Tyler Cowen’s West Bank ethnic dining guide

by on December 12, 2013 at 10:42 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

I can recommend two places:

1. Siri (that is how they pronounced it, I don’t know the transliteration), a small restaurant on one of the main streets in the center of Ramallah.

They serve hummus, foul, and foul ringed with hummus, get the latter.  The accompanying vegetables were more strongly marinated than they typically would be in Israel, a plus in my view.

2. Laymoon [The Lemon restaurant], Ariha (Jericho)

The chicken musakhan, with piles of red onions and slivered nuts over bread, seasoned with generous doses of sumac and allspice, is very tasty.  The restaurant is also a nice place to sit outside and enjoy the weather, or to catch an Arabic-language film on their large outdoor screen.

I walked by many other places and in general they looked good.  The various fruits I purchased on the street were all winners, the small oranges and the dates most of all.  There is much less variety, but dish by dish my impression from a small sample was that the food in West Bank cities is slightly better than that of Tel Aviv.

Ariha was attracting a lot of Nigerian church tourism.

Overall I noticed how much economic growth and globalized advertising were to be seen in Ramallah.  My biggest surprise was how much being in Ramallah felt like…being in Israel.  Except the citizenry seemed less religious.

dearieme December 12, 2013 at 10:49 am

Foul? Fowl?

dead serious December 12, 2013 at 11:08 am

Foul is fava beans. (pronounced “fool”)

dearieme December 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Well I Never! Thank you.
I know them as Broad Beans. Is the “fal” of falafel is the same thing? How is “foul” served: in oil and herbs?

dearieme December 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Mind you, Pythagoras would not have approved.

dead serious December 12, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Falafel is typically mashed up garbanzos, aka chickpeas. Plus spices of course. I guess you could make falafel out of fava/broad beans but that’s not (as) common.

Foul is fava beans cooked down with some light spices/herbs added (parsley and a bit of garlic if I remember correctly) and usually some olive oil and lemon juice drizzled over it. It’s frequently served alone in a bowl with fresh pita but it’s also common to serve it in shallow bowl in which it is ladled in a ‘bed’ of hummus – also accompanied by fresh pita.

dearieme December 13, 2013 at 7:06 am

Thanks. My wife tells me that our falafel are made of broad beans: it’s good to know what radicals we are. :)

Thor December 12, 2013 at 11:11 am

I suspect auto-correct “fowl” play.

Owen December 12, 2013 at 11:13 am

Künefe in Nablus is the best in the world. I live in Turkey now and the stuff here doesn’t even come close. For the uninitiated, künefe is this glorious combination of shredded wheat flakes, syrup and cheese, hard to describe but when good it can be amazing. Any place in Nablus will make a great one.

dead serious December 12, 2013 at 11:38 am

Israeli/Arab breakfasts were my favorite meal in that part of the world.

Shakshuka with some foul and labneh on the side. Can’t beat it.

prior_approval December 12, 2013 at 11:43 am

I love it – checking out food in the West Bank. Why even bother linking to various FAO information?

Instead, for those interested in non-violent gaming, try Food Force – http://www.wfp.org/stories/online-game-food-force-puts-players-front-lines-hunger

The download is completely free, after all.

Don’t worry – only the occasionaly UN truck is ever likely to bring food to a place like the West Bank. Not because they don’t need it, actually (FAO statistics are available for anyone interested in googling), but instead, because there is no way that any transport will be allowed near the West Bank without the explicit permission of the occupying nation. Very explicit permission, of course.

Unlike an American tourist spending a bit of petty cash. Somehow, I doubt it took Prof. Cowen six months of high level negotiation to arrange his meal –
‘KEREM SHALOM – Pallets of fortified date bars have left Gaza today, crossing Kerem Shalom to be transferred to the West Bank by the United Nations World Food Programm (WFP). This is the first batch of a total of 140 tons of locally-produced date bars (or 19 truckloads) that will be used in WFP’s school feeding distributions in the West Bank.

“This transfer from Gaza to the West Bank is the first of its kind since the inception of the blockade in 2007 and hopefully more will follow in order to support children learning and school assistance and concomitantly help boost the private sector and support a productive economy in Gaza”, says Pablo Recalde, WFP Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory.

