it. This dish was super messy, but in such a fun way. As you but into it there was a great thick crust that grew outward from the middle of the sandwich. It was thick, but still chewy. The meat on the inside stayed moist and semi-cold. The temperature play was a nice touch. The only real issue was the ratio of crust to filling — I wish there was a bit more meat. 

Next up we had a sample of some picked green beans from Brine Street Picklery, which were tart, sour, a little bit sweet, and so refreshing. 

Next up we stopped at Pbon’s Fresh Phood of Philly. Pbon sells sandwiches with an emphasis on crab. The Philly Melt ($8) with crab was calling our name. This sandwich was pretty unique. The crab cake was grilled and not fried, and the crabmeat was juicy and succulent. It was served on a chewy pretzel bun that absorbed a lot of the excess moisture. It was a perfect second course and was great to walk with.  

     

It was time for a drink, and luckily, Bistro Romano, in addition to selling food, were serving drinks. For $5 we each got a summertime cocktail – Limoncello Vodka Lemonade for me, and Vodka Watermelon Cooler for my friend. The drinks were light and perfect for the hot night air. There was a good amount of alcohol, and were more distinctive (and cheaper!) than a beer. The lemonade wasn’t too sweet and had a subtle lemony flavor.

   
  

  

 

After walking the length of the market, we had built up our appetite again and heeded to Mama’s Balls, a food truck that specializes in meatballs of multiple varieties. I’d been looking forward to trying this truck for a while and so we went with the 3 for $13 plate. The Rabe-Father meatball was made with ground turkey with a peppery spiciness from the broccoli rabe, which also kept the turkey moist. It was stuffed with asiago cheese that also helped keep it moist and garnished with pesto that helped elevate this meatball to deliciousness. The Spicy Sausage Ball had a nice kick from the hot Italian sausage and a nice cooling effect from the delicious marinara sauce that it was dressed in. The final meatball was the Blue Ball that was stuffed with blue cheese and bacon, and covered with a creamy blue cheese sauce. The meatballs were all served on mini, slider rolls which were easy to eat, but not always necessary. These meatballs were so moist and delicious, I wish I had like 20 of them. 

  

  

  

The Mac Mart Cart was (finally) calling our name. This truck specializes in everyone’s favorite comfort food, max ‘n cheese. We had to save this for towards the end since it’s so heavy, but also so delicious. It was the creamy noodle dish of my dreams. The Buffalo Mac and Cheese ($8) features their classic mac is topped with spicy buffalo chicken that is chopped into small pieces, tangy buffalo sauce, creamy Buttermilk Ranch sauce and a Parmesan-Panko crust. The portion itself was also huge and easily fed two people.      

 

At this point, we were ready for dessert. The first stop was Sugar Philly for some amazingly, appetizing French Macaron ($1.50 each). The strawberry was a bit tart and had a nice berry flavor that perfumes the cookie. The banana and chocolate chip flavor was a nice balance of sweetness from the chocolate and mellow banana flavor. The milk and honey macaron had the flavor of the best angel food cake, but sweeter. The final one was watermelon and mango and was awesome; it wasn’t too sweet but had a wonderful fruit flavor and a burst of summer in my mouth. All of the cookies had crisp edges with a wonderful chewy texture. The cream in the middle was just the right amount as to not overwhelm the delicate cookies. 

The macarons had only half satisfied out sweet tooth, so up next was The Baker’s Jar. Baker’s Jar specializes in miniature sized desserts of cakes, pies or puddings served in mason jars. They had a variety of flavors available at Night Market, but we went with the Carrot Cake and Dulce de Leche Brownie ($4 each). The carrot cake was moist and had a nice cinnamon aftertaste, with a good amount of cream cheese frosting. The frosting was velvety smooth and I could’ve eaten it by the spoonful. The brownie was intensely chocolatey with a deep cocoa flavor. The brownie was garnished with a thick caramel sauce, and was very fudge-y. The jars were small enough that I didn’t feel guilty eating two of them myself.

Next up was the Italian Market Festival the following weekend, which was celebrating the 100th anniversary, or Cent’anni, of the 9th Street Italian Market. As I walked towards South 9th Street, I was hit by the aroma of some sort of pastry in the air, which were cannoli shells maybe. I passed Twin Smoke Shoppe selling hand rolled cigars that gave off a heady musk, and there were food vendors going in both directions – pasta, pastries, meats, and more.

  

All the smells in the air was making me super hungry, so I started the afternoon off with a slice of Lorenzo’s Pizza ($2.50). The slice had a perfect cheese and sauce ratio, and became a blank canvas for the crushed red pepper flakes and garlic. The crust was doughy and chewy, and simply delicious to eat. Great way to start off the day. 

