Executive summary By darmansjah
Falafel’s little brother combines fried aubergine and hard-boiled egg with tahini, amba (Iraqi-style mango chutney) and chopped vegetables to create a cheap, filling and healthy meal served in a pitta. Boiled potato, chopped parsley, and tomato and cucumber salad are also used for the pitta’s stuffing, which is salted, sprinkled with finely ground pepper and garnished with an extra dollop of tahini.
ORIGIN Traditionaly eaten by Iraqi Jews on Saturday morning , sabih – known as bid babinjan (‘egg in aubergine’) in Baghdad-was brought to Israel by Iraqi immigrants in the early 1950s. for years appreciated mainly in Tel Aviv’s suburbs among large populations of Iraqi Jews, the dish has recently become popular with Israelis in the city’s more fashionable quarters.
TASTING Ask an Israeli of Iraqi origin where to find the best sabih and chances are they’ll tell you about long-ago Sabbath mornings in Baghdad. Traditionalists swear by old-style sabih, on offer from hole-in-the wall vendors with chest-high glass cases and a few bar stools, while modish feinshmekerim (connoisseurs, in Israeli slang and Yiddish) often champion sleek shops featuring audacious fusion dishes. What everyone is looking for is the perfect mixtures of complementary flavours and contrasting textures. As you bite through the pitta, the warm aubergine will meet crunchy, spring-green parsley, jicy tomato with soft morsels of egg, tangy amba mixed with crisp slivers of onion, and the heat of green chilli, mellowed by creamy tahini.
FINDING IT Hippo Falafel Organi in Tel Aviv serves up both traditional and innovates takes on the dish (from US$5.15; 00 972 3 609 3394).