By: Merav Levkowitz
When you think of research, what comes to mind? Libraries? Books? Wikipedia?
Probably not hummus, right?
Led by Inbal, on a sunny morning last week, a few of us met in Jaffa and headed off on a Delicious Israel hummus crawl of the best hummusiyot (hummus places) in Tel Aviv as part of research for a hummus documentary (yes, you read that correctly).
We met in the Jaffa port and started with some history of the port and the city of Tel Aviv. From there we headed to our first stop of the crawl, Ali Karavan (also known as Abu Hassan), largely known as the best hummusiya in the Tel Aviv area. It was not even 11 am, and the line was already snaking out the door. We snagged a table in the corner and squeezed around, salivating over the plates that made their way to our table while the cameraman took shots.
Simple is the guiding principle of Ali Karavan, where quality, not quantity—the menu is short and sweet—reigns. We ordered the two classics: masabacha (a chunky variation made of chickpeas cooked for 24 hours and served warm) and hummus-ful (cold, creamy hummus topped with warm fava bean puree).
We all came prepared—on empty stomachs, that is—so it didn’t take much coaxing to get us “wiping” (the term used for eating hummus) with the raw onions (it’s delicious, we swear) and pitas, and it wasn’t long before the dishes in front of us were clean.
We digested that first sampling via a long and windy walk through Jaffa and southern Tel Aviv that led us, finally, to Gargar HaZahav (The Golden Bean/Pea) on Levinsky Street. This wouldn’t be small-town Tel Aviv if on our way we didn’t pass a local comedian and actor eating (what else?) hummus with a buddy and then cross paths with Tel Aviv’s own “Hummus Guy,” Shooky Galili, author of Hummus 101: The Hummus Blog.
Whereas people come from all over Tel Aviv and the surroundings to eat at Ali Karavan, Gargar HaZahav is a local spot, a new gem in the hipster-Bohemian-Lower-East-Side-style neighborhood of Florentine. Though quite bustling, Gargar HaZahav is more of a sit-down place with big windows, a cool counter with high stools, an open kitchen, and hipster-grandma-chic flowered dishes.
It boasts a more extensive menu, and in addition to the Galilee-inspired mashawsha (half creamy hummus, half chunky chickpeas, which you can enjoy separately or mixed together) and their hummus-ful (darker, spicier, and more lemony than Ali Karavan’s), also served with pita and raw onions, we enjoyed homemade pickles and olives, hot and crisp root vegetable chips, and a vegetable salad as well as a lentil one.
The last stop on the hummus crawl was Hummus HaCarmel in the Carmel Market. A true hummusiya makes its hummus fresh daily, and when it runs out, it closes up shop. Hummus HaCarmel was about to close, so the hummus we got, hummus-ful and creamy hummus (they were all out of masabacha), which was almost thrown at us in an effort to get us out quickly, didn’t taste as fresh as it could have. Still, Hummus HaCarmel offers great value, especially for take-out, and the fact that it’s decorated like a synagogue makes it a fun stop in the market.
We were all a little disappointed that Legenda no longer serves its hummus ice cream so we made do, instead, with a mint gum palate cleanser (raw onion, anyone?).
The winners? Ali Karavan’s masabacha and Gargar HaZahav’s hummus-ful.
Stay tuned for the hummus documentary to see our delicious research expedition and our sad attempts to make hummus-related jokes.