Is there a difference between the Israeli and Lebanese versions of hummus? And what the Syrians have to say about it? Plus: two very tasty and strongly recommended blogs.
Randy asked: What are the main differences between Israeli style hummus and Lebanese style hummus?
Answer: hummus seem to be less dominant in the Lebanese cuisine than it is in the Palestinian one – and Israeli hummus is pretty much derived from the Palestinian hummus.
In Lebanon hummus is conceived as a side dish or first a course more than a complete meal. In Israel and the “territories” it became a preferred food for the working class, and evolved quickly in the past century. Some Israeli hummus places that are famous and highly successful today, have been known to make ONLY hummus for decades.
Today’s Israeli/Palestinian hummus has several genres, some of which are very similar to what you can find in Lebanon, and some which differ in consistency, amount of tahini added, spicing, and other additions. In Israel variations such as hummus with ful (fava beans), meat or mushrooms, are almost as popular as the basic hummus (Hummus-bi-Tahini).
Unfortunately, the political climate in the Middle-East does not allow Israelis like me to go to Lebanese and Syrian hummus places (Syrian hummus is also considered exquisite), a reality I do hope will change in the future. So besides Mercedes’s blog which is really great IMHO, I and strongly recommend AbuFares’s blog. This Abu Fares guy is a blogger from the city of Tartous in northern Syria, who – often and with excellent English – writes about Syrian food and posts beautiful pictures of it. Abufares is not a great admirer of Israel, to say the least. Many Israelis, including myself, share som of his criticism on Israel’s actions as a state (at least under the current administration), so I’m ok with the things he says. I wonder what critique he had over his own administration, though, if Syria had given bloggers like him real freedom of speech, which they do not.
But forget about the politics. Ironically, much of the stuff Abufares shows and describe feels very familiar and even somewhat nostalgic to me. My fathers family lived in the Galilee for the past 7 generations, and there are many similarities between the food I know from home and Syrian food, I guess.
From Abufares’s blog I especially liked the post Msabbha: Breakfast of Champions, in which – among other things – he talks about the Tartoussi tradition of eating Msabbha, especially in Friday mornings – like many people in Israel.
My favorite msabbha, which is also considered the best in Israel by many, is Abu Hassan’s, and so The Hummus Blog’s msabbha recipe is of a specific genre – Abu Hassan style. But when in Jerusalem, I sometimes go to Hummus Lina in the old city, whose msabbha somewhat resembles the one in Abufares’s picture. I really want to read this one.