When traveling to a new country, there is so much to see and take in, not to mention taste!
Israel with its different cuisines and cultures is a Hodge podge of sensory culinary experiences waiting to be discovered. However, families who aren’t planning a visit in the near future to the Middle East can still enjoy some of the iconic snacks by exploring their local Israeli markets and try out some of the following snacks.
Made with sesame seeds and ground into a paste, traditional halva adds sugar, honey, or a combination of both to make a sweet, nutty treat. Add chocolate for a delicious snack full of flavor and the mix becomes irresistible. It comes packaged in bars, fingers or snack-sized blocks but samplers can even have wedges cut off a wheel.
Once tagged as the Land of Milk and Honey, it is no surprise that Israel has a large variety of dairy products from goats, sheep, and cows. Not to be confused with the Philadelphia-like cheeses boasting 28% fat or higher, the Isreali kinds are spreadable white cheeses that come in 3%, 5%, and 9% making much healthier The cheeses feature flavors like olive, garlic, dill, and onion. A kids’ favorite is the smooth cottage cheese that can be eaten directly from the little tubs with a spoon.
Colloquially known as “Choco,” from the Hebrew word for chocolate, this liquid goodness is a cup measurement of chocolate milk in a sealed plastic bag or bottle that is comfortable to hold. After shopping with children in the neighborhood market, it is customary to buy them a Choco. Traditionally kids used to bite through the corner of the plastic bag and drink in the flavor that is just the right sweetness. But nowadays they can sip it with a straw from the bottle.
Back in the day, the first Bissli looked like deep-fried pasta corkscrews.
However, this wheat-based snack now comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors from square-shaped pizza to onion hoops and BBQ tubes. There are even falafel, taco, and hamburger flavors! Bissli gets its name from a Yiddish word meaning “bite” and a Hebrew word meaning “for me.” It has been on the Israeli market since 1970 and is the 2nd most popular junk-food snack.
Like Bissli, Bamba is unique to Israel and makes up a quarter of the Israeli snack food market.
Maize-based, it is almost like the American equivalent of Cheez Doodles, but peanut flavored. It is the most popular meal served at children’s parties, taken on road trips and picnics! Since the first Bamba was made in the early 1960’s, a few other flavors and shapes have been added – like halva filled or strawberry coated. It is said that peanut allergies in Israel are far less common because of the early exposure to peanuts in the form of the Bamba snack.
Since the early 1950’s this has been a customary snack for child and adults alike.
Served spread on bread, inside pita pockets, on crackers and matzo, it fills the gap when someone wants a pseudo-chocolate, sweet treat or a filling for a layer cake. The dark chocolate spread was convenient to travel with, did not need refrigeration, and was dairy-free and therefore suitable for vegans and vegetarians. It soon became part of modern Israel’s history. Today it has nostalgic value with older generation Israelis who remember having it for breakfast or dessert. The ingredients are kept secret. However, the original company HaShachar Ha’ole – translated Rising Dawn – maintain that even the newer white chocolate spread and milk chocolate spreads are nuts and trans-fat free.
One of our favorites and a popular dessert-snack in Israel since 1980 is this dairy pudding topped with a gelatin-based whipped cream. The original is a decadent the chocolate one, but there are now other flavors like vanilla, banana and even one with sprinkles.
With perfect weather conditions almost all year round, it is no surprise that the dried fruit selection in this desert Mediterranean country is varied and of high quality. Once a year at the Tu b’Shevat celebration in February, it is traditional to eat, cook, and gift dried fruits. During the rest of the year, whether it is dates, apricots, figs, or the more exotic papaya, these easily portable treats make a great healthy snack.
From far back in history, there is evidence that olives have played a vital role in the lives of the locals.
Dotted all over the Israeli landscape are groves of olive trees. There is even a mountain in Jerusalem named for them. The most common cultivar of this little green fruit is the Manzanillo, introduced to Israel in 1930 from the United States.
One cannot eat olives directly from the tree. Therefore, after harvesting, they are preserved in many ways before they are fit for consumption. Served alongside pickles, one can buy green olives from vats in open-air markets. One can also purchase olives in cans from almost any and every grocery store and vendor. They come in different brines and an assortment of pickling herbs and spices. They often accompany cucumbers and white cheeses in a lunch box or to a picnic.
Translated as ‘Cream inside, this snack treat created back in the early 1800s is loved by the locals The confectionery traditionally found in the stores during the late fall and winter months consists of a biscuit base topped with marshmallow-like foam coated in dark chocolate. The most popular flavors are vanilla and mocha.How to eat is has been quite the debate though most eat the top first a few prefer to start with the biscuit.