Falafel and shawarma: You know ’em, you love ’em. But I’d like to introduce you to another mouthwatering sandwich commonly found in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: The sabih.
I eat sabih (or sabich – it’s that aspirated sound that somewhere between a “k” and an “h” in English) all the time, and I’m a little obsessed. I love sabih for its interesting combo of ingredients: Pan fried eggplant, sliced hardboiled egg, hummus, tahini sauce, chopped cucumber salad, sometimes seasoned with a vinegar-mango sauce called amba and a spicy Yemenite green chili paste called zhoug. All these fresh, flavorful ingredients are tucked into a pita or else served on white bread, or even just artfully scattered around a plate. Sabih was brought here by Iraqi Jews settling in the city of Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, in the 1950s.
I’m not including a recipe here because I haven’t tested it out yet at home. I do plan on leaving this place knowing how to make the perfect hummus, falafel, and sabih, but in the meantime, when all this deliciousness is available at every third street corner, I’m not super motivated to make it at home. But someday, I will be.
In the meantime, come to Jerusalem and try these variations of sabih:
This small sandwich shop in the shuk is always bustling and the sabih artist expertly and rapidly layers the veggies with the sauces so their is never a dry bite (I’m looking at you, falafel). The sandwich is saucy, refreshing, and so packed with spices and flavor, I’m pretty sure I smelled like this sandwich the next day. I call this the Indian food effect and it’s not altogether unpleasant. (Agripas St. 83).
Picture the rapid movements of the sabih maker in the shuk and then slow it down by about 400% and you’d have a picture of the speed of Beber, the proprietor of Beber’s Place. He lovingly and individually prepares each sabih made to order at a significantly less bustling, but still delicious operation close to the U.S. Consulate. He also sells latkes that are like the greasiest, best hashbrowns you’ve ever had. If I’ve had a little too much to drink the night before, this combo is my ideal hangover work lunch. (Gershon Agron 10 or thereabouts).
Adom is one of West Jerusalem’s dozen or so kind of fancy and reliably yummy restaurants. We go here a lot. Mr. Em in Jerusalem says the Adom burger is the best in town, and I love all their pastas. Great wine list, too. Always we start our meal with Adom’s deconstructed and sophisticated take on sabih: They use whole whole chickpeas instead of hummus, a poached egg instead of hardboiled, roasted eggplant instead of fried, some chopped onions, preserved lemon for the sour kick, and a creamy amba mayo. (David Remez 4).
Many restaurants in Jerusalem are kosher, so if they serve meat, they won’t have dairy on the menu and vice versa. As a dairy-loving vegetarian, you might guess (correctly) that if I’m eating a kosher place, I’d prefer it’s a “dairy” restaurant. I didn’t realize there was no dairy on the menu at Roza until I sat down and say a cheeseless menu. I ordered the sabih focacia and I have to tell you, if I’m going to eat a cheese-free pizza, I want it to be this one, with rustic hunks of grilled eggplant and onion, softboiled egg, whole pickles, and drizzles of tahini. (Rachel Imenu 2).
Em in Jerusalem