Sabich? Say what?? Don't worry, I didn't know what a Sabich (pronounced with a hard "ch") was until I had my first one in Tel Aviv in the beginning of the year accompanied by some other food bloggers and our hosts from Vibe Israel. This "veggie" sandwich or filled pita, to be precise, is a traditional Iraqi Jewish dish eaten for breakfast but I would honestly eat this any time of the day and night. When I got the schedule of my food trip to Tel Aviv, I saw that I was going to have a very special sandwich on my last day there. Meh, didn't really think much of it at that point except for a simple and unsuspecting "ah, cool!". Little did I know that my own words will come slap me in the face later on like "girl, really, is that all you're going to say?". Because, as simple as this veggie sandwich may sound, in terms of flavor, it really is top notch!
Now after all the praising of this delish sandwich, you probably want to know what exactly makes it so special. It starts with the main ingredient which is fried (and in my recipe roasted) eggplant. Very popular in the Middle Eastern cuisine and as a Iranian-German girl, I have to say, with all due respect, eggplant is only good if it's cooked extremely soft. One crucial thing to do is to salt the sliced eggplant, let it sit so lot's of the moisture comes out, tthen tap it dry and then season it. You see, eggplant is kind of like a sponge with loooot's of water stored inside of it. So when you salt the sliced eggplant and give it some rest, mositure comes out and after drying it off, the eggplant can absorb all the flavor you season it with. I decided to roast the eggplant slices instead of frying them because it's much healthier and personally I prefer anything roasted over fried.
Second important ingredient is potato. Also sliced and fried but for my sabich, I roasted them with some za'atar, which is a North African and Middle Eastern spice blend with wild thyme, sumac, sesame, sometimes also koriander, fennel and nuts. Super flavorful and delicious. While in Israel we had freshly baked flatbread topped with olive oil and lot's of za'atar on it on many occasions, but the first one we had was in Jerusalem. A bit messy but so worth it!
Ok, so we have the roasted eggplant and the za'atar spiced and roasted potatoes. Now we need a really good hummus and if you haven't tried my hummus recipe, than you are seriously missing out!! Hop right over to start with the best hummus you'll ever have ;-). Then we need a Middle Eastern style salad, which is just finely diced tomatoes, cucumber, (onions) and fresh herbs dressed with just simple lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper dressing, sliced red cababge for crunch, salty pickle slices and amba sauce, which is a Middle Eastern mango sauce similar to a chutney but it's not sweet, it's sour, salty and tastes pickled. A traditional sabich also has hard boiled eggs in it but I left them out because,... well, you know, vegan and stuff. Everything is topped off with a tahini sauce and schug, a Middle Eastern chili sauce made of cilantro, garlic, chili and other ingredients. It's similar to a pesto or chimichurri but spicy.
It might sound like a lot of information right now, and please don't be overwhelmed by it. All you have to do is prep a bit and you're good to go. The eggplant and potatoes can be made the day before, as well as the hummus. So the day you want to make the sabich, you just make the salad, warm up the veggies and assemble. Easy peasy.
So let's get to the recipe now...
What you need - serves 2-3
2-4 pita breads or any Middle Eastern flatbread
1 cup thinly sliced red or white cabbage
1/2 cup creamy hummus, tap here for my recipe
Salty pickles ( I used Iranian pickles because they are pickled in salt brine instead of vinegar)
Amba sauce I found the one I used in an Arabic specialty shop
2 medium size eggplants (salted and wiped dry), salt, pepper, olive oil
2 large potatoes + 1-2 tsp za'atar spice, salt, pepperer, olive oil
for the salad:
2 large tomatoes finely diced
1/2 large English cucumber finely diced
50gr/ 1 cup chopped herbs (cilantro, parsley, mint)
Juice and zest of 1 organic lemon
2-3 tbps olive oil
2 tsp za'atar spice
Salt and pepper to taste
Tahini sauce (mix a few tbsp tahini with a few tbsp water, add the juice of 1/2 lemon or more if needed and season with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder)
Schug (Middle Eastern spicy pesto made with cilantro, garlic, chili,...)
- Start by making the hummus and roasting the eggplant and potatoes. In the meantime you can make the salad by simply chopping everything and dressing it with lemon juice, zest, olive oil and spices.
- Once everything is ready, just warm up the pita/ flatbread with the remaining heat of the oven for a couple of minutes, then add some hummus, amba sauce, layer in the eggplant and potato, top with crunchy cabbage, salad and pickles. Top it off with a quick tahini sauce and some schug, if desired. Enoy immediately!
Photography by Shabnam Rebo (images 1-9, 12, 13, 16, 17) and Amir Menahem (images 10, 11, 14, 15)