The little shuk hoppers


Fresh chickpeas, still in their pods

Liz and I had some lost time to make up for. Between our move to Jerusalem and her recent trip to Spain it had been a while since we’d had a chance to get together and explore the nooks and crannies of Israel’s outdoor markets and hole-in-the-wall eateries.

We started in Machane Yehuda where Liz picked up some baby artichokes (they looked a little sharp) and we both grabbed a quarter kilo of fresh chickpeas still in their fuzzy pods. They taste green and sweet and only vaguely sulfury (unlike canned chickpeas, which can taste very strongly so). Auralee loved shelling them.

I showed Liz the piles of unripe green plums I’d been enjoying snacking on, and that seem to me the very embodiment of Spring. Then after a stop at the Gat Juice Man we went in search of lunch. We stopped at a couple of small eateries in the Iraqi Shuk to peruse the menu, and then settled on a bustling corner spot called Rachmo. Apparently something of an institution in the neighborhood, the crowds did not mislead. Liz and I enjoyed a hearty lunch of medjara (rice and lentils), stuffed bell pepper and vine leaves, kubbe soup, pickles and chopped salad.

Now fortified, we stopped at my house to drop off our purchases before heading on to the Arab Quarter of the Old City. Once inside the Jaffa Gate, we quickly descended into the lesser-traveled alleys of the Quarter, winding our way towards the Damascus Gate where much of the actual (non-touristy) shopping can be done. Liz nearly screeched to a halt when we came upon a pile of spring wheat berries, also known as freekeh. You can read about that find here.

Nutty, chewy, smoked green wheat berries... there's a first time for everything.

We wandered for what may have been hours in, out and around the Damascus gate. Fruit sellers wanted their picture taken, boys manned carts piled high with plums and chickpeas, old women crouched on the ground, selling mint and grape leaves picked fresh from their gardens, and piles of ma’amoul molds called out our names.

"Send it to me on Facebook!" the apricot seller called out to me.

When the shopkeepers began closing their doors we realized it was time to head home. Exhausted, we trudged back to Nachlaot, a couple Ma’amoul molds and some freekeh richer and with the feeling that we had visited a slightly foreign land.

Tuesday Spring Salad

I know that many of you will not be able to get fresh chickpeas or green wheat berries. Winter wheat berries (soaked and cooked) and canned or cooked garbanzo beans are a fine substitution. 

A couple handfuls of mixed baby greens, washed

1.5 cups quartered cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup garbanzo beans

2/3 cup wheat berries

1/3 cup chopped walnuts


1-2 tsp honey

1-2 Tbs good mustard

couple glugs of olive oil

juice from half a lemon

salt & pepper to taste

mix, mix, mix

8 thoughts on “The little shuk hoppers

  1. Great article. I have been afraid to go into the Arab quarter for many years now. Did you feel safe?

    Oh, and you should get a tweet this button so we can share your posts on twitter.


    1. Emily,
      Good question.
      When I was a little girl my family used to walk all around the Old City and never gave it a second thought (mid-late 80s), so I grew up with the impression that doing so was normal and safe. In my late teens, after my family had moved back to the States and I was here on my own finishing high school and starting university (between intifadas- I do think a timeline is relevant), I also went to the Arab Quarter often and brought friends with me and chatted with shop owners, had tea with them etc. Never had a bad experience. Then, when Jeff and I came back this summer (as part of our should-we-move-back process) I suddenly felt completely different about going to the Arab Quarter, especially by myself. I had been away for 11 years! And I couldn’t tell if my feelings of unease were just because I felt a little like a stranger in a strange land, or of they were warranted. I did a post about it:
      After being back now for 5 months, I have definitely begun to feel that comfort with Jerusalem and the Old City return, although with a more adult mindset. I think going with a friend is always good, and being aware of the current political climate (Nakba day etc), is also smart. But, yes overall, I think the sellers in the Shuk are much more interesting in just living their lives, making money, and continuing to create an atmosphere that is hospitable (profitable) in the quarter than anything else.
      ps I got the tweet button installed at the bottom of each post- thanks for suggesting!

      be well, ari

  2. I spent 22 years in the Jerusalem area and miss Machane Yehuda sooooo much! Thanks for bringing me a little taste of it this morning, and now I miss it even more…

  3. What a wonderful post! And the best part? I have everything in the house for your terrific-sounding salad! (Well, the best part would actually getting to visit Mahane Yehuda in person, and enjoy those grape leaves, but, oh well.) Can’t wait to cook up my wheat berries for this salad. I see a lunchbox salad in my near future.

  4. I’ve nearly used up all our finds! The artichokes were too small to be worth the trouble, btw. They look cute in a bowl, though.

    1. Yes, I used them all up as well! Today I got some very sweet, small, sunset-colored apricots and a small bottle of that spicy apple rimon juice from the gat man. so good.

  5. great food finds for me even if i do not get to eat them, love the photos of the vendors too, wish i can taste all these not here in New York or elsewhere but in Israel

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