sabikh!

November 3rd, 2006

Falafel’s lesser known little sister is sabikh. Sabikh is a pita sandwich with fried eggplant, a sliced boiled egg, chunks of steamed potatoes, salad, hummus, tahini sauce, and amba, a sort of sour mango pickle sauce. Traditionally, sabikh was eaten by Iraqi Jews on Saturday morning. According to lore, the sandwich didn’t really have a name back in Iraq. It was named sabikh by the Iraqi immgrants who opened the first kiosk in Israel to sell the sandwich. Filling, tasty, and messy, sabikh is a favorite street food among Israelis today.

Sabikh is inherently fun to eat. With its abundance of ingredients, it’s an everything but the kitchen sink type of sandwich. Every bite yields a combination of flavors and textures, and often a dribble of tahini down your chin. Keeping the full-to-bursting pita in one piece is always a delicate balance. (The trick here is to use slightly thick, soft, pliable pita, not the sort of thin cardboardy stuff you find at the supermarket).

Sabikh was one of A‘s favorite street foods when we lived in Israel. So on the morning of his recent birthday, I made sabikh with homemade pita. Sabikh makes a tasty breakfast served with Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad. And pita is much easier to make than you’d think. You can finish the meal with a small glass of strong Turkish coffee, or sweet mint tea.

sabikh with middle eastern cucumber and tomato salad

Hanit has a recipe for pita here, which you can halve. Or you could make the entire recipe and freeze the remainder for later.

1 small or medium eggplant, preferably the multi-cleft heirloom variety known in the Middle East as “baladi
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced or coarsely chopped
good quality plain hummus, such as Sabra brand, or homemade
prepared tahini sauce (prepare according to instructions on the jar of tahini paste)
2 steamed potatoes coarsely chopped, or several bite-sized steamed potatoes
amba (optional)
2 good quality pitas
Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad (recipe below)

  • Place a heavy frying pan on medium heat and melt a good tablespoon or two of coconut oil in the pan. Alternatively, you could use olive oil (not extra virgin).
  • Fry the eggplant slices until browned on both sides. Remove from pan and drain.
  • Slice the tops off the pitas so that you now have two D-shaped pocket. Gently separate the walls of the pockets to make them easier to stuff.
  • Invert the sliced pita tops and nestle them at the bottom of each pita. These pita tops reinforce the sabikh, preventing dripping from the bottom (for a while, anyway).
  • Hold the bottom of a pita, gently squeezing the rounded edge in your hand so that the pocket opens.
  • Smear a bit of hummus in the pita, then add the eggplant, eggs, potatoes, and salad.
  • Drizzle tahini sauce and amba into the pita.
  • Serve with salad on the side.

Serves 2

middle eastern cucumber and tomato salad

Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad resembles salsa in that its ingredients are diced very small, creating a cohesive cross between a salad and a chunky sauce. The tartness of the lemon juice, the bite of the olive oil, and the freshness of the parsley meld with the sweet juices of the tomatoes and the crispness of the cucumbers. It just isn’t the same if you chop the vegetables any other way except a tiny dice. A salsa style salad is made to be eaten in a pita.

2 Mediterranean, Persian, or small pickling cucumbers
2 medium sized very fresh tomatoes
parsley
1 lemon, sliced
good olive oil, preferably Middle Eastern or Greek
salt and pepper to taste

  • Trim the ends of the cucumbers.
  • Dice the cucumbers and tomatoes. You want a very small dice, say, a quarter of an inch.
  • Finely mince a handful of parsley and add to the cucumbers and tomatoes.
  • Squeeze some lemon juice over the salad, and drizzle a good glug of olive oil.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Taste and correct dressing.

Serves 2

N.B. If you’re in NYC, you can get sabikh at Taïm. If you’re in the San Francisco bay area, you’re out of luck. But you can get Sabra hummus at Berkeley Bowl, and baladi eggplants at the Ferry Building farmer’s market. Check the farm stand across from Point Reyes Preserves.

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