On The Hummus Route

Before I get started, if you have not yet read my previous blog post, Holy Land of Hummus, I highly suggest you go back and take a quick look. It offers a little insight on the middle eastern subculture that is hummus.

With a desire to experience hummus and its story in Israel, I set out on the hummus route. My goal being to experience 10 of Israel’s best hummus joints and to continue to learn about the impact that this magic dish has on the community. With each destination, a similar, but entirely new and equally exciting adventure presented itself. Each new destination on the route shed a bit of light on the tumultuous past of this land, and the seed that could represent a more unified, peaceful future. One in which Jews and Arabs sit down to a meal of their coveted hummus together, reveling in the symbolism of the dish and the beauty of their shared country.

I began my hummus journey in Haifa and was led throughout Israel to some of the most iconic hummus destinations. The research was extensive. Every hummus conversation turned into a passionate address about what makes their favorite hummusiya the best. Each bike ride introduced me to a new hummusiya loaded with locals who highlighted the best of the best. And each online forum provided detailed rankings of the brightest of the country. So you can imagine, the list was long, but carrying out this research was not at all a chore.

Here you have it. My 10 favorite hummusiyas around Israel… so far… and in no particular order. There are hundreds and thousands of hummusiyas that I have yet to try. Yes, I love recommendations! These 10 hummus joints each prepared an incredibly delicious and authentic dish of hummus and presented an experience that shed insight on the meaning of community and tradition in Israel.

Abu Marun, Haifa

My first real hummus experience. My first day of Haifa exploration plus extreme jet lag and some appetite confusion equaled an extreme need for hummus. We landed at Abu Marun, an authentic hummusiya, near Sammy Ofer stadium in Haifa, that did not disappoint. With absolutely no understanding of Hebrew, we managed to order with very little knowledge of what we actually asked for. We were brought a beautiful platter of warm hummus, topped with a dollop of tahina, chicken, grilled onions, and whole chickpeas. Not exactly what we meant to order, but exactly what we didn’t know we wanted.

Hummus Said, Akko

After learning that the small little town of Akko, or Acre in English, has some of the best hummus in Israel and maybe the world, we made the short 30km trip from Haifa to explore the city and taste some of their famous hummus. We first settled at Hummus Said. A popular shop inside Akko’s main shuk. Again, no frills. Perfectly simple. We waited in a short little line to be seated. I say line, but lines in Israel are not so much of a line but a swarm. Before we were even seated we were asked what we wanted. Efficiency, I have learned, is key to the hummusiya. Again, completely confused by the simple but Hebrew menu posted on the wall, we were brought something a bit different from what we intended to order. A seemingly common theme for us at hummusiyas, but in some ways this adds to the excitement. The challenge of ordering, the looks we get when people know we are so out of our element, and the surprise when our bowl shows up at the table. We were brought masabacha, the variation of hummus that uses whole chickpeas rather than completely ground. We loved it. The masabacha was simple, no frills, just perfect highlighter yellow olive oil drizzled on top. At this establishment, I learned the importance of watching locals do their thing to learn the ropes. We were sat by an older gentleman who kept asking for different toppings. I learned that you can ask for more olives on the side, a cup of extra olive oil, or even a cup of lemon garlic juice. He dumped each of them on top of his hummus and continued to plow through using his pita and occasionally the raw onion on the side like a tortilla chip. I hear this is the thing to do… He continued till the plate was mostly empty, and then went on to lick the bowl. This again is a testament to the casual culture of a hummusiya. One in which you can be yourself, surrounded by a community that has nothing but respect for the tasty legume. One in which you can see tourists out of their element but enjoying every second and where you can see locals catching up with friends. Hummus smeared on their faces. No frills. Nothing fancy. But absolutely 5 stars.

