If you haven’t visited Israel or the Middle East and are feeling perplexed by the word sambusak or shakshuka, don’t be. Sambusak is a savory pastry, the dough similar to that of a calazone, with Sephardic Iraqi cuisine roots, and it’s filled with a range of succulent minced meats or cheese options. Bulgarian cheese along with za’atar, a popular spice comprised of various dried herbs such as hyssop, thyme, or some combination thereof and toasted sesame seeds, is one option. Potatoes, hard-boiled eggs mixed with spice-scented sautéed ground meat stuffed inside the soft dough another.
Sambusaks are heated in a wood-burning oven, served warm and ready to eat, as are most of the breads at the iconic Abulafia Bakery. Located a bit down from the old Turkish clock tower in Yaffo, or Jaffa, Abuelafia or Abouelafia (and there seems to be many spellings) has been around since 1879. Open around-the-clock, Abulafia caters to the Tel Aviv crowd; it’s a city that never sleeps and filled with folks with an appetite.
Pita with za’atar is arguably one of the most popular items (I’m strictly guessing on this) or begaleh- round soft Israeli pretzels coated with toasted sesame seeds. The pitas and sambusaks rest behind glass cases, not great for food photographers but being cigarette smoking is still popular in this hectic region, it’s probably a good thing.
Sambusaks, pita with za’atar and all the pastries are popular throughout the country. But if you’re strolling through Yaffo, Abulafia is a great place to grab a bite. In the winter Abulefia makes traditional sufganiot or Israeli doughnuts- fried dough filled with strawberry jam sometimes filled with dulce de leche.
Another iconic eatery in Yaffo is Dr. Shakshuka. Shakshuka or shakshouka is a dish that’s popular in almost all cafes serving food and is on most if not all breakfast menus in Israel. It’s relatively easy to prepare at home if you’re looking for a recipe.
The restaurant is indeed filled with charm and character and turns around a meal very quickly, but it’s hard to plug the main attraction beyond that. I would instead grab a baguette sandwich from around the corner or fresh squeezed carrot or pomegranate juice from various juice stands throughout the city. The focus of my time in Yaffo this trip was the views, not so much the food, and no doubt I enjoyed consuming the views with my eyes.
On Yumivore: my recipe for shakshouka