"A quick-filling pita dish with eggplant, eggs, salad, spicy sauce and a tangy pickled mango sauce. Ordering from Oved you are guaranteed a big show and a whole new twist to the Hebrew language! "
*All pictures courtesy of Jessica Bruning
Forget falafel for a few minutes, and shwarma in laffa (like Naan bread), and focus on Sabich: Brought by the Iraqi Jews to Israel, where it was customarily eaten over Shabbat. A pita ‘sandwich’ comprised of fried hatzeel (eggplant), smoked hard-boiled eggs, hummus, tahina, Israeli salad, pickles, chopped onion, fresh parsley and the magical sauces that complete the dish: Skhug (a spicy Yemenite sauce) also simply known as charif and amba a tangy, strong pickled mango sauce. Sabich is also the acronym in Hebrew of salad-eggs-eggplant
The dish sounds simple and delicious, right? Based in Givatayim and one of the only street corners you will see Israelis’ waiting in lines AND at lunchtime, in addition many Israelis’ across the country venture here for the Oved Experience. Olim chadashim (new immigrants) should be qualified as an Israeli when they know how to order from Oved’s Sabich in Hebrew! Aside from being the best Sabich in the universe [see picture below, Oved’s slogan], Oved has created his own playful and “chik-chuk” serving experience, even before you take the first bite. Using soccer terms, asking what the score is at the local derby and created his very own “sabich language”. Oved will also make some small talk with you before his big ‘show’, enquiring where you are from and usually replying that he had such and such a person from that place, eat his famous sabich – modest indeed 😉
To better understand the whole experience (all in Hebrew), these ordering essentials may help:
If you say lerootz al hakol – Basically to give you everything in your pita (which is a lot easier for non-hebrew speakers;). I usually then say b’lee batsal (without onions), so if you don’t want a certain thing in your pita, you can say b’lee and point to whatever it is. – This is a very useful word, especially if you don’t know what the item is in Hebrew.
He has basically turned nouns into adverbs, if you want the eggs for example, he’ll ask if you want ‘to eggorize’, ‘to onionize’ etc …
Further to ordering the eggplant, he will ask in terms of quantity, kal (light), ben’oni (medium), kaved (heavy), masiv’e or agressiv’e or militant’e.
The finale, the soccer score refers to the amount of magical sauces skhug and amba, both colours represent national football teams.
Skhug (red) = team Ha-Poel and amba (yellow) = team Maccabi
So you would say (in Hebrew) for example, “2-1 le Maccabi” (2-1 to Maccabi, which means 2 teaspoons of amba, and 1 of skhug)
Best to brush up on your Hebrew – and those who appreciate Israeli football, will appreciate his unique style and lingo. If your Hebrew is not that great, don’t expect him to slow down for you – especially during the buzy lunch hour. However he was very impressed when I ordered 3-2 to Ha-Poel, very charif! I would be very interested to hear the record derby scores that he has served up!
Now, onto the most important thing, the eating: The sabich is delicious, the pita comes hot and fluffy, inside a treasure trove of eggplant, salad options, tahini, hummus and the “derby sauces”. The simplicity of the ingredients are perfect, the smokiness and texture of the eggplant balance beautifully with the amba and the hot kick of skhug. The eggplant isn’t too oily either.
Sit inside, wash down your sabich with berah schora (malt beer) and enjoy the simple interior which is completely covered with framed pictures of Israelis’ all over the world, glorifying the great Oved Sabich. It seems he has become somewhat of a cult, almost like the ‘Soup Nazi’ in Seinfeld – you must see this classic episode to understand. Prepare to get very messy too, serviettes and Tupperware dishes are at the ready at each seating station i.e. this is not a place for a date, unless you’re already a couple and don’t mind seeing your boyfriend (or girlfriend) with a hummus moustache! Also don’t be surprised if you skip dinner, this one is a filler!! See him in action below: