Hummus Showdown – Abu Shukri vs. Taami

Hummus with Chickpeas and Falafel at Taami in Jerusalem
Hummus with Chickpeas and Falafel at Taami in Jerusalem

One of my very favorite days on our recent trip to Israel was the day that Sarina and I had stupendous hummus for a late breakfast and equally astounding hummus for lunch. In the morning we visited the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem and walked around the outside the Dome of The Rock and Al-Aksa mosque, then walked out through the Muslim quarter. Right by the fifth station of the cross we found Abu Shukri, and though it was a bit early we weren’t about to miss this legendary experience. We weren’t disappointed. You can see in the bottom picture, incredibly creamy chickpea puree topped with a few whole chickpeas and a puddle of fruity olive oil. The garnish tray included pickles and a few balls of falafel.

Then after a tour of the Israel Museum and a flustered circle through mad traffic with a sleepy toddler and an expensive parking ticket, we made our way to Taami, which Hillel had told me about. We waited a few minutes for a seat in the tiny place at the top of Shamai street and once again stuffed ourselves silly, stopping only to top each other with adjectival glee.

Those of you only familiar with hummus (which can also be spelled humus or hummous) outside of the Middle East are probably thinking: (1) a whole restaurant devoted mainly to hummus? (2) even if so, why would anyone care? Answers: (a) yep, all over, and everyone has their favorite place (b) because most of the hummus in the rest of the world would be better suited to mortaring bricks or caulking bathroom fixtures than eating. The real thing is a velvety smooth, silky puree of chickpeas, sesame tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Certainly not Thai Pepper Hummus or any other absurd flavor. You can often have it garnished with more chickpeas, falafel, pine nuts, tomatoes, or other tasty bits, and there is usually a side tray of pickles and olives, but the main event is that puree.

When I was in Delhi a few years ago, I was struck by the fact that the top-shelf Bukhara restaurant at the Maurya Sheraton was known far and wide for their dal, basically a simple lentil soup. (It was damn good, with a lot of kidney beans and ultra buttery.) I was seated about 10 feet from Rahul Gandhi, considered likely to be a future Prime Minister of India. In America, a restaurant that caters routinely to future presidents isn’t going to be famous for lentil soup, or chickpea puree. It made me feel proud as a vegetarian to see folks so passionate about humble, delicious dishes.

One thing is for sure, if you want to get an Israeli talking, just ask them where to find a good hummus restaurant.

As far as these two places go, I think you should visit both. I’d give a slight edge to Abu Shukri for the hummus itself, but I liked the lively atmosphere at Taami more (of course we were there at a better time of day).

If I ever manage to make hummus this good at home, I’ll definitely pass on the recipe to all of you. My first attempt was a bit too grainy. Current theory is that I need to find true Middle Eastern chickpeas instead of Mexican garbanzos. There are so many recipes on the web and in cookbooks it is a bit mind boggling to know where to start. Feel free to add comments below if you have an opinion!

Details:
Taami
3 Shamai St
Jerusalem 94631 Israel
+972 2 561 9265

Abu Shukri
63 Al Wad Rd. at Via Dolorosa
Old City, Jerusalem, Israel

Hummus with Chickpeas at Abu Shukri in the Old City of Jerusalem
Hummus with Chickpeas at Abu Shukri in the Old City of Jerusalem

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, October 15th, 2007 in Restaurants, Travel.

14 Responses to “Hummus Showdown – Abu Shukri vs. Taami”

  1. October 16, 2007 at 5:43 am #

    Mmmmm! I could eat Israeli hummus every day! I was in Israel for a Birthright trip a few years ago and I just couldn’t get enough falafel and hummus. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to recreate it at home either. Although for the especially lazy, the Sabra brand with a little olive oil mixed in is a pretty decent substitute!

  2. October 16, 2007 at 6:56 am #

    I could eat hummus daily! I’ve never had the true hummus but this looks absolutely fantastic!

  3. October 16, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    are you still in Israel? If so, please pretty please eat at Lena! It’s also in the Old City, only a few short turns past the Jaffa Gate and the entrance to the Arab Shuk. If you ask any of the vendors in the shuk as you walk down the stairs, they’ll point you in the right direction. Also, great chummus can be had at either of the restaurants in Abu Gosh, both also called Abu Shukri — one is the original, the other started by the sous-chef — they’re pretty much the same product though. But the holy grail of hummus, IMHO, is not in Jerusalem or environs: it’s in Akko, at a place called Hummus Said. Their hummus is known to be the best. Have you tried Masabacha? It’s a dish of hummus, whole chickpeas, tahina, and some lemon (sometimes), served hot. I LOVE this and I think the best is served at Abu Hasn, in old Yafo. Happy eating — I’m jealous!

