Sabich is the New Falafel – ChiTribe explores the new Sabicha and interviews creator Ahna Shmuel, the blond behind it all!
What is Sabicha Eats?
Sabicha is a food concept that produces cuisine rooted in Israeli Inspiration. Opened in May 2019, Sabicha has a permanent pop-up at Wicker Park Farmers Market every Sunday serving up a rotating selection of salatim (salads) and sabich pitas. In addition to their casual pop-ups listed below, Sabicha offers an Israeli inspired dining experience.
Is Sabicha your full time job?
Sabicha is passion project born from my deep love of Israel’s fresh and bold multi-cultural cuisine. One of my favorite ways to start the meal is with a salatim spread, the table is filled with a battery of tiny plates brimming with fresh and cooked vegetable salads, dips, spreads, pickles, hummus, labneh and the list goes on according to season.
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Ahna and I am a Jeweler turned self-taught chef. After spending 10 years in the diamond business, where I met my Israeli husband, I traveled to Israel many times and fell head over heels for the amazing food. I was born and raised in the midwest. My husband Chen is a native Israeli living in Chicago for the past 10 years. I didn’t really grow up eating any ethnic food, which is probably why I love it so much now. It was not too long ago that I embarked on this culinary journey exploring and learning about Israel’s diverse cuisine, which is why I LOVE being able to take people on that journey now.
What is Sabich?
Sabich is a eggplant stuffed pita sandwich. It contains the following: fried eggplant, hamin egg (cooked low & slow until turning brown), hummus, tomatoes, sumac onions, pickles, parsley, zhoug (spicy herb condiment), garlic tahini, amba (pickled mango sauce).
Many tourists that travel to Israel don’t encounter sabich, but for Israeli’s it is right up there with falafel and shawarma
What tradition is Sabich from?
Sabich is traditionally a dish the Iraqi-Jews would eat on shabbat. They would fry the eggplant the day before and put the eggs in the oven Friday evening when cooking on Shabbat was forbidden, then enjoy the following morning for breakfast. My husbands grandparents were Iraqi-Jewish immigrants and would prepare sabich every shabbat and it was the first Israeli dish I was introduced to. Our namesake, Sabicha is actually my husbands grandmother. Sadly, I never had the chance to meet her but she was well known for her Iraqi-Jewish cooking. The sabich sandwich got its name from the first Iraqi Jewish immigrant to open a stand in Israel selling this sandwich, his name was Sabich. It was just too perfect to name our business after Sabicha.
Are there are any other places in Chicago to get Sabich?
We were not able to find it anywhere- which is another reason why we got started, it was one of the few things missing from Chicago’s vibrant culinary scene and we just had to change that.
Why are you at the farmer’s market?
The farmers market was simply a place to test out something new and see how the public reacted to it. We have been overwhelmed from the positive reactions! As for our next steps, time will tell! The farmers market is certainly not our end game. We are having discussions of expanding into a fast-casual concept and continuing to do more Israeli dining experiences. Right now, all of the dining experiences are privately hosted events (typically in the hosts home) so we have plans to do some ticketed dining experiences to reach and cater to those looking for a fun experience but not looking to host a private event with us.
UPCOMING POP UPS
Our pop-ups are casual street foods (sabich pita, arayes, bourekas, salatim) and our dining experiences are more home-style cooking – eat menu is customized for the event. The pop up events are typically more intimate and allow us to produce high quality food and showcase our creativity. Each event is a curated and designed to transport the guests to Israel for an authentic and unique experience! We have done everything from a Israeli style BBQ for birthday parties, Israeli brunch for a bridal shower, and formal shabbat dinners. Meet Ahna and enjoy the new falafel of Chicago!
August 16th & 21st at Goddess and the Baker