Hummus el Abed Abu Hmid, Akko

Next up on the hummus route was a small establishment near the Akko lighthouse. I fell in love with the decor of this hummusiya, named Hummus el Abed Abu Hmid. The ocean just meters away in the background, the lighthouse above, the blue floors and walls plastered with photo’s of everyone and anyone, and a modest kitchen that spotlighted the chef doing what she does best. In Arab-Isreali culture, the hummusiya is largely a male’s domain. Very few hummus places are owned by women. Men open restaurants, serve things they considered masculine, grilled skewers of meat, fried fish and hummus, while Arab women have largely been confined to domestic life. I have seen this to be true at most hummus establishments still today. Hummus el Abed Abu Hmid is different. It was so refreshing to see a female behind the counter running the show. Hummus el Abed Abu Hmid may have a man’s name, but it is owned by Arin Abu-Hamid Kurdi, and she is the face you see behind the counter. She is the owner, the operator, the brains, and she is a woman. Not only do I respect her amazing creations, but I respect her fearlessness as she defies gender roles and takes on the so-called “man’s domain.”

A specialty that Arin is well known for is her Al-Abed hummus which she pours samna (ghee) and baharat (a spice mixture with cinnamon). This is a lesser known style of hummus that apparently is unique to the ancient port city of Akko.

We absolutely enjoyed Hummus el Abed Abu Hmid. The atmosphere was perfect, from the smell of the dishes being prepared in front of our eyes, to the blue that surrounded us. The ambiance of the local teenagers still on summer made me feel at home. As they ran around from table to table to gossip with their friends, as they yelled for more hummus and pita. Arin simply did not disappoint and she introduced us to a wonderful hummus experience in Akko.

Abu Shakkar, Haifa

The hummus route led us to Abu Shakkar in the heart of downtown Haifa. Another hummusiya, perfectly authentic. Upon coming to Abu Shakker, I had the intention to order hummus ful, hummus covered in fava beans. This was a variation I wanted to try and to my amazement I was actually successful in ordering. It was absolutely excellent, quite possibly my favorite variation so far. Creamy hummus, topped with fava beans, tahina, and a little bit of parsley. The owner even threw in a few falafel. Abu Shakker is an excellent establishment that is the epitome of hummus culture in Israel.

Hummus Alsham, Haifa

Located in Haifa’s famous Wadi Nisnas neighborhood, this hummusiya creates yet another perfect way to experience hummus culture in Israel. The owner Stefan Shehade produces the hummus right in front of your eyes and adds a little modern gourmet twist. Using the fresh ingredients of the surrounding outdoor Arab market, it is the epitome of seasonal farm to fork eating. Although located in the Arab quarter of Haifa, this hummusiya seemed home to all those located in Haifa. I was able to share a table with a Jewish family with two little boys, each boy with hummus smeared all over their faces in pure enjoyment. I ordered the “triple” hummus. Warm hummus with a creamy texture, masabacha (full chickpeas) full of the taste of tehina, garlic and lemon, and the ful (fava beans). The whole thing is spiced with cumin, paprika, olive oil, and some hot pepper sauce on the side. Excellent as expected and a perfect combination to satisfy each taste bud. The local atmosphere, extremely friendly service, great food, and a fun cooking show exemplified the unifying power of this dish and the smiles it brings.

Abu Shukri, Jerusalem

A trip to the holy land allowed for more destinations on the hummus route and more opportunities to taste some of the best the world has to offer. We were told that the best hummus can be found in the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City. We found exactly that in a tiny family-owned joint called Abu Shukri. Located right on the Via Dolorosa, the processional route that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. Certainly holy hummus in the holy land. Upon doing a bit of research, I discovered that the Shukri clan is known throughout the region for the best Arab-style hummus, with a recipe that has lasted generations. True to the hummusiya authenticity there is no menu here. Simplicity again: hummus with more hummus or hummus with pine nuts. We ordered hummus with hummus and was immediately served a delicious healthy serving of Arab-style hummus, swimming in olive oil and topped with tehina. Abu Shukri certainly lives up to the hype.

