A site of some of the earliest human civilization and a country that has only been independent for 71 years, Israel is our next destination with Universal Yums. Israel is not only an extremely old country, it is also one of the holiest places on Earth, specifically for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Jerusalem, a tiny city 100 times smaller than Disney World, is the site of two of these important places, both the site in which Jesus Christ was crucified as well as his resting place, and is one of the most popular places in Israel for tourists as well as for religious pilgrimages. Since 1948, the Israeli citizens have been working hard to establish their country and to create their own unique traditions, pastimes, landmarks, and food, after having been ruled by multiple different empires throughout history. Lucky for us, we’ll be getting the chance to try some of their snack food inventions this month, including the popping chocolate bar which is one of the newest creations to halva and baklava, treats that have been around for ages.
Kremli Nougat Bites
Peanut Butter Coated Cereal Bites with Hazelnut Cream
Fun fact about this snack, not only is it delicious and beloved throughout the Middle Eastern country, it has also helped to save lives. For years, scientists had observed that the children of Israel were less likely to develop peanut allergies with the amount of children who actually had this allergy, lower than in any other nation. In 2008 it was discovered that the reason for this was because of peanut puffs, a snack that was so popular it was reported to have been found in 90% of Israeli households. Since these puffs were easy to eat, it was often one of the first solid foods introduced to children which in turn helped build their tolerance to the nut reducing their risk of developing an allergy by over 80%. Filled with a creamy hazelnut filling, this treat is not only a scientific breakthrough but also a tasty discovery.
Rating – 1/5
Falafel Flavored Puffs
Throughout history, Israel has been a country that has seen it’s fair share of conflict with it even spreading to arguments about their food. Falafel, the flavoring that inspired these puffs, is at the center of these debates with multiple different countries trying to take credit for this creation. This ancient dish, made using chickpeas that are mixed with herbs, spices, and onions and then fried into fritters, was first believed to have originated right here in Israel as the citizens claim that it was eaten for centuries by the Jewish since it is kosher. Egyptians have also claimed that falafel was made in their country and they should take credit for it since the Christians in their country ate it during Lent. India also chimed in with their opinion as to this delicacy’s origins, arguing that it originated in their country as India has historically always specialized in fried foods. Regardless of where it came from or who first invented it, falafel can be found everywhere in Israel and is one of the most popular street food options as well as a common choice of flavoring for their snacks.
Rating – 3/5
Strauss Popping Chocolate
Milk Chocolate with Popping Candies
Created by two farmers, Richard and Hilde Strauss, this chocolate bar is not only loved by many throughout Israel, it is also one of the most unique. The origins of this creation begins in 1936, when the two aforementioned farmers started a dairy farm in Israel with a pair of cows. Miraculously enough, these cows started to produce extra milk which prompted the couple to start making cheese. Two years later, they also starting making chocolate as well which only helped to grow their business even bigger. This high quality chocolate created by the Strauss family, was then paired with pop rock candies giving this Israeli treat an explosive twist.
Rating – 5/5
Mahroum Coconut Rolls
Coconut Bar Rolled in Coconut Flakes
As mentioned before, Israel is a very popular destination for those wanting to make a religious pilgrimage, with the city of Nazareth being one of the most common choices. While this city has changed quite a bit over the years, it still remains one of the most important places for both Muslims and Christians with over 2.3 million visitors yearly. From the Mary’s Well, the place in which Jesus was bathed as a child to the St-Gabriel Church, the location where Mary first found out that she would be giving birth to baby Jesus, there are enough famous sites to visit throughout Nazareth that anybody would work up an appetite. Luckily enough, the Mahroum bakery and confectionery is just a few feet away and ready to welcome hungry visitors. In business since 1977, this lively and beloved bakery specializes in authentic Arabic treats including these coconut bars covered in fresh flakes of coconut.
Rating – 5/5
This little coconut roll was hands down one of the best treats I’ve had with Universal Yums so far!
Onion Flavored Wheat Snack
Beginning as a pasta company in 1942, before the country was even considered to be a nation, the Osem company saw large success in their endeavors. The three pasta makers who started this company wanted to create amazing pasta with the hopes of building an authentic Israeli food company. Quickly, the Osem company’s pasta became a household name and the company continued to grow even more. After large success with their pasta, the trio decided to venture out into something a bit different which is how these pungent, onion packed wheat snacks were born. In 1970, Osem came out with a line of savory snacks that were inspired by their pasta, with all of their varieties of Bissli resembling different types of noodles as an ode to their humble beginnings.
Rating – 4/5
Mini Pistachio Halva
Sesame Candy with Pistachios
With a recipe dating back to the 1100’s, this candy is the oldest treat in Israel which isn’t surprising given that the main ingredient, sesame, is one of the oldest seeds known to mankind. After having first been cultivated in India, sesame seeds quickly spread through the Middle East through trading. These seeds have now become a staple in Israeli cuisine, being found in dozens of different dishes such as baba ghanoush, hummus, and of course, halva. The thousands year old treat is a dense and crumbly dessert made using sesame seed paste known as tahini and then mixed with hot syrup. This creation is then laid out to cool and often times mixed with almonds or pistachios, which is the case of the variety that we’re taste testing this month.
