Discovering Israel – A day spent in Tel Aviv exploring Levinsky mkt + cooking hummus w Maya Marom

In January,  along 4 talented Spanish speaking food bloggers: Bren, Txaber, Clara and Layla, I traveled to Israel to discover the culinary roots, trends and scene of this young #startupnation. Cocooned by NGO VibeIsrael we attended an amazing array of food-ie related events, from (obviously) countless breakfasts, lunches, dinners; to cooking classes, wine and spirits tasting, bar hopping, and even a geek session with Israeli creatives and entrepreneurs working in the fields of food and internet.

One favorite  activity amongst my  Latino and Spanish blogger friends during our #VibeComida tour was with no doubt the visits to food markets. We wandered around the beautiful Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem (more on that in another post), the small but super cute sort-of wet market in Akko, and Levinsky market in Tel Aviv. I loved each one of them for different reasons, but Lewinksy stop was special, probably because all those surrounding Bauhaus/International style architecture,  but most certainly for the company.

During that walk, we had an introduction to the most representative food stalls by Culinary Journalist & TV Personality Gil Hovav, who showed us his favorite spots for stocking up on rare spices (this market is well known for that, but coming from Morocco, I was not amazed by the variety ;) ), dried fruits, nuts and all kinds of delicious olives, and a exquisite salty and smooth cheese made of sheep’s milk called HaMeiri. Another stop was at Penso, a Turkish bakery, that is considered the mother of all burekas shops in Tel Aviv. The Penso’s have been producing and selling their salty turnovers made of phyllo dough filled with spinach and cheese for three generations. Penso keeps its Turkish heritage, SO there’s also Ayran on the menu, a salty and tart yogurt beverage. The phyllo dough pockets are also served with simple hard boiled eggs or “haminados” short for huevos haminados in Ladino, a Spanish Hebrew dialect.

Apart of being introduced to TLV’s  market, while we were in Levinsky we met our food blogging confrerès; so after tasting olives and bourekas, each one of us parted with a local food blogger to spend a couple of hours with them and see the city and its food culture through their eyes. I had the enormous chance to mingle with lovely Maya Marom, an uberly famous food writer and blogger in Israel which writes, styles and photograph a blog called Bazekalim, and also self-publishes a magazine with the same name. Before heading to her studio/apartment, we stopped for a Turkish coffee at  Café Kaymak, one of the several small, independently owned, trendy coffee places  that have opened in this market in recent years.

Time at Maya’s ran like water from our hands. It is just so invigorating to meet like minded people, and Maya was no exception. She was kind and generous making me feel at home, letting me play with all her props. She encouraged me to do the food styling of the recipes she prepared, task I happily accepted.

In the following lines, you will read Maya’s own recipe for making hummus like a local. Chances are that you are as crazy for hummus as I am. I like to think about this dish as the equivalent of Mexican Guacamole; both are very simple and easy to follow recipes that more often than not are wrongly interpreted, so what better excuse to let Maya take over this (super long!) post to explain us what are the key steps to prepare a smooth hummus. – h


Hummus is best eaten extremely fresh, preferably still warm. The prepared spread only keeps for 2 days in the fridge, so be sure to make small batches and freeze any leftover chickpeas, along with their cooking liquid, in tightly sealed plastic containers, so that if the crave hits in the future, you’ll have some ready to go.

Since there are so little ingredients in this addictive little spread, making sure each one is top notch really goes a long way. Buy your chickpeas from a trusted source, preferably a place that has a high turnover rate. This means that your precious little beans haven’t been sitting out for months gathering dust in the bin, anxiously waiting for someone to take them home. If you have absolutely no way of getting raw chickpeas, it is technically possible to use the canned version, as long as you drain it and rinse it well. Do not mention this to anyone even remotely middle-eastern or they will openly mock you, and rightfully so :)

