Shakshuka is an Israeli staple that is now showing up on menus around the world—eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, often spicily cooked up with onions, hot peppers, cumin, and any number of other ingredients, from spinach to wild mushrooms, and served piping hot in individual skillets, with (absolutely necessary) hunks of good bread for sopping. Like many things in this region, the dish’s origins are a subject of impassioned debate: shakshuka may come from an Arabic slang word for “mixed up,” or from chakchouka, a Berber vegetable ragout. The dish may come from Morocco, Libya, or Tunisia, or perhaps from Turkey—some food historians date its origins to the time of the Ottoman Empire.
Many agree, however, that the best place for the dish in Israel is located in the heart of Jaffa, at an eatery unambiguously named Dr. Shakshuka on Beit Eshel Street. It is distinguished by the smell of fiery-hot peppers sizzling, its abrupt but friendly waiters, and the old copper kerosene stoves dangling from the high stone ceiling. The kitchen at Dr. Shakshuka is worth a look: there, dozens of small skillets are lined up, awaiting their turn to be filled with rich tomato sauce and clattered onto the fire, and pallets of eggs are ready to be poached in the hot red medium. Shakshuka: wherever the word comes from, to many happy guests it means “I am in Israel.”