It’s Friday morning, weekend time in these parts, and you may be seeking some eggs, toast and cheeses, served with some chopped salad on the side. That would be one standard breakfast option at nearly any cafe in these parts, and it’s a good one.
But if you seek something a tad more unique to this region, consider shakshouka, also spelled shakshuka, which translates to ‘it’s all mixed up,’ and that’s a good way to describe this egg dish. It’s North African in origin, and consists of eggs poached in a sharply flavored tomato sauce, often with red peppers, and sometimes with bits of black olive, feta cheese and even tuna, to up the protein. There are also green versions, made with fresh spinach and chunks of feta, minus the tomatoes, and nearly all restaurants serve their shakshouka directly in the frying pan on top of a round wooden board.
Try making it yourself, or check out one of these locales:
1) Dr. Shakshouka: This family restaurant near the clocktower is an Old Jaffa fixture, and is known for its traditional shakshouka, which is really the standard by which all other shakshoukas should be judged. Served hot, slightly spicy and with the eggs perfectly poached, along with a side of traditional Israeli ‘black’ bread, a kind a soft white rye with a crusty exterior that’s perfect for scooping up the extra sauce.
2) Aroma: The local coffee chain is always a safe spot for ordering a good cup of coffee with a snack on the side. Their shakshouka can a little on the watery side, slightly lacking in spice, but a solid option if you’re tired of the usual soups, salads and sandwiches.
3) Falafel Oved: A neighborhood falafel joint on Jerusalem’s Beit Lechem Road in Baka, Oved offers a nearly perfect shakshouka — piping hot, firm eggs, piquant tomato sauce — served in a pita. Surprisingly, the pita can stand up to the wetness of the sauce, and only breaks down toward the end of the sandwich. If you’re feeling really decadent, allow him to add a few ‘chips’ — French fries — to the top. And be warned, he doesn’t always have shakshouka available, because once the tray has been emptied, it’s all gone.
4) Kalo: Also on Beit Lechem Road in Jerusalem, this local cafe has hearty sandwiches, soups, pastas, and some alternative shakshoukas. Try it with chunks of tuna and black olives, or with feta, both options bulk it up and keep you going for hours, served with a fresh loaf of whole wheat bread.
5) Nadi: Still in Jerusalem, this cafe on Shatz Street downtown has added some interesting vegetables to its shakshouka, including a spinach and swiss chard version with feta cheese, or one with chunks of kolhrabi and potato, served with a side of crusty sourdough bread for sopping it all up.