Sabich, the name of a distinctly Israeli dish, is one of those foreign words whose origin is uncertain and doesn’t convert well when transcribed in English. If mispronounced, its second syllable can cause offense as a derogatory term for a woman.
Galya both pronounces and makes sabich like a pro and comes to it honestly given her Israeli background and Iraqi Jewish ancestry. First popularized by Iraqi Jews in Israel, this type of pita sandwich is gaining appeal and respect, both at home and abroad.
Before spotlighting its ingredients and how to prepare sabich, let’s get its etymology out of the way, which is subject to different theories. One is that sabich is derived from an Arabic word for morning, typically when Iraqi Jews ate it each week on Shabbat (Saturday). Another has it that it’s named after the founder of the first sabich stand in Israel, Sabich Tsvi Halabi, a Jewish immigrant from Iraq. Others maintain the name is an acronym in Hebrew for its main ingredients – salad, egg and eggplant. Maybe it’s none of the above.
There’s more consensus on why people like sabich, a result of its wonderful taste that traditionally has come from a winning mix of hard-boiled egg, cooked potato and fried eggplant packed into a pita with salad, tahini, amba (pickled mango sauce) and chopped parsley. Today, sabich comes in various forms derived from a different combination of elements.
Whereas sabich was once grouped together with falafel as Israeli street food or snack food, it’s now increasingly viewed as a more sophisticated alternative and a healthier, more refined eating experience. Still, Israelis often refer to both in Hebrew as “mashehu bapita” which translates as “something in a pita.”
“Having first discovered sabich in my childhood thanks to my mother, who was born in Baghdad, I’ve seen the transition it’s gone though over the years, both in its preparation and the way it’s perceived” says Galya. “It’s interesting how it’s become more respected and how different restaurants serve their own variation and interpretation of sabich, some very artistic, while staying true to its original essence.”
Native to Israel, sabich is a meat-free delight easily found in multiple locations in the country’s major cities.
“Every time, I’m back in Israel and visiting Tel Aviv, I make a point to go Shuk Hacarmel (Carmel Market), in part to get sabich there,” says Galya. “It’s one of favorites after my mother’s. But of course you can make your own sabich far from Israel. When I do, it makes me feel closer to Israel. No wonder they call it comfort food.”
Galya’s recipe, which she created to make a healthier sabich adapted to North American taste, can be found below.
As for where to get the 10 best sabich sandwiches in Israel, read this just published article.
And, oh yeah, for those who are still wondering, it’s pronounced “sah-beekh.”
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Galya’s version of sabich, with a Canadian and French French twist:
Pre-baked 12-15 mini tart shells (available in most supermarkets in the frozen section)
2 tomatoes, finely diced
1 English cucumber, finely diced
2 green onions, minced
1 shallot, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Tahini with fresh herbs
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced finely
1/2 cup of finely diced fresh herbs: tarragon, parsley, sage and rosemary
2 tablespoons of organic maple syrup
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of pickles, cut into small slices
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (a mix of black and white)
2 spoons of amba (pickled mango sauce)
1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds
3-4 boiled eggs chopped fine
Preheat the oven to 370 degrees. Bake the tart shells for 10-15 minutes
Make a simple Israeli-style salad with finely-cut tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions
Add lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper
Chop the shallot
Stir-fry the eggplants and shallot until fully tender and golden
Add the fresh herbs
Add the maple syrup, balsamic vinaigrette and Dijon mustard, salt and pepper
Top the tart shells with the Israeli salad, eggplants and the pickles
Garnish with sesame and pomegranate seeds, the tahini with fresh herbs dressing, boiled eggs and amba