Shuk: From Mar­ket to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking

Einat Admo­ny, Jan­na Gur

By – May 21, 2020

When some of us think about Israeli food, the first dish­es that come to mind are prob­a­bly hum­mus, falafel, and shak­shu­ka — but that is only scratch­ing the sur­face. Chef Einat Admo­ny and Israeli food writer and expert Jan­na Gur, teamed up to show read­ers deli­cious and authen­tic mul­ti­cul­tur­al Israeli cui­sine in their cook­book, Shuk, by focus­ing on buy­ing ingre­di­ents from the nation’s out­door mar­kets, or shuks.

Before the book delves into its col­or­ful and mouth-water­ing recipes, Admo­ny and Gur pro­vide thought­ful fore­words in which they define Israeli cui­sine. In The Spir­it of Shuk,” Admo­ny gives us a glimpse into her ori­gin sto­ry as a Mizrahi Jew grow­ing up in Israel — cook­ing Per­sian dish­es with her Iran­ian moth­er and shop­ping for ingre­di­ents with her father in the shuks Yemenite quar­ter. Admony’s Mizrahi back­ground is inex­tri­ca­bly tied to her culi­nary exper­tise, which brings some essen­tial Israeli diver­si­ty to the din­ner table, from the Jews of Moroc­co to those of Cen­tral Asia.

In A Short Sto­ry of Israeli Food,” Gur explains how Israeli cui­sine is not so straight­for­ward. Since Israel is a small coun­try rich with many Jew­ish and Mid­dle East­ern eth­nic groups and cul­tures, the culi­nary scene is a mul­ti­cul­tur­al mosa­ic of tra­di­tions from lit­er­al­ly all over the globe.” These two women make sure Shuk accu­rate­ly rep­re­sents the range of food that falls under the umbrel­la of Israeli cuisine.

Admo­ny and Gur do a won­der­ful job of not only incor­po­rat­ing diverse dish­es, like Yemenite Cur­ry Shak­shu­ka,” Doro Wot (Ethiopi­an chick­en),” and Aruk (Iraqi Herb and Pota­to Pat­ties)” but also elab­o­rat­ing on the nation’s sta­ples. They ded­i­cate pages to the rules of mak­ing Israeli sal­ad, some toma­to wis­dom,” and guides like Hum­mus for Begin­ners” and Mas­ter­ing Schnitzel.”

Rather than divid­ing the chap­ters by cours­es, each sec­tion revolves either around an Israeli sta­ple ingre­di­ent, like dairy and cous­cous, or clas­sic Israeli cook­ing meth­ods, such as grilling (“The Fla­vor of Fire”) and stuff­ing (“Deli­cious­ly Stuffed”). The chap­ter Cau­li­flower and Egg­plant: Our Veg­etable Heroes,” includes recipes like, Crispy Cau­li­flower with Bam­ba and Peanut Tahi­ni Sauce,” and The Cous­cous Table” pro­vides recipes for deli­cious mains to serve with cous­cous, such as the Mor­ro­can dish, Red Wine Lamb Tagine with Dried Fruit.” Since many of these chap­ters work around a chief ingre­di­ent or cook­ing method, they get their own spe­cial intro­duc­tions, such as a guide for mak­ing home­made cous­cous and an expla­na­tion of an Israeli style cookout.

What sets Shuk apart from oth­er Israeli cook­books are the inter­ludes between most of the sec­tions called, Our Favorite Shuk.” Eight shuks across Israel, from Tel Aviv to the Old City of Akko, get their own vibrant pho­to spread of their pro­duce and atmos­phere, and a per­son­al guide that tells us The Sto­ry,” The Vibe,” and When to come.” We also get to read about Admo­ny and Gur’s favorite spots with­in each shuk, with brief but thought­ful descrip­tions of what del­i­ca­cies are offered.

While Shuk mas­ters the art of mul­ti­cul­tur­al Israeli cui­sine and cook­ing, it is also filled with fas­ci­nat­ing food his­to­ry, guides for cook­ing and trav­el, and an impor­tant mes­sage about how Israeli cui­sine is influ­enced by all walks-of-life.

Michelle Zau­rov is Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s pro­gram asso­ciate. She grad­u­at­ed from Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in New York, where she stud­ied Eng­lish and lit­er­a­ture. She has worked as a jour­nal­ist writ­ing for the Home Reporter, a local Brook­lyn pub­li­ca­tion. She enjoys read­ing real­is­tic fic­tion and fan­ta­sy nov­els, espe­cial­ly with a strong female lead.

Discussion Questions

Einat Admo­ny and Jan­na Gur’s Shuk is a love let­ter to Israel’s vibrant food cul­ture. Shuk (Hebrew for mar­ket) trans­ports you as close as pos­si­ble to the bustling and ener­getic mar­kets of Israel with­out get­ting on a plane. Under the guid­ance of two pas­sion­ate experts, you’ll expe­ri­ence the fla­vors of Israel’s melt­ing pot, fresh pro­duce and local spe­cial­ties. Einat Admo­ny brings a sea­soned chef’s per­spec­tive, while writer and Israeli food expert Jan­na Gur adds cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal con­text. The veg­etable-for­ward recipes — such as Freekah with Crunchy Seeds, Charred Egg­plant, and Yogurt-Tahi­ni Sauce, as well as Cab­bage Cake stuffed with Beef, Nuts, Rice and Raisins — are lush, invit­ing, and bold­ly fla­vored. In addi­tion to the wide vari­ety of recipes, the duo share insid­er rec­om­men­da­tions for the best hid­den spots in the food mar­kets across the coun­try. Until you’re able to get to Mahane Yehu­da Mar­ket to taste the beet kubbeh at Azu­ra, Shuk is the next best thing.