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Shakshuka Wraps

August 5, 2011

Shawarma Shakshuka at Dr. Shakshuka, in Jaffa

JULY 26th, 2011 — This is also another post about a cultural exchange I enjoyed while in Israel over spring break, and the last one. Like with the Falafel, I had put this one off because once I had tried it, I knew I had wanted to try it for myself.

My first day in Israel, after arriving in Tel Aviv at 6 AM, having an Israeli breakfast, and falling asleep until 2 PM, my brother met us in the hotel. He noted that Tel Aviv has a very Westernized face, so he decided to hail a taxi and go south to the old harbor city of Jaffa, which has now been absorbed into the aggrandizing Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality. He told the taxi driver, “Dr. Shakshuka,” and he dropped off us into an alleyway (wide enough that cars could enter), and we entered this favorite shakshuka restaurant from the back.

Green salad, spicy eggplant dip, tahini

Shakshuka is a casserole dish from the Maghreb region, sometimes traced specifically to Tunisia. It is a stew in which eggs are poached in tomato sauce that is typically spiced with chilies, cumin, and other spices of the region. The menu at Dr. Shakshuka prepares shakshuka that includes other ingredients, like spicy eggplant or lamb or shawarma, layers of meat (usually lamb) grilled for a long time on a spit. We ordered the shawarma shakshuka.
Before our sizzling plate arrived, we were provided with an entire loaf of wheat bread, and salads green and dippable. But save the bread!–the shakshuka had yet to arrive. I might consider shakshuka to be the comfort food of Northern Africa, bringing a warm, hearty feeling, to the atmosphere of the room. It has a spice-palette rich and deep, yet bright nuances from fresh tomatoes too. The egg, like a sponge, really soaks up the flavor of the stew. The shawarma, while always a tasty addition, did seem a bit out of place in this stew, which is probably why egg, and not meat, is the real central ingredient of this dish.

So what did you do?
I diced up some roma tomatoes, yellow onion, and red bell pepper, a wider variety of vegetables than I probably needed.
I also chopped an eggplant into somewhat larger pieces, and sauteed all the vegetables in olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano.

For tomato sauce, since I don’t really know how to make my own yet (nor did I have that many tomatoes), I used a couple large spoonfuls of some Italian-style tomato-basil sauce that my apartment-mate let me borrow. (And by borrow, I mean she will get the sauce’s worth back by eating something else I make.)

lacking a bit in tomatoes, I'd say

And then the eggs! Crack 3 eggs directly into the frying pan where the vegetables are still bathing in the simmering sauce. You can lightly season the eggs at this point, if you’d like. Then cover the pan with a lid and let the eggs fully cook. You’ll want to avoid runny yolks, but they’ll solidify anyway if you don’t mix it in too hard in the pan. Break up the eggs lightly so they’re evenly distributed throughout the stew.

I didn’t have a fresh loaf of bread, nor did I have that many people to feed, so for dinner I decided to get out some whole-wheat lavash I got from Trader Joe’s, the flatbread from Persian cuisine. (If I had had pita, I would have opted for that.) And then I made wraps! The main textural difference by making wraps is that the shakshuka can’t be too watery or heavy in sauce, or else the lavash will soak it up and fall apart. If you’re using bread, then pour in a generous helping of sauce in your stew!

Lessons learned?
In retrospect, maybe I should have been a bit more adventurous and dashed in some cumin to be more authentic, though I don’t know if that would have gone well with Italian tomato-basil sauce.
I think another egg would have made it heartier too (and taste less like a light vegetarian dish, which it was).

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2011 11:15 PM

    Please open your own restaurant someday!

    – Disha

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