Q&A: Israeli vs. Lebanese Hummus

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.

Question:

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).

This does not mean Lebanese hummus is not as good. And they do have some variations that we here do not have (on which you can read about more in this beautiful post by Mercedes from Desert Candy).

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.

Comments

16 Responses to “Q&A: Israeli vs. Lebanese Hummus”

  1. Johny on May 2nd, 2008 2:07 pm

    Israeli vs Lebanese hummus? ,
    First off all, there isnt anything called israeli hummus. Second, i have eaten hummus in the best places of damascus and beirut, and Lebanon wins every time.
    The “israeli hummus ” is just a bad imitation of the palestinian hummus.

  2. shooky on May 2nd, 2008 11:25 pm

    Dear Johny,

    I live in Israel, and so does Said from Acres and so did the late Abu Hassan from Jaffa, whos hummus I love best. There are over 2000 hummus places in Israel and I probably tried some 300 of them. About half of which are owned and operated by Israeli Arabs, and some of them prefer to be called Palestinians.

    I fully respect that, but I have no intention to waste energy on being politically correct – Jaffa and Acres are Israeli cities. Israeli Arabs may have a different nationality than mine, but we are all citizens of Israel. So when I say “Israeli Hummus” I mean “the hummus you can eat in Israel”, and please don’t drag me again into this never ending dispute about who invented it and who owns it.

    If when saying “Israeli Hummus” you mean “Hummus made by Israelis who are not Arab”, than it is true that we owe the Palestinians a lot when it comes to hummus. Nevertheless, there are also many hummus places which are owned by non-Arab Israeli, many of which make good or even very good hummus.

  3. Andre on October 15th, 2008 2:39 pm

    Shooky,

    and you waste your time explaining things to thi kind of people? Let him eat Leb. hummus and be happy…

  4. Cross_the_line on December 19th, 2008 11:38 pm

    first of all, there’s no such thing as “palestinian hummus” because there’s no such thing as palestinians – they’re all part of bilad-a-sham (a.k.a “Greater Syria”). from now on, say “shami hummus”. and there’s no point comparing “lebanese” hummus to that, because lebanon also happens to be part of bilad a-sham. “lebanon” is as artificial as “palestine”, as is “israel” or “syria”.

    hummus knows no borders, basically. Some people seem to think that because someone draws a political line somewhere, it means anything to foods. i don’t think i have to explain how idiotic that concept is.

    and if you still persist, consider that the ethnic composition of the israeli north is not much different than lebanon or syria, excluding ofcourse the ethnic cleansing of jews from lebanon and syria.

    Israeli hummus is just like the israelis – it depends on the land of origin in exile. yemenite jews make yemenite-styled hummus. lebanese jews make it lebanese styled. and so forth. ofcourse, local influences partaking.

  5. Nope on December 29th, 2008 11:29 pm

    No matter how you slice it, there’s no such thing as Israeli hummus. I don’t go to the market here and buy American hummus.

  6. wally on March 28th, 2009 6:08 am

    I didn’t know hummus was so politically charged. I was just looking for a genuine recipe for an amazing food, and then I came across this discussion. Unfortunately it grabbed my attention. I just want to eat good food. Good food is life. Good food is pleasure.

  7. David Sternlight on February 20th, 2010 10:56 am

    Based on reports here, I ordered a container of Karawan Tahini from Israel, at the humungous price of $19 including shipping. I don’t accuse the seller on ebay of price gouging–shipping a single jar from Israel to Los Angeles is probably very expensive and I repeat my plaintive entreaty for someone to import it in bulk. The one importer in New York mentioned in this blog who claims to have it doesn’t respond to email or phone messages.

    Well, I made my first batch of Hummus with Karawan Tahini, and it was excellent. That Tahini has such an intense flavor that perhaps next time I’ll try using 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup to 2 cups of cooked chickpeas.

    When I run out, I’ll try Al-Wadi Tahini. By the way, both brands seem to be evenly distributed in the container, unlike many American brands which end up with a thick, sometimes rock-hard paste on the bottom of the jar and oil on top.