Humus Acrmavi, Jerusalem

Another tried and true destination on our holy land hummus route. Authentic. Simple. Delicious Arab-style hummus. I ordered the hummus ful, hummus with fava beans and enjoyed every bite. With a little more expertise in the hummus trade, I am now able to notice the subtle differences that make each hummusiya unique, not better or worse just different. This particular hummus had a bit more lemon, adding the perfect amount of zing to make it interesting and exciting. The owner exemplified the customary Middle Eastern hospitality and treated us to a healthy serving of his specialty and even a falafel to taste as we waited. He was even excited to pose for a picture with his son. With a long list of holy sites to experience, we decided take-away was the way to go. We were not at all disappointed and beyond happy with our hummusiya experience.

Humous Ben Sira, Jerusalem

While staying at Cinema Hostel in the City Center of Jerusalem, we were recommended to try Humous Ben Sira. A hip little joint walking distance with a bit of a different vibe. Off the beaten path we were certainly surrounded by locals participating in the authentic hummus culture, but this establishment seems more of a late night joint for the younger crowds. Armenian painted tiles covered the walls and the bar, and the cheerful atmosphere created the perfect experience to see hummus in a slightly different light. The hummus here is especially tasty and the toppings add a uniqueness. With a tough decision between a different toppings options, I decided on hummus with mushrooms. A variation I had not yet explored, but one that Humous Ben Sira certainly opened my doors to.

Abu Hassan, Jaffa

It has been passionately agued that this establishment has the best hummus in all of Israel. If you type in hummus in Israel, google will bring up the name Abu Hassan. So of course I had to make the special trip to Jaffa to get a taste for myself. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of tourists like me who like to google hummus found at this joint, but this place is swarmed with locals. Located just outside of Tel Aviv, in the more relaxing ancient port of Jaffa, this small hummus joint certainly whips up an excellent bowl of fresh authentic hummus that contends as the best of the best.

This was one of the more lively and vibrant establishments on the hummus route. A crowd waiting out front to be seated and a full house inside. It is well known that you better get there early because as soon as the one pot of hummus for the day is out, they close. You even get to share a table with a bunch of strangers. Our neighbors were excited to inform us that we were about to be served the best hummus in Israel. Abu Hassan presents an excellent lesson in efficiency necessary to feed their hungry crowds. They have no menu, only serve three items, and literally toss plates in front of you. No nonsense, simple, perfect. The Abu Hassan experience was lively and exciting, complete with a perfect order of authentic hummus triple, hummus, hummus ful, and masabacha.

Umm Kulthum, Haifa

For my 10th establishment on the route I have chosen to include something a bit different from the authentic hummusiya I have become so well acquainted with. This small cafe is located in Haifa and presented a pretty killer bowl of magic. To my surprise this joint is completely vegan and puts a twist on some Israeli staples. Hummus itself is always vegan, but their menu is full of other unique options. We of course got the hummus and were brought a perfect bowl of creamy goodness with a massive dollop of tahini on top. Although their establishment might not be an authentic hummusiya, their hummus dish certainly follows the authenticity guidelines. This dish definitely competes with some of the best we have had here so far. We also ventured out and tried the portobello mushroom kabob. It was excellent and like nothing else we have tried before.

For the final destination on this journey I must leave you with one of my favorite discoveries. Yes, I am completely consumed in the hummus magic. Here is a little song that I hope you might find amusing. “Hummus Metamtem” (or “Hummus Makes You Stupid“).

So there you have it. 10 of my favorite hummus joints in Israel. I have heard that the only thing that distinguishes one hummus from another is “nafs” which means soul in Arabic. Each of these hummusiya’s exemplify “nafs.” This dish and the experts who create it combine simplicity and delicious ingredients to produce the true hummus cultural experience. These experts are peace builders in a state that desperately needs reconciliation. They unify individuals from every inch of the land over their love and respect for the tasty legume. Let me remind you, I am totally caught up in the magic of hummus and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I am continuing on the hummus route. Stay tuned, feel free to ask for recommendations or send recommendations my way. Next up, my attempt at making authentic hummus. Wish me luck!

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