by Yael Adar
When you say ‘Israel’ and ‘fast food’ most people instinctively think of falafel. However, there is nothing inherently Israeli about fried chickpea balls. Falafel can be found throughout the Middle East.
In recent years a new contender to what has often been considered the national fast food, has become popular, it is Sabich. This dish is also not uniquely Israeli, but rather a traditional dish eaten by Iraqi Jews in the morning, on Shabbat. What exactly is Sabich? It is hummus, fried eggplant, steamed potatoes, (browned) hard-boiled egg, salad and Amba (a mango pickle), all tucked neatly into a pita.
Ramat Gan is known for having many residents of Iraqi decent and for a long time Sabich was barely known beyond these confines. That however, has changed. Today, many falafel stands offer Sabich and some kiosks focus specifically on this dish. While you can readily find Sabich, if you want to sample the real thing, visit David “Dudi” Sasson, a second-generation Sabich maker at his kiosk, at 129 Ha’Roeh Street in Ramat Gan.
Sasson’s father, Ya’acov Sasson and his partner Zvika Chalavi first started making Sabich at a small kiosk in Ramat Gan’s Uziel Street, in 1958. They later, moved to a new location, also in Ramat Gan.
According to Sasson, the dish that was traditionally eaten in Iraq does not have a formal name. When Sasson’s father and his partner established their original kiosk they had to come up with a name for this traditional dish. They decided to simply use one of their own names. That’s how
Chalavi’s first name, which is Zvika in Hebrew (and Sabich in Iraqi), became the local name for the dish. Some have asserted that Sabich is actually called Bab Jan in Iraqi, but according to Sasson, Babijan is simply the Iraqi word for eggplant.
When I ordered my Sabich without the hard-boiled egg, Sasson was quick to point out that it is exactly the marriage of flavors between hummus and the hard-boiled egg that make the dish unique.
In addition to Sabich, Sasson serves Sambusak, an Iraqi version of the classic Indian fritter that is made of an oil-based dough, stuffed with ground chickpeas, fried onions and spices. He notes that the Iraqi version is not as spicy as the Indian version. The Sambusak is something that could easily become addicting. Rounding out the offering is a large selection of syrups, used to make old-fashioned ‘gazoz’ or flavored soda.
Miznon Sabich is located at 129 Ha’Roeh Street, Ramat Gan, between Yehuda Ha’Nassi and Hibbat Zion streets.
The kiosk does not have kosher certification, however, no meat is served.
Hours: Sunday- Thursday 9:00 AM-8:00 PM, Friday, 9:00 AM-3:00 PM
Suggested Activity: Visit the Yechiel Nahari Museum of Far Eastern Art and the Maria and Mikhail Zetlin Museum of Russian Art, just up the hill from the Sabich kiosk.
I originally came to the Maria and Mikhail Zetlin Museum of Russian Art, fully expecting to see works of recent Russian immigrants. Instead, I found a small collection of a few dozen 20th century works, from a variety of artists, including, Dmitry Stelletsky, Natalia Goncharova, Pinchus Kremene and Poitr Konchalovsky. The collection was the gift of Maria and Mikhail Zetlin. Zetlin was the grandson of Zeev Wissotzky, founder of the Wissotzky tea company.
To my surprise, I discovered that the same building also houses the Yechiel Nahari Museum of Far Eastern Art (and the price of admission entitles you to see both). Of the two, the Nahari museum is the Gem (although, in both cases you’ll have to overlook things like water stained carpets and peeling walls. While unsightly, this shouldn’t deter the true art lover). The collection features portable Buddhist shrines, a 15th century Ming Dynasty Buddha, decorative metal work, ivory carvings, Cloisonné, lacquer works and a series of (poorly lit) mush-e warrior prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1768-1861).
I'm not sure I would recommend traveling clear across the country to visit these two small museums (in the absence of special exhibitions), but if you happen to be in the area, you may as well stop by and visit, together with your culinary explorations.
Directions: The Yechiel Nahari Museum of Far Eastern Art and Mikhail Zetlin Museum of Russian Art are located at 18 Hibbat Zion Street, Ramat Gan.
Visiting Hours: Sunday- Thursday 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM, 4:00 - PM 7:00 PM, Saturday, 10:00 AM-1:00 PM.