  8. jinni on March 27th, 2010 9:09 pm

    Well…it’s mayhaps not “nice” nor “pc” but Palestinians are known as hummssiyeen by other Arabs, something like the ‘hummus ones’ or even less pc akin to how Americans refer to Mexicans as “beaners”. They don’t say that about Lebanese nor Syrians. Though, in general, both their cuisines are scrumptious and well-recognized as such, even by Pals.

    About Israel. It pathetic and worthy pitying that they had to usurp Arab cuisine in order to create a culture. That falafel is the national food of Israel is laughable, and that Israeli National Debka group trained with a Palestinians for years, all the time portraying themselves as progressive peacemakers then later turned around and formed their “Israeli” debka group with little acknowledgment of the origin and roots of their skills and music is beyond despicable. The deeply rooted pscychosis of Jews is evident in their attempts to create a c middle eastern culture through usurpation of every facet of a identity: land, housing styles, cuisine, music, dance…This overwhelming need to redress their inferiority complex and prove themselves worthy of nationhood has unfortunately led them down the path of nearly irretrievable immorality. Things in every realm of relations would have been so much different if they had approached the whole concept of return as one of fellowship and brotherhood with the Arabs(after all they are the largest of the two extant Semitic peoples) rather than as Zionists who turned their anger with the Christian Europeans and Aryans onto the Palestinians. Who, after all have persecuted the jews beyond every other race other than the Aryans, from the Persians who destroyed them, to the Romans, the Spanish, the Russians and the Germans who in their own ways slaughtered thousands and millions. Yes the Pharoah enslaved them and though he did them much ill, it should be remembered that when the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed many Jews fled to Egypt and when the Egyptians late took over much of the Levant, bringing back more Jews as endentured servants (many of whom earned their freedom), many many more Jews voluntarily emmigrated to Egypt. Egypt, in fact became a refuge for Jews fleeing the ever troubled lands of the the Levant and Mesopotamia. By several estimates the Jews were in number in Egypt 140 years, at least, as mainly free men before any biblical accounts of their “enslavement”. It is well worth noting that the so called enslavement of the Jews and the monumental exodus was so trivial to the Egyptians that to this day no recorded evidence of their enslavement has ever been found in the Pharoanic records. In addition, the myth that the Jews built the pyramids was never seriously considered because much evidence has been uncovered that the workers who built the pyramids did so under an elaborate social scheme that provided housing, food, schools for children, health care-such as it was. Sure you probably couldn’t leave without fulfilling your contract but there is also evidence that groups of workers rotated while builind the great Pyramids. So if the Jews were indeed some of these workers they were paid contractors who lived much better than the farming peasants, as archeological evidence has shown. Further historical evidence shows that the main friction dealt with the Jews becoming an ever larger minority within Egypt who harangued the Egyptians for rights and considerations that began to supercede those of the native Egyptians. It should also be noted that many Jews had worked their way into medium levels of the bureacracy and many did well commercially. Also more recent evidence has shown that not all Jews fled with the Exodus and significant communities stayed, particularly in Alexandria.

    These and much more historical evidence have been discovered and vetted by reliable resources that rely on rigourous academic and scientific research rather than on FAITH based assertions of religion-which we all must admit has been and is continuously manipulated by humans in efforts to justify and sanctify their power and existence.

    The history of the Jew is of a minor Arabian tribe that thinks of itself as somehow superior. Yet, through millenia of time has proven, again and again, that it has not ever learned a lesson from their eternal persecution other than to persecute in turn. Every counselor, psychological or religious, will tell you that to break the cycle of violence one must learn to forgive and show compassion and to triumph over the evils visited upon you, a victim must learn to overcome rather than perpetuate the behavior. This is most, unfortunately, exactly what the Zionist state of Israel and the mass culture of the Jews today have utterly failed to do, and that which will be their own judgement. A people of ghettos, pograms, exodus, and inquistion are, as we speak, recreating ghettos in Gaza, and Palestine. They build a wall only scant years after the world celebrated the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The irony will be that once they have enclosed themselves within their wall they will find that they have built their own ghetto and within their imprisonment they will fester. Their imprisonment is of the mind and they have and are manifesting it on the ground. The Palestinians are indeed a part of a much larger people and culture and will retain their connections but the Jews will find themselves increasing isolated in their fortress mind and fortress strip by the eastern med. Liberal societies the world over will grow sick of their hypocracy and shrug of the guilt of the holocaust, for which most people in the developed world were not responsible. Fundamentalist Christians will feel empowered to remind the Jews that while they may have backed them geopolitically and miliarily their end vision is that 3/4 of them will be utterly destroyed when they refuse to accept Christ and the Messiah returns. Some allies, huh.

