If you have ever visited Israel, especially Tel Aviv, you must have encountered one of these small restaurants that give everything in a pita. Falafel, kebab, omelette or even schnitzel. One of these wonders is called Sabich, which is a wonderful mix of fried aubergines, potato and egg that were cooked all night long, salad, tahini and amba – the oh-so strong Indian-Iraqi pickled mango condiment.
Jews have a thing with cooking things all night. European Jews had the Cholent, a heavy casserole with beans that was slowly cooked overnight. Yemenite Jews had Jachnun, fatty dough rolls that are baked slowly for many hours, and Iraqi Jews have their breakfast – Sabich. It all comes from the anchient tradition of keeping the Shabbat – the saturday – whereas one is not allowed to light a flame. So the solution many observing Jews found is to slowly cook something on a low flame from Friday afternoon, before the Shabbat began, and so to be able to have a warm meal on Saturday.
The result of cooking something all night is very deep, sometimes slightly smoked flavors that are characteristics for a Saturday morning for everyone growing up in Israel. For me, as half-Iraqi, the smell of Sabich is the smell of Saturday. Where the strong smell of the petroleum cooker is mixed with the scent of cooked eggs and fried aubergines. You won’t find many homes where it is still made like that, but if you go in Israel, you can still get it in some stands in Tel Aviv. Two common debates around it, which I made easy for you, is whether you should put hummus inside to (Hell no!) and whether chopped salad belongs in the pita or on the side (Definitely on the side).
The egg here is replaced with smoked tofu seasoned with Indian kala namak salt to imitate the flavor of a brown egg that was cooked all night. Potatoes are just cooked longer to be really tender and the aubergines are baked. It was all rolled in a lafa, which is similar to tortilla, with the original add-ons and condiments, to recreate the wonderful balance between warm and comforting to tangy flavors.
Ingredients (2 servings):
1 medium-small aubergine, cut to quarters
100g smoked tofu
2 medium potatoes
Amba (if you can’t find any, try Indian mango pickle)
Salt, pepper, kala namak
Start with cooking the potatoes for at least an hour in salt water. The longer you will cook them, the more mellow they will get. Cut the aubergines into quarters lengthwise, season with salt and rub with olive oil, and bake in 220 degrees until golden (around 30 minutes). The inside of the aubergines will be mellow and creamy. In the last 3 minutes, put the tofu in one piece to get warmer and dry a bit.
Once everything is ready, it is time to assemble the lafa. Start with slightly warming it up in the oven (be careful not to dry it), spread tahini and amba, slice the tofu and potatoes and place them first. Season with kala namak and pepper. Place the aubergine quarters on top, some parsley, onion and tomato, and roll. The bottom can be rolled inwards to close the lafa from the bottom.
Serve next to a little bowl of Israeli salad, whole spring onions, and if you are brave, fried green chili peppers.