What is the staple food of Israel
How schnitzel became an Israeli staple food
Schnitzel in Israel is a big deal. A bigger thing than most people realize.
On the border between street food and fast food, schnitzel is something that many Israelis - especially children - eat every day. Be it warmed up in the oven from a freezer pack, homemade and fried flat, brought in a pita from a street stall or as a reliable choice in almost every restaurant. Gourmet schnitzel sandwiches are also quickly becoming a national food trend.
Schnitzel didn't start out as an Israeli dish. Originally it was either the Italian cotoletta alla Milanese or the Wiener Weinerschnitzel - both breaded, pan-fried veal schnitzel. The Israeli version was adapted from the latter and introduced decades before the country was founded by immigrants from Central Europe.
Veal has always been extremely difficult to come by in Israel, but chicken and turkey are plentiful and cheap - a logical substitute.
While the protein selection is the biggest departure from the original dish, there are other ways Israel made schnitzel its own dish. Above all, it is fried in oil, unlike butter, due to the kosher food laws that forbid mixing milk and meat - so no soaking in milk before frying, like Weiner schnitzel.
Israelis also like to mix sesame seeds into the breadcrumb coating. However, despite extensive research, I have not yet found a definitive reason for this. However, given the widespread culinary uses - from sprinkling with challah, mixing in za’atar, or grinding into tahini - it's not surprising. They also ensure good crispness.
And finally, schnitzel is so popular; every butcher in Israel has the "schnitzel", thin slices or crushed boneless chicken breast, ready to be coated. In the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Gil Marks attributes this to a program by the Department of Absorption in the 1940s that taught housewives how to make simple recipes using readily available, cheap ingredients.
The possibility of variation probably also has something to do with the success of schnitzel. Breadcrumbs can be exchanged for matzo flour after Passover, spices and spices can be added to the coating according to taste. This is the perfect canvas for experimenting. By the way, you can also prepare vegetarian schnitzel, such as the so-called cabbage schnitzel.
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