Although I had a boyfriend of Iraqi-Kurdish descent when I was young, and spent a fair amount of time at his family’s home, I had never heard of, much less eaten, a sabich. But on a recent visit to Israel I was introduced to this iconic sandwich made with fried eggplant, tehina, hummus, hardboiled egg, Israeli salad, pickles, sometimes a potato, and pickled mango sauce called amba– all stuffed into a pita or rolled into laffa. What was once a traditional Saturday morning breakfast for Iraqi Jews has become an Israeli street food almost as popular as falafel.
If that is true, then why hadn’t I ever had one before? After all, I’ve been to Israel numerous times, an even lived there for a while.
The situation had to be remedied.
So, on my day off from meetings, I wound my way down to Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, curious to try something new. I ordered myself a sabich at Moshiko. The guy behind the counter piled so many ingredients onto the large flat laffa that, when he rolled it up, it threatened to burst. Pieces of vegetable and egg fell onto the counter; he stuffed them back in and sent me on my way.
I found a seat outside at a high-top table, laid paper down and dug in. Now, I happen to have a very healthy appetite, but this particular sabich could have fed a small family. Vegetables slithered out, carrying with them dripping sauce and challenging both my balancing abilities and the dimensions of my mouth.
I got only about a quarter of the way through before deciding to focus my attention on the eggplant. It was luscious, if a bit oily, with crispy edges. After a few morsels I gave up, realizing that I probably would have been just as happy with a simple combination of eggplant, tehina, and some shredded cabbage – in a small pita.
Last night I prepared sabich for dinner using the recipe below, with a few changes, and it was very good. A very helpful hint for frying eggplant: toss it in a bowl with one or two beaten egg whites first. It reduces the amount of oil absorbed into the normally sponge-like fruit. Also, I prefer my eggplant cubed rather than sliced. It cooks faster and allows for more surfaces to be crispy.