Friday, December 09, 2022

I have led walks in English in Machaneh Yehudah, Jerusalem’s produce market since I initiated them in 2009. I go there often when I am not leading, and I pass a vendor on Agrippas Street with eye-catching food.

This led me to do a little research. In the 1940s and 1950s, large numbers of Iraqi Jews suffered antisemitic violence and immigrated to Israel.

Sabich Tzvi Halabi, an Iraqi who had immigrated to Israel at the age of 18, owned a kiosk in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv in the 1980s. He prepared this Iraqi breakfast dish to bus drivers at a kiosk at the end of a bus line. Composed of fried eggplant, hard-boiled or long-baked eggs, tahini, chopped salad, pickles and amba sauce, it is stuffed into a pita or rolled in the flat bread called laffa.

In Iraq, it was eaten especially on Shabbat morning when they did not cook.

In 2017, Jennifer Shutek, a Ph.D. student at New York University, pursued research on the history of sabich, as did Ronit Vered in Haaretz in 2017.

The recipe caught on and spread across Israel and even to the United States, where I found this recipe today, while reading over the online Food & Wine recipes. Here a recipe for sabich was being prepared by Michael Shemtov and chef Stuart Tracy at the Charleston, South Carolina, Butcher & Bee.

Halabi’s daughter also wrote a children’s book called “Saba Sabich.”



4 servings

  • 1 large baking potato
  • salt
  • 1 eggplant in 2-inch slices
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cucumber diced in 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tomato diced in 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large minced jalapeno
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 T. chopped cilantro
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 thick, warmed pita breads
  • 1 cup hummus
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 4 large, sliced hard-cooked eggs
  • 4 small, thinly sliced dill pickles

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place potato in a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, 20 minutes. Drain and cool and slice into ¼-inch thick slices. Season with salt.

2. Arrange eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Season with salt, and bake for about 10 minutes, until browned and tender.

3. In a large bowl, toss cucumber, tomato, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and parsley with lemon juice and 3 T. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Cut off 2 inches from the side of the warm pitas to make openings in the pockets. Gently open the pitas. Spread the hummus on the bottoms with 1 T. tahini. Layer potato slices, eggplant, egg and cucumber-tomato salad in the pitas along with some of the salad juices. Top with the pickle slices and serve.

Sybil Kaplan is a Jerusalem-based journalist, lecturer, book reviewer, food writer, author (“Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel”) and contributor or author of nine cookbooks. She lived in Israel from 1970-1980; she and her late husband, Barry, came to live in Jerusalem in 2008, where she works as a foreign correspondent for North American Jewish publications and created and leads walks in English in Machaneh Yehudah, the Jewish produce market since 2009.

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