Jaffa, an ancient town with a glorious history, turned into a unique culinary gem. Packed with gourmet restaurants and boutique eateries, yet many flock to Jaffa for one reason: Abu Hassan’s hummus.
first published 13 February 2007. last update: 17 September 2015
Jaffa is a city of contrasts. On one hand, it has a charged historical background. On the other, it’s usually a peaceful, friendly, hospitable place, which is sometimes beautiful in ways the younger sister Tel-Aviv could never be.
In Jaffa you can find, side by side, luxurious mansions and neglected old buildings. Gourmet restaurants and fancy tourist traps along side ultra-cheap eateries. Wretchedness and glory, in an impossible mixture. And a lot of hummus.
In the past we used to say that nobody knows how many hummus places are there in Jaffa. In the past decade it changes a little, because some places were closed and not many new opened. However, there are still many distinguished hummus places in Jaffa – Abu El-Abed, Dani Ful, Abu Maruan, Merkaz Ha-Hummus Ha-Asli, to name a few.
And there is, of course, Abu Hassan, which warrants a category of its own.
In most hummus eateries in Jaffa the hummus is something between decent and excellent.
Clients are greeted with a big smile and sometimes the host even knows their names, and see that they are served black coffee or tea with nana (mint) and baklava at the end of the meal, on the house.
Abu Hassan serves hummus, with or without ful (fava been casserole), massabha or a “Triplet”, which is a combination of the three.
It takes seconds for the plate to reach the table and minutes till the meal is finished. Than you get up and leave, so that others could enjoy this heavenly food. No coffee, no baklava, nobody remembers your name.
Not everyone appreciate this style, but many do. Hundreds a day, maybe thouthands.
Abu Hassan’s secret
Hassan is a second-generation hummus maker. The recipe is his mother’s, and the business is called after his father (Abu = the father of) who was also known by the name Ali Caravan. Back in the late 50’s, he used to sell hummus and mussabeha on the streets of Ajami (a small and poor neighborhood near the sea) walking around with a hand wagon.
When we asked Hassan, he said there was no “secret” to his hummus “it is very standard, he said”. Yet, the people who flock to his restaurant from all over will disagree: no hummus tastes like his, so there must be a secret.
Part of the secret, of course, is the reputation. Many people gather in line, some will end up with a plastic plate, a smile on their face, happily wiping hummus while sitting on the fence overlooking the beach. This is how happy people look like.
And the most important tip: the real gem at Abu Hassan’s is the Mussabeha not the hummus. If you want a taste from the hummus and the mussabeha (and you do) you can order a plate of hummus-mussabeha which has both. If you want to taste the ful as well, ask for meshuleshet (“Triplet”).