WFP was previously purchasing all date bar requirements for school feeding in Egypt or in Turkey until a factory was identified in the Gaza Strip. The factory has the capacity to supply the needed quantities at a competitive price and meeting WFP quality standards. These date bars are already used in the Gaza Strip school feeding programme and will now be used in the West Bank as well, where WFP assists 75,000 school children in 292 schools in the most food insecure areas, notably in Israeli-controlled Area C, Seam Zone and Bedouin communities.

The humanitarian transfer of date bars from Gaza to the West Bank follows more than 6 months of negotiation between WFP and the Israeli authorities, with strong support of the office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) and of the international community.’ http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/61B6000A557576C0852579BC004C19B8 )

joni_wallnuts December 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I was completely baffled when I read Tyler’s post. At least you show the good sense to give a proper frame of reference for such a post.

Aidan December 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Sure, life’s hard in the West Bank. But they still manage to eat damn well. Shows that the Palestinians have their priorities straight (in certain areas at least).

Ohad December 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

You are right that the situation in Gaza is much different. Think a bit and maybe you can figure out why that is.

Chip December 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm

The people of Gaza elected a government whose priority is the destruction of Israel. They elect politicians whose sole campaign platform is the fact she gave birth to several suicide bombers.

Yet you’re surprised Israel doesn’t allow the free movement of goods across the Gaza border?

And why would Gaza provide ‘humanitarian’ aid to the West Bank anyway?

Isn’t that like Zimbabwe sending aid to South Africa?

joni_wallnuts December 13, 2013 at 12:49 am

“The people of Gaza elected a government whose priority is the destruction of Israel” … in response to something. Where something, you can put words like occupation, oppression, landgrab.

And no, it’s not like Zimbabwe sending aid to South Africa, it’s more like a blockaded Alaska sending aid to the rest of the US.

Martin December 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I see the Israel-haters are out.

petr December 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm


– West Bank is oppressed.
– You hate Israel!

prior_approval December 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm

‘Except the citizenry seemed less religious’

I was in Istanbul a few weeks ago – what was surprising was that the citizenry seemed less religious than that in Northern Virginia in 2011.

What a witty observation at the best satirical site on the web.

Rashad December 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm

If you’re still around, Abu Shanab has amazing lamb. It’s near Bethlehem, don’t remember exactly where.

Ari December 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm

‘Except the citizenry seemed less religious’

Less religious than in Tel Aviv? THIS Tel Aviv? http://www.houseandleisure.co.za/decadent-tel-aviv/ :-)

Ohad December 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm

> Overall I noticed how much economic growth and globalized advertising were to be seen in Ramallah

The Israeli security barrier actually enabled normalcy to set in to Ramallah, Jericho and elsewhere in the West Bank.

Tim Cullen December 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Tyler, you probably ate at Ziryab: https://www.facebook.com/ziryab.restaurant?filter=2

I lived in Ramallah for several months in 2010 and ate well there. Even better than the restaurants are dinners at someone’s house. People take cooking meat over fire very seriously.

Ohad, I would disagree with your definition of normalcy.

Tim December 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Solid entry in the competition for most Tyler post ever.

Sarah December 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm

It’s amazing what trade can do to city like Ariha in creating dishes. Although Ariha has less variety of ingredients and food than Tel Aviv, it is drawing in a lot of tourist. The tourism will bring in different cultures and maybe new goods into the Ariha market expanding ideas of new dishes to make. Once these new goods/ingredients become a necessity to making these new dishes, it creates incentives and demands for these new goods which will create trade in the market for these items. Overtime, Ariha might have as many variety of goods like Tel Aviv if trade of new items and exchange of new ideas for dishes continue.

Kevin Lees December 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I just got back from a trip to Israel and the West Bank myself over Thanksgiving, and Ramallah topped the list of places I wanted to visit. Not sure how much it seemed like Israel — it felt more like Lebanon and the nighttime energy felt more like, say, Hamra Street in Beirut (without the SSNP thugs on patrol). In any event, definitely more Tel Aviv than Jerusalem, but not the same subtropical-Jewish-Russia feel that Tel Aviv has. I found Palestinians, in both Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank, friendlier than Israelis, but that’s probably because tourists in Ramallah are a relative novelty. More people said ‘hola,’ or ‘como estas’ to me than ‘hello.’

I’ll add to the recommendations Orjuwan, a restaurant that bridges the points about West Bank food and the Ramallah boom. ‘Falafel shrimp’ is exactly the non-kosher treat that you think it might be — shrimp wrapped in a layer of falafel. The clientele is more Western businessman / UN / NGO than Palestinian, but not exclusively so.

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