    With all this doom and gloom, you’d say that the Jews have a right to be the most paranoid people on earth and in history. Just as I could excuse a victim of pedophilia for being mean, messed up and foul. BUt would you then excuse him/her if they perpetuated the abuse? YOu’d understand perhaps, but you wouldn’t condone. As such with the Israel. It knows victimhood and has choose the path of persecutor. It will reap what it has sown, whether you take that religiously or remember the law of physics and reactions. Would there be today a Palestinian state if Israel had not formed the way it had? Would there be this unthinking and dehumanizing enmity? The victory of the creation of the state of Israel iin the form it took iss but a sign of the final failure of the Jews to resist the ultimate worldly temptation and seize and opportunity to create a state based upon noones persecution.

    If you doubt these words, ask yourself what the reaction would be if German suddenly declared itself only for Germans or Christians. You know the answer to that.

    Finally, let’s be clear, not all Jews support Israel nor its actions. In fact there are very orthodox Jews and other jews who reject the formation and consequent existance of modern Israel because it defies all their laws of decency, morality, religosity, and escatalogy. TIme will tell if they, an often ridiculed minority within their own people prove right.

    Hope in the end, you come out on the right side of justice; no matter how hard that may be.

  9. Ivy on May 24th, 2010 9:33 am

    @David Sternlight = Real Tahini is supposed to separate – have oil on top and paste on bottom. If it doesn’t it most likely contains preservatives and emulsifiers and other ingredients to prolong shelf life no matter how authentic it seems.
    Hopefully I’m wrong but it may be why you imported brand doesn’t separate, otherwise it may not fare well in shipping.

  10. shooky on May 24th, 2010 7:48 pm

    Ivy – well, not exactly. The oil does tend to separate from the paste over time, so everytime you buy tahini you should first give it a good shake and only than open it. However, if the tahini is very fresh you won’t necessarily have oilon top.

  11. David Sternlight on May 24th, 2010 11:09 pm

    Jinni’s long diatribe is simply meshugge, though he may not be. The proof, as we academics say, is left to the student. Hint: Hummus is mentioned in the Torah, which far precedes Islam, and Jews have lived in the Middle East for thousands of years, from well before Abraham kicked out Ishmael for having a thoroughly bad character. Ishmael went on to father the Arabs, “whose hand was turned against every man.” The Qureishi, mentioned in the Quran (or perhaps Hadith) as an example of Mohammed’s perfidy, were a Jewish tribe.

    Thus long before there were national boundaries (other than the ancient kingdom of Israel) Hummus was a regional food, not one owned by a particular national group. Who actually invented Hummus is lost in the mists of time, but we have all benefitted, Jews, Arabs, Americans, the world.

  12. David Sternlight on May 24th, 2010 11:16 pm

    Minor correction; Hummus was mentioned in the Tanach, specifically the Book of Ruth, not AFAIK the Toirah.

  13. Hannah Kim on December 15th, 2012 4:47 am

    I’m Korean and I eat hummus.

  14. Dave on July 2nd, 2013 12:19 am

    Jinni:
    - you can do if you like a more beneficial job by adding values and helping this loving peaceful platform about the HUMMUS.
    - you can do a greater job if you can write and convince your bigger brothers at least in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon to stop killing their members of the family and spend their time in something more useful than threatening fighting and killing each other or others in the case that they are less busy.
    - How about if you can stop making up excuses, stop justifying mass killings and honorably participate – at least – on this good occasion, in the forum about Hummus?

  15. Dave on July 2nd, 2013 12:40 am

    Wally, you described well how I felt and what I would just like to add is that who is familiar with this amazing food use to believe that “good Hummus is made with love”.

  16. Rafael on July 3rd, 2013 3:50 am

    ” Hummus was mentioned in the Tanach”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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