Malls are not usually associated with"authenticity" nor are they known as beacons of
culinary experience. It is surprising, then, that on Thursdays and Fridays, Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center mall becomes an oasis of bona fide home-cooked Israeli realness.
The weekly Dizengoff food bazaar was conceived of as a solution to a common Tel
Avivian conundrum; everyone wants great food to eat at home for the Shabbat weekend,
but not everyone wants to cook it. The food bazaar brings the food that Israelis ate at their
childhood family homes all the way to the big city for purchase. On Thursday morning, white tented stalls are set up in the hallways of the mall, each selling authentic foods
from different ethnic traditions. The bazaar is not only a gastronomic delight, but
also a lens through which to experience the diversity of Israeli culture.
There are pitas filled with cheese and spices at the Druze station, rustic kitzitzot
(meat patties) at the Moroccan station, spicy couscous at the Tunisian station, and gondi
(dumplings) at the Persian station, just to name a few). A crowd favorite is tebit, an Iraqi
rice and meat dish served out of huge vats. Tebit is sometimes described as the Iraqi
version of cholent, a slow-cooked stew traditionally served on Shabbat in Jewish cultures
around the world. It's texture, however, is closer to a savory risotto; the starch from the
rice congeals to create a thick rice-and-meat pudding texture. Customers can choose
either chicken or beef tebit (and, you can ask for a combination of the two to be placed
side by side).
Here are our recommendations to achieve the ideal Dizengoff food market visit:
1) Find the food market within the mall. This is no simple task, as Dizengoff mall is
notoriously labyrinthine. Don't worry; Israelis get lost here too, and the kiosk salesmen
throughout the mall will be happy to give you instructions.
2) Take a walk through all of the stalls to check out the offerings. Most stalls offer up
little spoonful tastes of their dishes upon request, like an ice cream store! Ask the vendors
about dishes you don't recognize; many of the stalls are from family-owned business, and
they love to share their food culture with the uninitiated.
3) Get a small size of a dish to eat on the mall benches surrounding the bazaar, or
standing. As the street-food credo goes; trash cans are tables.
4) Buy a takeout container of your favorite dish that you tasted. Pro tip: prices are often
significantly lowered in the half hour before closing on Friday as the vendors are trying to sell out their dishes.