More importantly, the Tahini should be of very good quality so that if you taste it raw straight from the jar, there is no bitter aftertaste. You can buy both chickpeas and tahini in Middle Eastern markets, and in some of the larger, well-stocked supermarkets. *We used Maya’s favorite brand Aljamal tahini paste and as long as for the chickpeas I want to mention that Israeli/Middle Eastern chickpeas are very small and thin compared to what we know in the West. If you are interested in learning more on tahini and chickpeas read this post by David Lebovitz’s own experience visiting an Israeli hummus factory while his 2012 visit with VibeIsrael)

Citric acid is the secret pro ingredient behind many of the famous hummus places around Israel – it gives the hummus the signature punchy ‘tang’, which is unachievable with plain old lemon juice. As a bonus, it also helps the hummus last longer in the fridge. Use it gradually and very sparingly, as a pinch too much will ruin the batch and make it inedibly sour. But it’s definitely worth seeking out and using, and makes the hummus much tastier. *Citric acid has been on the bonfire lately, mass produced citric acid it is made not from citrus fruit but from mold fermentation with GMO corn. It has been also mentioned as an allergen. I personally prefer to stay away of processed food and additives so I am making mine with lemon juice only.

2 cups dried chickpeas (preferably the small kind)

half a teaspoon baking soda (for cooking)

2/3 cup Organic Tahini (sesame paste)

1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice – or a small pinch

salt to taste

Cover the chickpeas with plenty of tap water in a large bowl and leave to soak overnight and up to 24 hours (they will double in volume).

Drain and rinse the chickpeas very well, cover with plenty of fresh water in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, stir in baking soda (this is the secret trick hummus places use to get the chickpeas softer in less cooking time), and gently simmer for 2-3 hours, or until very soft. Cooking time will vary, depending on your chickpeas. If you have a pressure cooker, cooking time will be significantly shorter, about 30-40 mins. Chickpeas should be super soft, almost falling apart between your fingers. This amount of cooked chickpeas will make two batches of hummus. *Again, consider the cooking time suggestion is for thin chickpeas, if you are using regular chickpeas, you might need to increase the cooking time, go for Maya´s description on how the chickpeas should look and feel. After making hummus with her, I am not surprised by how I never achieved that silky texture; and it is because my chickpeas weren’t as throughly cooked as hers. They must really fall apart on your fingers, you will also see the thin shells of the garbanzos floating in cooking liquid.

Lightly drain 3 cups of warm cooked chickpeas (reserve some of the cooking liquid), and place in the food processor or high speed blender (i.e. Vitamix. a regular old-fashioned blender will not work well here) along with half a teaspoon salt and lemon juice, or a small pinch of citric acid (less than ¼ teaspoon). Blend to a smooth paste. With the motor running, gradually drizzle in your tahini, until the paste thickens to a consistency of thick cake batter. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid to loosen, if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, adding more salt / tahini / lemon juice / pinch of citric acid so it is well seasoned and slightly acidic.

Serve immediately, dusted with Paprika, chopped parsley and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Toasted pine nuts also go very well here. If you plan on refrigerating any leftovers, make your hummus slightly looser than you would like, since it will firm up considerably in the fridge.

Variation: A small clove of fresh garlic, blended in with the cooked chickpeas, goes a long way though considered very untraditional by some. - m

* ndlr - aclaratory notes by AromasnSabores/Heidi Leon Monges 

Filed under: Carnet de Voyage Recipes

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  1. Rosa says:

    Great food and wonderful place. I’d love to visit the region of the world.



  2. Maya says:

    Such a pleasure hosting you, Heidi, and your pictures look fantastic! Hope to come visit you someday, as well :)

    Kisses from beijing

  3. Dorota says:

    I must go there! You photos look amazing! and not only…

  4. Yvette (Muy Bueno) says:

    What a fabulous experience and gorgeous photos! That hummus looks incredible! Congrats on being selected — your photos are beyond gorgeous!

Aromas 'n Sabores is a canvas where we portrait healthy meals with an international spin but using local produces and what we have in our fridge.We aim to inspire your everyday by sharing recipes, travels, discoveries, some plantlove & green beauty.