  4. molahs4
    October 16, 2007 at 12:12 pm #

    I agree that the Sabra brand is the closest thing I have found in the states to the glory that is Israeli hummus. I hear rumors that the key is using icewater, but I have a hard time believing that is how they have been making it for generations.

    I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s show yesterday and he was talking about how cultures can be defined by how well their poorest people eat. He was in China at the time and marveling at how they had developed incredibly simple, cheap foods that everyone could afford to eat. The incredible vegetarian options in the middle east are a great example of this.

  5. October 16, 2007 at 12:55 pm #

    This looks so good – I’ve never been to Israel and have been wanting to go for awhile. I’ll have to get your food recommendations when I finally get my act together and get a ticket :)

  6. Meli
    October 16, 2007 at 5:20 pm #

    You probably thought of this already, but I used to always make grainy hummus until I peeled the chickpeas before pureeing them. It really made a huge difference, and wasn’t much work at all.

  7. Michael Natkin
    October 16, 2007 at 11:47 pm #

    Thanks for all the comments, tips, and suggestions everyone! I wish I was still in Israel, all of those places sound amazing but I’m back in Seattle. I’ll have to try removing the skins from the chickpeas, now that I know it is easier than I would have guessed.

  8. June 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm #

    Here are 2 places in the Old City that I recommend – the other Abu Shukri, on the right, just up from Station VII of the Via Dolorosa (peek in and notice the column, in the exact place where it stood on the Roman Cardo). Lena is along the same street past Station VIII, on the left.
    For my full list check out link to israeltours.wordpress.com

  9. Jeff
    July 6, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    I lived in Jerusalem for a year and a half and ate at Abu Shukri’s at least twice a week, maybe more. Best I’ve ever tasted. I once asked the owner (Abu Shukri?) how he made the Humus, he explained it to me—in Arabic.

  10. David
    July 29, 2008 at 2:07 am #

    Shalom Michael,
    I (wrongly?)commented to your prose about hoummous at Stumble It!
    I’ll try to rewrite what was:
    1. There are fine choummous restaurants all over Israel. Said is one of the superior ones and there are more that bring no shame to the institution!
    2. I cook hoummous with a variety/strain/breed called “Bulgarian”, which are smaller and better adapted to making pureed choummus. Available in US?
    3. If sufficiently cooked (I soak dried chickpeas in water some 24 hours or so and then cook 12 or more hours in a slow cooker) then your beans should be the texture of butter!
    4. I leave the skins on for health purposes.
    5. I suggest not using bean softener for health purposes.
    6. Hoummous can be eaten whole with the spices added on top or mixed in… mmmmmmmmmm.

    If you plan on being back in Israell and wish to visit other hoummous eateries all over the counry, I’d be honored to join and guide you.
    Your culinary trips are just too much.. they fit my way of thinking!

    Warmly,
    David

  11. Michael Natkin
    July 29, 2008 at 7:38 am #

    Thanks for the tips David!

    What is a bean softener?

  12. November 4, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    Hummus! one of my favorite topics. I ate at Abu Shukri’s (abu gosh) a few weeks ago and have yet to go to Taami. Yochanan’s (yemenite restaurant) makes a very good hummus and he told me what David above said- cook for a very long time, he does it overnight. He also doesn’t remove skins, too much work I guess. Bulgarian hummus is very popular for hummus but Hadas is also used. I don’t normally see Bulgarian chickpeas at the shuks for some reason, perhaps the hummus joints buy it up? (I was at Ramla today). Jaffa also has some great places which I have to try.

  13. December 29, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    We’ve a few restaurants in NYC that specializes in hummus, but also include other appetizers as well. I love hummus. I’m having some right now. :)

  14. gabcorter@hotmail.com
    April 26, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    you can skip the peeling by buying already ‘split’ chickpeas. not easy to find but works. also, blend in a blender and not in a food processor. you need to add a bit more water but it’s how to make it smoother. also, you need to overcook the chickpeas in the first place.

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