Every parent knows that moment when the offspring return from school with a note pinned to them about a ‘cultural foods’ evening. But what sort of Israeli household in 2009 still upholds the culinary traditions of grandma’s house? Just between us, we’ve all gone over to schnitzel and mashed potatoes. And if the kids feel like mixing it up a bit with something authentic, we go out. This is even true of home-style dishes like couscous. Even though I make the instant stuff at home, sometimes you feel like the real thing, minus the shortcuts but without all the hard work. Oh, and also without spending a fortune on a restaurants. The Ba Li Kooskoos (‘I Feel Like Couscous’ seemingly intentionally misspelled) chain is the perfect fit: three types of Kooskoos with a selection of stews to top it with and less than NIS 30 per generous dish. Even the hours are user-friendly – unlike most of the home-style restaurants, which close after lunch, here you can get your couscous even if you find yourself in a 10pm craving.
The well-known location on Ibvn Gvirol Street has been joined by a cute little spot on quiet end of King George which deals with most of the take-away and delivery orders. It has also been reported they they’re thinking of opening locations abroad hopping on the international trend of oriental home-style food.
But in the meantime, we’re at King George, it’s a hot afternoon and we’re hungry. What is there to eat? Allow me some recommendations: the couscous itself is properly made from scratch, and comes in three types – regular white, yellow with turmeric and healthy whole grain couscous. Now we’ve got to decide what goes with it.
First we check out the vegetarian department: there is mafrum in Tripoli style tomato sauce, there is a vegetarian vegetable dish from the Moroccan kitchen with cauliflower, carrot, zucchini and potatoes in turmeric and herbs and another vegetable stew of eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onions in a spicy red sauce reminiscent of Hungarian lecho.
We then move on to examine the meat options. ‘Tangier’ meat patties in tomato sauce and cilantro, black-eyed peas with chunks of meat, potatoes and beans, and a slow-cooked meat stew with Swiss chard and white beans from the Tunisian kitchen. The truth – we like everything, as long as the spicing isn’t too dominant. Despite this, before we make a final decision we continue our investigations with two interesting dishes that are the chain’s own inventions:
The first is chicken legs cooked until soft in a slightly sweet sauce of pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot with a hint of cinnamon, and the second is ‘Teriyaki Couscous, which includes chicken strips in an Asian sauce with pineapple, carrot and almonds along with star anise which gives the dish a unique aroma. Considering our Ashkenazi roots, it’s not too surprising that these were the dishes we likes best.
Ba Li Kooskoos
144 Ibvn Gvirol, Tel Aviv