There’s only one place in Jerusalem where the locals go to fill up on homemade bread, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables. Forget the supermarket, Mahane Yehuda, also known as the ‘Shuk’ is the place to go for all your grocery shopping. That, plus the environment’s a hoot too.
It’s easy to know when you’ve reached Mahane Yehuda market. First, it’s one of the most popular stops on the light rail where many people get off.
Second, you’ll spot the first vegetable stall as you enter the market, followed by another 50 or so in the distance. And third, there’s probably a street sign somewhere, but my Hebrew’s a little rusty so I couldn’t tell you where!
The sweet stuff
For those of you with a sweet tooth, pre-book that dentist appointment now. There’s so many sticky sweet things on offer at Mahane Yehuda, it’d be a shame not to try a few. To tease your tastebuds, here are the ones I was lucky enough to try.
Baklava: If you’ve never heard of Baklava, where the heck have you been! You can find these delicious bite-size pastries in many Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurants or cafes. They’re so moreish — one bite is never enough.
Rugelach: This Jewish favourite has a texture halfway between bread and a cake. Take a bite and you’ll get a taste of cinnamon, sugar and chocolate chips. The rolled pastry is baked, so there should be no lingering feelings of guilt afterwards!
Hamantashen: These triangular pastries filled with fruit jam may not be the easiest to pronounce, but they’re mighty delicious.
Halva: Though I’d heard of Halva before, I’d never tried it. For fellow newbies like me, it’s actually a dessert made of ground sesame, with different flavours and fillings. Stroll through the market, and you’re likely to see a Halva stall selling flavours ranging from chocolate, coffee beans to hot chilli!
Breads the word
If you love bread as much as I do, the market’s full of it. Homemade challah bread, bagels and of course pita.
There’s plenty of stalls selling fresh pita, still steaming in their bags. The other must-try bread is rye, and Mahane Yehuda has several shops selling artisan loaves.
Mahane Yehuda is of course more than just breads and sweet pastries. There’s stalls selling plump, juicy olives, fragrant herbs and spices, and specially blended teas that’ll immediately awaken your senses.
Kosher cheeseburger without the cheese
Approximately 3 minutes walk from the main market is the restaurant, Crave. Inside, they serve up gourmet street food from around the world, both Kosher and non-Kosher.
Must tries include the Tonkatsu beef sliders (with fake cheese!), and the superb ‘Big-O’ panko-covered onion rings. Don’t forget to order one of their excellent cocktails to wash it all down with.
If anything, the Shuk is more than just a place to shop, eat and drink. The buzzing atmosphere mixed with the friendly, animated stall sellers reinforce why it continues to be popular with tourists and locals alike.