Mumbai Food: Israeli cuisine on a platter at this Juhu pop-up


Twice Cooked EggplantTwice Cooked Eggplant

When you think of Israeli cuisine, one dish is likely to come to mind – hummus. However, modern Israeli cuisine comprises so much more. It is bursting with flavours of spices like za’atar, the crunch of vegetables in vibrant salads, and the aroma of freshly baked breads.

Showcasing some of this diversity at her home this weekend is Leah Franqui, an Ashkenazi Jew from Philadelphia, who moved to Mumbai around two years ago. At the pop-up, presented by Authenticook, she will be recreating recipes made popular by Israeli chef Michael Solomonov at his flagship Philly restaurant Zahav, and later in his cookbook by the same name.

Roasted Beets with TahiniRoasted Beets with Tahini

“Solomonov is one of my favourite chefs, and the food he makes is a wonderful representation of how Israeli food has evolved. Modern Israeli cuisine has influences from everywhere – the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe,” says Franqui.

Leah Franqui
Leah Franqui

Mezze magic
While waiting for your meal to be served, you can sip on a Sparkling Limonana, with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and mint, the perfect drink for combating Mumbai’s heat, and one that’s commonly made in Israeli homes on hot summer days.

The mezze platter comes next, featuring Twice Cooked Eggplant, a refreshing Israeli Salad with tomatoes, cucumber and parsley, and the staple Hummus and Pita. “I think the Israeli hummus is the simplest of all variations found in and around the Middle East. Garlic and lemon play small roles in this version, allowing the flavours of chickpea and tahini (sesame paste) to shine, giving you a hummus that is silky and tastes nutty,” says Franqui.

Tahini, which the Israelis spell as tehina, plays a prominent role in the cuisine. In Franqui’s meal, it features in two more mezze dishes – the Crudites with Green Tahina as a zesty herb tahini sauce, and in a salad starring Roasted Beets in Tahini. She shares, “The latter is interesting in the way it’s prepared, by roasting the beetroot on a bed of salt.”

On the platter is just one non-vegetarian item – Chicken Albondigas – a spice-flecked meatball dish that is a tad different because it has its origins in the community of Sephardic Jews of Spain.

Hummus with Pita
Hummus with Pita

Feast for the eyes
The mains menu is frugal – with just two dishes – yet fascinating. There is a Whole Roasted Mutton Leg with Pomegranate Molasses, with the latter giving the exterior of the meat a beautiful sweet-sour glaze. “I will also be preparing Persian Rice (called Tah Dig), which is a fragrant buttered rice with a crisp, golden bottom,” says Franqui, adding that the meal will end with an Apple Honey Cake, which is conventionally made on Jewish New Year, but can be had even otherwise.

“This meal is almost entirely kosher. It only breaks one rule, which requires you to wait several hours before eating a dairy-based dish after eating meat. Meat and dairy are not supposed to mix even in our stomachs.”

On: May 7, 1 pm (six seats available)
At: Juhu
Log on to:
Cost: Rs 1,200

Chew on this

  • Ever thought of hummus as an aphrodisiac? Chickpeas, which are the starring ingredient in this Israeli staple, are packed with protein and feel-good vitamins. Swiss culinary veteran chef Fed Federer has been quoted as calling this humble legume the ‘Queen of Aphrodisiacs.’
  • In an interview with NPR, chef Michael Solomonov has referred to tehina as “sort of the Israeli mother sauce”, adding that it’s used in both savoury and sweet dishes, and can even be eaten by itself.

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