  

My next stop was at the Humpty’s Dumplings food truck for some Italian themed dumplings (3 for $5). I chose the sausage, spinach and pork. The pork dumpling went great with the tomato sauce and tasted almost like a mini-Stromboli. The spinach dumpling was super moist and reminded me of a spinach purse appetizer. I thought the pork dumpling would have ground pork, but turned out to be be stuffed with chopped up pork and spinach from a roast pork sandwich. It was my favorite of the three and super appropriate for Philly. The skin on the dumplings was not too crispy, and almost like puff pastry. They were good for walking and definitely unique. 

Villa di Roma Italian restaurant had samples of their homemade marinara sauce. The sauce was the same sauce they use in the restaurant and not sell by the jar. It was luxurious, thick but not too chunky. It was sweet and had a earthy Oregano taste. The other version was more basil heavy.  

 

I decided to take a small break from eating to explore some of the local market food vendors. Cardenas Oil and Vinegar Taproom is a specialty food store featuring various flavored extra virgin olive oils, vinegars and sea salts. There were flavors like lemongrass mint vinegar, basil oil, pink sea salts, and more. The Bordeaux cherry vinegar was dark in flavor and in color. There was an after note of spice–classic but modern. I wanted it to glaze my grilled salmon, but but also on a chicken liver crostini. It might even be good in a dessert! The garlic chili oil was also slight darker than a normal olive oil, and was spicy but not too hot. It had s building heat with a punch of garlic flavor. The sage onion oil was also tasty with a very strong sage flavor, appropriate for bold dishes . It would also be good for poultry dishes, especially a heavier bird like a turkey. The oil had an aromatic onion background flavor as well. I ended up buying the Grapefruit, White Balsamic Vinegar ($16). It was tangy, but not very acidic. It wasn’t too cloying, but had a perfumed sweetness and was syrupy thick. It would be delicious drizzled on a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, or even used to make an Italian soda with some seltzer. 

My next eat wasn’t very Italian, but I couldn’t resist. There happen to be a few Latin shops in the Italian Market area, so I wasn’t that surprised to see the popular Mexican street corn ($4) being sold at a few stalls. The corn cob was slathered with mayonnaise and then covered with Mexican cotija cheese. The corn itself was so juicy, and every time I took a big bite, juice would go flying. The cheese wasn’t as salty as Feta, but gave each bite great texture. The mayo didn’t add much taste and mostly acted as the glue for the cheese and corn. The corn had that perfect amount of summer sweetness and was perfectly cooked, though it could’ve done with a bit more char for my taste. They were also selling some grilled, roasted mango in “mango flower,” so I took a sample. The mango was so sweet and delicious. It would have been perfect for salsa. 

No visit to the Italian Market is compete without a detour at Termini Bros Bakery ($5), a legendary Italian bakery making cookies, cakes, pastries and, of course, cannoli. Termini had a few stalls set up throughout the festival where they would pipe cannoli shells full of cream on the spot. So I had to get a cannoli for myself, and went with the classic filling with chocolate chips. Biting into a cannoli from Termini is heaven–the whipped ricotta was so amazingly light and creamy, but so filling. It’s not too sweet, and complements the crispy pastry shell nicely. There were chocolate chips hidden in the filing, but thy didn’t overwhelm the delicate ricotta. The shell was super crispy, and just big enough for scooping up extra filling with broken pieces as you bite into it. The filling to shell ratio was spot on. The slight dusting of powdered sugar wasn’t even needed. I needed a few moments alone with my cannoli. 

 

My final stop of the day was at the famous Talluto’s Authentic Italian Food that was selling their homemade pasta to long lines of hungry Philadelphians. It was hard to decide for me as to what I wanted, so I had a bit of a combo bowl ($8). The cheese ravioli were pillows of pasta surrounding a slightly grainy but creamy ricotta filling–much more savory and thinner than the cannoli filling. The ravioli presented a greater surface area for the tomato sauce which was very basil heavy, sweet snd chunky. The other half of my bowl was penne with vodka sauce, and the ridges on the penne allowed it to catch more of be sauce. The vodka sauce had a peppery bite that came off as spicy, but not hot. Overall the pastas were pretty saucy and pieces of the meatball would break off and incorporate into the sauce. It very much allowed for a cohesive eating experience. The meatballs were absolutely delicious. They have a generous portion of two big meatballs. They must have used a nest blend because not only could you see the different meats in the ball as it was split open, but the meatball stayed very moist and juicy. It didn’t suffer from the downfall of many meatballs where it dries out due to being in a larger piece of meat and sitting out. This pasta and meatball bowl was the perfect way to end my Italian Market experience and sent me home with a belly full of tasty Italian treats.

This was my first round of Philly food festivals this summer, look for Night Market – Callowhill coming up soon!