It's the height of summer in Israel. On a blistering summer day like today, there's nothing better than enjoying a refreshing treat to cool you down. Here are some of my all-time favorite Israeli popsicles, drinks, and treats. They'll transport you right to the Tel Aviv beach!
1. Avatiach (Watermelon) Popsicle
This classic Israeli popsicle (or as Israelis call them, "artik") by Nestle is just as refreshing as it is mouthwatering. Similar to a sorbet, it's dairy free and, which means that for many Israeli families that keep kosher, they can enjoy it after a meat meal. Shockingly, it does not taste as artificial as you might expect. The watermelon flavor is sweet (but not too sweet) and creamy. Strauss makes another version, which is a triangle rather than semicircle. Try them both!
2. Gumigum Popsicle
For those who like gummy bears in your ice cream, this is the treat for you! I've always loved how gummy bears harden in ice cream and was pleasantly surprised to find an Israeli popsicle with toppings INSIDE! Sure, there are never enough gummy bears inside this dairy free lemon and strawberry sorbet popsicle (and I may or may not have written to Nestle with such feedback) but finding them feels like a delicious treasure hunt - like how I pick out the chunks of cookie dough in cookie dough ice cream, much to the dismay of the other person eating with me...when I am kind enough to share, that is.
You may have learned of icecafe (pronounced ice-café) on Birthright and the Israeli soldiers on your trip probably rolled their eyes when you said you wanted to go to stop at Israel's most popular coffee chain, Aroma, to find it. As an American who became an Israeli, I've been both. On one hand, if you want a little caffeine kick but also want an ice cream to cool you down, this is a great two-in-one solution -- perfect for types who use a 2-in-1 conditioner and shampoo. On the other hand, much like a Frappuccino, an icecafe is very sweet - too sweet for my liking - but I remember being a teenager and adoring them. So, I won't judge you for trying it and liking it. Just beware of the brain freeze!
4. Frozen Nougat Bamba
Bamba is the most popular Israeli snack - and the honor is well-deserved! Imagine if Cheetos Puffs had a love child with a peanut. Manufactured by the Osem corporation in Kiryat Gat since 1964, it has since been popularized in the United States by Trader Joe's. Bamba, which is made of maize and peanut butter, is the likely reason why so few Israeli children have peanut allergies, according to several scientific studies. According to The Jerusalem Post, Bamba makes up 25% of Israel's snack market. In Israel, there are many types of Bamba to munch on. There's vanilla crème, strawberry, and, my personal favorite, Bamba filled with nougat. I'm not sure where this trend began, but if you ask an Israeli, they're sure to know the best trick for enjoying Bamba in the summer: throw a nougat creme Bamba in the freezer! The chocolate center freezes without getting hard, like a mini chocolate ice cream covered in Bamba. It's the perfect salty sweet treat!
Limon(lemon), meet nana (mint)! Blend fresh lemon and mint with some sugar syrup, water, and ice, and you've got an iced limonana . It's sweet, it's tart, it's everything you'd hope for on a summer day. Many restaurants have limonanaand iced limonanaon their menus. If you don't live near an Israeli restaurant, you can make it at home quite easily. If you want to give it a true Israeli kick, try adding arak(or any other anise-based alcohol) to your limonanafor a delicious, iced beverage!
For those who want a fancy, non-alcoholic beverage, Gazoz is the fermented soda of your summer dreams. It's a bright, summery, sparkling drink created by Benny Briga and Adeena Sussman (" gazoz" means "gas" in Turkish) and is a feature of Briga's Café Levinsky in Tel Aviv. The drink is infused with fresh and fermented fruits, flowers, herbs, spices, and syrups. And it. Is. Heavenly. You can make it at home (check out Briga and Sussman's Gazoz cookbook!) but honestly, it's worth a flight to the Levinsky Market, where you'll have unlimited refills. Start packing your bags!
7. Watermelon and Bulgarian Cheese Salad
It's an Israeli beach staple for good reason! This simple, yet flavorful, salad is what summer is all about. It's salty, sweet, and so dang refreshing! Bulgarian cheese is popular in Israel, but you can also use feta. Cut the cold watermelon and Bulgarian cheese into bite-sized cubes and top with some olive oil, lime or lemon juice, and flaky salt. You can add basil or mint for a little pop of color, and viola!
8. Labneh Ice Cream
Labneh, a thick, creamy, and tangy yogurt cheese (usually made from goat's milk) hails from the Middle East and has become popularized over the last several years. And I'm here for it. Making this yogurt cheese into ice cream is an obviously great decision. You can top it with tahina(ground sesame), silan(date syrup), honey, or even sesame seeds. You might need an ice cream machine to make it super creamy and smooth, but honestly, it's probably worth it, because you'll be making this all summer long!