In the last few years the Mahane Yehuda Shuk (shuk is Hebrew for market) has seen some major changes. If you really want to feel the Jerusalem vibe, the shuk is the place to be. Personally, I love the shuk; the vibrant energy, colors, scents, tremendous diversity and most importantly, the people who make it the best marketplace in Israel. Like most shuk fans, I also have my favorite shops and restaurants including: Azura, Baher's Fromagerrie, Chaim Piro, Mousseline (the new ice cream parlor), Burekas Ramleh and others.
The marketplace has recently undergone several renovations, and upgrades. Following these renovations, which made the market very accessible and clean, the shuk has now officially transformed into a “hang out” and not only a place to shop for food.
Among the new restaurants that opened their gates is Oclim Bashuk (Eat in the Market). Situated in one of the shuk's many alleyways between spice stores, vegetable stalls, butchers and halva stands, Ochlim Bashuk offers a wide variety of cooked dishes, stews, stir-fries and more with a menu that changes almost on a daily basis.
Before being seated; diners are invited over to the counter where each pot (there were some 22 dishes prepared on the day we showed up) is tilted towards them offering an opportunity to admire the colors and breath in the tempting scents. All of the dishes are prepared fresh on daily basis and the prices are very affordable.
Ochlim Bashuk's cuisine is influenced primarily by the Persian kitchen with dishes like "Khoresht Qormeh Sabzi" – a rich stew of meat, kidney beans and plenty of fresh chopped greens seasoned with various spices and tangy preserved Persian lemons. Another classic dish is "Gondi". The Persian version of a matzah ball, Gondi is made using minced meat (usually chicken or turkey) and chickpea flour. The dumplings are usually served with chicken soup and are about the size of a tennis ball. I found the ones at Ochlim Bashuk to be a bit too dense and heavy for my taste and decided to focus my appetite on the Khoresht instead. Of course a Persian meal is not complete without at least one type of rice dish on the table. On any given day, you will find some three different types of rice dishes at the restaurant, from perfect fluffy white rice to various types of meat and vegetarian pulaos.
We also tried Ochlim Bashuk's stuffed vine leaves and "kubeh hamusta" - a traditional Kurdish dumpling, stuffed with meat and cooked in a lemony vegetable broth. The vine leaves were delicious, definitely one of the best I had recently. I took one more spoonful of the Khoresht before realizing I was about to be very late for work. Luckily, we had just enough time to stop by Emile's Café for a quick caffeine boost before heading back to the office.
Overall Ochlim Bashuk offers good value for money, fresh food and a real Jerusalemite experience. As we were leaving, our friendly waitress also mentioned that the restaurant offers delivery services for businesses and even families who live in the area. So next time you are in the mood for Persian cuisine or just feel like enjoying a hardy home cooked meal, stop by the Mahane Yehuda Shuk – or call them up and have the market experience delivered to your door.
8 Hatapuah St, Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem