Some years ago, the citizens and guests of Tel Aviv took notice of a new trendy delicacy, called a sabich. Nobody knew at the time that it would become so popular that almost every tourist who visited would want to try it. So: what is a sabich? It is an Israeli sandwich that consists of spiced eggplant, a hard-boiled egg and pickles. It’s a very salty, savory combination and is usually stuffed into a pita and covered with tahini sauce and amba, which is drawn from Indian flavors. The dish is now one of the favorite street foods in Israel.
But sabich isn’t new to everyone: Iraqi residents brought it with them when immigrating in large numbers to the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1950s and 1960s, vendors began to sell the sandwich in open-air stalls. The primary name of the sandwich and its origin are the subject of much debate. The main letters of sabich –S-B-H– spell “morning” in Arabic, which makes sense; Iraqi Jews had customarily ate sabich on Sabbath mornings. However, there is also a theory that the main letters of the sandwich’s name stand for salat, beizah, hazilim (salad, eggs, eggplant) – the principal ingredients of the delicacy. A third theory is that the food was originally named after the founder of Israel’s first ever sabich shop, Sabich Tsvi Halabi.
Though the history of the sandwich’s name is open for debate, it has been a great success. One of the country’s most popular street foods, sabich can be seen throughout the street shops of Tel Aviv or any other city in Israel.
1 medium eggplant (¾ lb.), sliced into 3/8-inch rounds
2 ½ tsp. olive oil, for brushing
4 Tbs. prepared hummus
4 pita rounds or crusty French or Italian rolls, such as ciabatta rolls (each about 3 oz.)
Hot pepper relish, such as zehug, or other hot sauce to taste, optional
4–8 slices pickled mango, such as amba, or other spicy pickles, optional
¼ cup tahini, stirred well
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
Diced Vegetable Salad
2 Roma tomatoes, diced (1 cup)
1 Persian cucumber, diced (¾ cup)
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro or Italian parsley
2 Tbs. chopped red or other onion
- To make Sandwich: Preheat broiler. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on foil-lined baking sheet. Brush eggplant with 1 1/4 tsp. oil, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Broil 4 minutes, flip with spatula, brush with remaining 1 1/4 tsp. oil, and broil 4 minutes more, or until tender when pierced with a fork.
- Meanwhile, to make Tahini Sauce: Stir together tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and 3 Tbs. water in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
- To make Diced Vegetable Salad: combine all ingredients in medium bowl.
- To serve: Divide eggplant slices, hummus, and Diced Vegetable Salad among pitas. Drizzle with Tahini Sauce, and garnish with hot relish, if using. Serve with more Tahini Sauce on the side, and pickled mango slices, if using.