Jaffa's Magic Hummus
“You’re going to love Israeli food!” Almost everyone I’d spoken to before leaving for the middle east said the same thing. Unfortunately, a birthright trip largely based in quasi-suburban cheap hotels resulted in buffet meals of immense quantity but hollow quality. My first day of genuine culinary experience in this country came in Tel Aviv, about four days into my tour, at a kosher hummus restaraunt in the middle of old Jaffa. The name escapes me but eating with my tour guide I found out it was started by a Jewish guy who had worked at Abu Hassan’s, a Jaffa Hummus institution. What I ordered was Hummus Ful, a wide, shallow bowl of smooth, thick hummus, topped with slow cooked Egyptian fava beans, served alongside raw onions, a fresh green chili sauce, and a stack of warm pita.
Now I will say that pasty foods have never been my favourite. Some of my friends can eat spoonfuls of plain hummus. I generally need a solid foundation of pita before I can get into it. Here, and later on in the week at Abu Hassan’s, I found myself shovelling forkfuls of luscious chickpea puree into my mouth, stopping only to chew an errant fava bean.
The dish is filling like nothing else and flavourful without being overpowering. It’s the kind of breakfast someone can live off every working day, and it seems that many do. To walk into Abu Hassan’s is to surround yourself first with noise and then quickly realize everybody shouting works at the restaurant. Diners are simply eating, locked in rapturous silence.
After our birthright trip ended a few of us spent a hot day swimming in the sea. By mid afternoon we made our pilgrimage through Jaffa, not to find the places Noah had walked before boarding his whale-bound voyage. Nor to find the ancient route of Solomon’s Cedars of Lebanon, or even to find the long history of Ottoman and Arab rule in what has become Tel-Aviv’s ancient sister city. Instead we went searching for Hummus Ful from Abu Hassan’s, where, with a few bites, all the seriousness of Israel could be forgotten, I could eat a late lunch and feel a strong and assuring sense of peace.