Berlin 2007 is huge cosmopolitan metropolis with a population of 4 million, and a feeling of endless choice. Dozens of different tongues are spoken through the city streets, in which people of all nations can be seen and delicacies from all continents can be eaten. Only the hummus sucks.
Ironically, it seems like 9 of every 10 Berliners are fans of Israel. Most Germans living today were taught to loathe nationalism, and detest racism and chauvinist thought of any kind. They are usually very pro-Israel, though, and are eager to express that.
Most Berliners with whom I spoke, had visited Israel at least once, or have Israeli friends, or at least know a word or two in Hebrew – usually “Shalom” – and do their best to use it in a conversation.
Add to that the fact that Berlin has a large population of immigrants from the middle-east – Israelis, Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians, Palestinians, Jordanian, Iranians and mainly Turkish – and you’d understand how come they know what shawarma, falafel and pita are. And yes, they also ate hummus – but the chances are it did not have Tahini in it.
What happened to the Tahini?
At first, I was surprised and somewhat amused by the fact that most local restaurants that serve hummus are using sesame oil instead of tahini. The third time it happened, I was less amused and started feeling desperate.
It is pretty clear hummus is becoming more and more trendy in Berlin. It is also clear that they are clueless about it – about how it should taste like and about how it should be made.
Eventually, the closest thing to good hummus I ate in Berlin was inside the fabulous pita of Dada Falafel in Oranienburgerstrasse, to which I’ll return in the next post. And again – this one too was pale in comparison to what I eat in Israel several times a week.
Hummus and globalization
In my search for real hummus, I went south to the Kruezberg quarter, which has a large population of middle-easterns. There, I looked for Rissani, a restaurant which was said to have authentic Arab dishes.
They did have nice shawarma and decent falafel, but the pale liquid in the large bowl which I thought to be Tahini has turned to be – for my great disappointment – spiced yogurt sauce, like the ones I already ate in some Turkish restaurants in Berlin. Not surprisingly, their hummus also did not include tahini.
Dr. Omar, a pleasant Sudanese chap and one of the owners of the place, said to me – with complete confident – that these are all Sudanese dishes in origin. He admitted, though, that some minor changes was made to meet with the local taste.
Maybe so, and I did enjoy the meal, but my stomach was yearning for a real hummus, which I could not find.
In the next post: what tahini is sold in the 6th flour of the KaDeWe; what’s the connection between mesabbha and Nasrallah; and how I found comfort in the arms of Dada Falafel.