Shakshuka is the new corn fritters as far as Australian brunches go.
It's all thanks to a crop of Israeli eateries, flying the flavours of the shuk with a side of challah. Israeli food’s footing in both Arab and Jewish cuisines, not to mention the impact of immigration on its flavour profile, makes for a diverse range of dishes spanning sweet to savoury. There’s the ritual of Shabbat morning, with its delicious promise of flaky pastries and knotted bread. Australian cafes have embraced these big, bold flavours with open arms: za’atar, zhug, sumac, bagel, shakshuka – we all know a menu with at least one of these words printed on it. If you don’t, allow us to acquaint you:
Bondi, Chatswood, Elizabeth Bay
This Bondi hotspot has been so loved by customers, they’ve opened additional outlets all around town. Taking its flavour cues straight from the shuks (marketplaces) of Israel with a healthy sprinkling of Bondi along the way (where else would you find a ‘green shakshuka’?) you can expect all the favourites here, like a rich and tangy shakshuka (which you can pimp with haloumi, sujuk or chorizo) and a Cilbir bagel topped with labneh, avo, scrambled eggs, dukkah, Aleppo pepper & turmeric dressing. The Israeli Breakfast is based on a spread made popular by some hotels in Israel that usually consists of eggs, salad, bread and various accompaniments. Shuk’s version of the smorgasbord arrives with olives, labneh, hummus, jam, avocado, tahini, and granola with yoghurt. A hummus and cauliflower plate is Tel Aviv on a plate: green tahini, pickled cabbage, hard slow cooked egg, zhug, pomegranate, olives and flatbread. Sweet tooths will love the teff pancake with sweet dukkah, maple syrup, banana and berries. When you’re finished, head 200 metres down the road to Shuk Bakery and smuggle a few chocolate and cinnamon-laced rugelach and cheese bourekas home.
96 Kepos St, Redfern
Falafel for Breakfast was the name of Michael Rantissi’s first cookbook, based on the dishes he created at his much-loved Redfern café, Kepos Street Kitchen. Bursting with sweetness, sourness, pungency and above all, generosity, KSK’s modern take on Israeli flavours shifted the brunch paradigm in the city’s fringe suburbs. Tel Aviv-born Rantissi’s menu has evolved since he first swung his doors open in 2012 and while the shakshuka still features, he’s doing some other interesting stuff like a potato and kashkaval (yellow cheese) croquette, crumpets with sumac and smoked salmon mousse, kanafeh, and a Kepos Benedict with green tahini, salmon, leeks and milk bread.
114 Bronte Rd, Bondi Junction
For all the just-baked babka, challah, bagels, halva croissants, sambouseks and rugalach of your dreams, head to Medani Bakery. There’s a dine-in menu too, sporting all the stalwarts, so expect plenty of bright green falafel and you guessed it, shakshuka. Medani also do an excellent sabich: the Israeli pita sandwich based on a traditional Iraqi Jewish dish that’s traditionally stuffed with fried eggplant, pickles and a hardboiled egg.
Glebe, Erskineville, Enmore, Surry Hills, Newtown
At Shenkin Kitchen you can try ziva, a flaky Yemenite pastry filled with olives, boiled egg and spicy coriander. They also offer a take on the Iraqi-inspired sabich: bread filled with eggplant, hummus and amba, a tangy mango pickle. Sadly, they’ve removed jachnun from their menu – that rich Yemenite pastry that often kicks off Shabbat morning. It could have something to do with the fact it takes up to 10 hours to prepare, only to be devoured in seconds. Shenkin’s Tel Aviv Breakfast is their take on the aforementioned Israeli breakfast spread.
219 Park Street, South Melbourne
Here, you’ll find classic Israeli breakfast dishes like the Yemenite malawach: a pancake-like flatbread that’s fried and served with boiled eggs and in this case, grated tomato, labneh, and green chilli sauce. There’s also shakshuka and the house favourite, sabich in a pan: shaved potato baked in tahini, then cooked in tomato and eggplant, topped with two poached eggs, tahini and amba.
302 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
Tavlin may not be open early, but an 11 am kick-off means there’s still time to squeeze in brunch. Their Iraqi sabich features fried eggplant, a hard-boiled egg, pickled onion, parsley and amba. If you’re after something meat-free, the crisp and herby Tel Aviv falafel arrives with slaw, pickles, hummus, tahini, pita and amba again.
This Balaclava institution first opened by Mendel Glick in 1969 and has since expanded across Melbourne. They’re famous for challah, that sweet and knotted Sabbath bread, and bagels, which they boil daily and wholesale to countless outlets and eateries. You could once buy the yeasty rings in Coles stores, but Glicks have since parted ways with the supermarket chain and outside their stores, they also offer wholesale and catering options to the masses.