Rating – 0/5
Everything Chik Chak
Wheat Spirals with Spices
Consisting of a crunchy, spiral of wheat and covered in a handful of different spices including turmeric, salt, paprika, and a variety of other fresh spices, this snack is ‘everything’ to the Israelis. A popular snack throughout the country, these wheat spirals are especially loved amongst the Jewish population. The reasoning for this is that they are completely kosher, with no hidden ingredients that would go against the diet of most Jews. While there are many different beliefs as to what kosher entails exactly, for the most part, it is a set of standards that typically includes no pork of any kind, a ban of certain types of shellfish, as well as dairy not being allowed to be consumed with meat. Regardless of religions, beliefs, or any culinary requirements, it’s safe to say that these wheat snacks are good enough for everybody.
Pomegranate Turkish Delight
Pomegranate Candy with Almonds
Imagine if these pomegranate flavored, almond-filled treats could make you a better person. Maybe they’ll help make you smile at strangers on the street or hold the door open for someone when entering a building. Whatever the friendly gesture, these candies could help with that. The reasoning behind this stems from a Jewish belief that pomegranates are a symbol of spiritual righteousness and moral. The fruit is typically eaten during religious holidays mainly due to Jewish lore which states that the 613 seeds inside of a pomegranate corresponds with the same amount of commandments in the Torah. While unfortunately nothing magical will happen when eating the fruit, in Israel the symbolism alone of consuming the pomegranate makes people reevaluate their decisions and choices.
Rating – 1/5
Mahroum Handmade Baklawa
Baklava with Pistachios, Cashews, Peanuts, and Almonds
A visit to the Middle East wouldn’t be complete without a taste of baklava. While baklava did not originate in Israel, rather coming from Turkey, today nearly every single country in the Middle East consumes this treat each with their own unique twist on it. In Iran, baklava is typically doused with rose water while in Armenia they like to sprinkle theirs with cinnamon and cloves. In Israel however, they like to incorporate multiple different types of nuts, such as peanuts, pistachios, and almonds, into their variety which is then topped off with a healthy dose of cinnamon. This nutty treat is enjoyed daily in Israel but is more predominately eaten during religious celebrations such as Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, and on Rosh Hashanah.
Rating – 2/5
Baked Garlic and Onion Puffs
Puff Balls with Garlic and Onion Seasoning
Garlic, the pungent herb that we all associate with vampires and bad breath, is the star ingredient in these light and crispy puff balls. It has also been connected to the Dead Sea in Israel going back over 2,000 years, ever since a shepherd unearthed Dead Sea Scrolls inside of a cave near the sea. The story begins in 1946 when this shepherd stumbled into a cave near the Dead Sea while out looking for one of his lost goats. Inside of this cave, the shepherd discovered the Dead Sea scrolls, which are ancient Jewish texts containing not only stories but recipes as well. It was in these recipes that garlic is said to have made it’s first appearance, being showcased in a recipe involving grinding down the garlic and later mixing it with olive oil. This finding showed that garlic has been around a lot longer than anticipated and is still a star ingredient in Israel with many garlic fields being found near the Dead Sea.
Rating – 4/5
Pesek Zman Blondie Chocolate Bar
Milk Chocolate and Caramel Coated Wafer Bar
A trip to Israel wouldn’t be complete without tasting the country’s most popular chocolate bar. Often referred to by it’s English name, Time Out, the Pesek Zman chocolate bar encourages those eating it to ‘take a little time out and relax’ which is probably perfect considering how many layers there are to dissect in this sweet treat. The first layer involves the ‘blondie’ part of the chocolate bar which is the coating covering the bar and is made using a blend of cocoa, white, and caramel chocolate, a flavor that is new in both Israel and the United States. Next up is the inside of the chocolate bar itself, consisting of a crispy, vanilla wafer with creamy caramel and a rich chocolate spread.
Rating – 5/5
Barbecue Flavored Wheat Snack
Another popular version of the Bissli snacks from previously mentioned Osem company, are these barbecue spiral wheat snacks, just in the time for the upcoming summer season. While a barbecue flavored snack doesn’t seem like anything too exciting, the smoky rather than sweet flavoring of an Israeli barbecue will make all of the difference. When it comes to barbecue, the Israelis sure know what they’re talking about, the practice has been an essential part of daily life in Israel since the early days of being a Jewish state. Back then it was not uncommon for people to cook outside of the home rather than inside with barbecue stands being built along the main roads and barbecues as social events were a regular occurrence. Nowadays, ‘mangal’, or barbecue, is still very much an ingrained activity in Israelis’ daily lives and so much so that there is even a museum dedicated to the practice.
Rating – 2/5
Elite Egozi Bar
Milk Chocolate with Caramel, Nougat, and Hazelnuts
The last treat in this month’s Universal Yums box and also one of Israel’s first chocolate bars, is the Elite Egozi bar. Made using a hefty portion of nougat, as well as a thin layer of silky caramel and a decadent chocolate coating, this chocolate bar first became famous for containing whole hazelnuts within it’s nougat filling. It is also known for having quite the rough and arduous journey to even becoming the beloved treat that it is today. Back during the 1920’s, a chocolatier known by the name of Eliyahu Fromenchenko created the Latvian chocolate company known as Laima, which means ‘luck’. Business was good for Fromenchenko and his two business partners up until 1933, when it became too dangerous for Fromenchenko, who was Jewish, to be living in Europe. He then decided to move to Israel where he continued making chocolate for the British troops during the Second World War. From that moment on, his business continued to thrive and grow with Fromenchenko seeing great success, especially with this Egozi bar, one that has been a hit for decades now.
Rating – 4/5
Another month of Universal Yums in the bag and onto the next, where we’ll be trying snacks and candies from another brand new country.
In the meantime, be sure to catch up on any previous posts you may have missed and don’t forget to check out the link below to save $5 on your first month of Universal Yums.