CATEGORY: Food Choices
TEL AVIV — Visiting a food market in a far-flung destination is a great way to get a sense of the people who live there. Israel is no exception. The market in Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, showcases the small desert country’s agricultural innovations and the immigrant backgrounds of many Israeli residents.
Tel Aviv’s Carmel market, also known as Shuk Ha’Carmel, is close to the shore and a short walk down Allenby Street from the city’s hotel area. It’s part flea market, with vendors selling clothes, trinkets, cosmetics and cigarettes — there’s something quirky about seeing Camel cigarettes for sale in a place where you often see real camels — but mostly it’s a foodie haven of dried fruit, exotic spices, local olive oil, imported cheeses and fresh fish, meat and poultry. You also could spend your time dealing with the more immediate needs of an empty stomach by visiting stalls that sell persimmon smoothies, imported chocolates, mounds of colorful candies, fresh falafel, halva, lamb shawarma and borekas, the salty stuffed Turkish puff pastries that seem to be everywhere in Israel.
Tel Aviv chef Yair Feinberg, 35, gives market tours to travelers as part of his culinary business Fein Cook. He also offers cooking classes, specialty dinners and works on an Israeli television version of “Iron Chef.” Feinberg, the son of Argentine immigrants, grew up on a kibbutz in Israel’s Negev region and trained to be a chef at L’Institut Paul Bocuse in France. He later worked in several Michelin-star-receiving restaurants in Paris, Provence, France, and Tuscany, Italy, before returning to Israel in 2005.
It’s easy to wander the market alone and relish your solo discoveries. But a trip with someone like Feinberg can add insight and explanations about what you are seeing.
Take the giant lemons, for instance. After sampling some of the largest and juiciest clementines I’d ever tasted, I was convinced I was in the land of giant fruit when I came across what I was sure were the largest lemons I’d ever seen — about the size of a 16-inch softball.