If you love humus you will adore Masabaha. Even I am quite taken with this dish, especially when prepared by a wonderful little arched restaurant in Jaffa. The restaurant I am referring to is called Han Manuli situated in the Jaffa Flea market area on Beit Eshel Street. It has a quaint almost hidden exterior except for the hand chalked menu and the historic arched facade common to part of the street. This eatery caters to the local community, those knowingly visiting Jaffa and inquisitive tourists, serving them with delicious traditional Mediterranean food brought into the current century.
The restaurant is housed in an Ottoman period building and took on it’s unusual name as the original purpose of the structure was as a Han, an inn or stopover place, for those making more arduous journeys on pilgrimages in the Holy Land. It was built by a Armenian gentleman called Manuli and so the combination of the facility and builder gave birth to the name Han Manuli.
The interior of the establishment does not reflect the grandeur of the building although retains the original thick arched wall features. Instead, the decor is fairly simple but friendly with brightly colored painted wooden seating, walls shelved with artisan glass bottles, soft hanging lighting and a large bar which fronts the kitchen area.
What is Masabaha you may rightly ask. Well the official explanation is a ‘gourmet” version of humus. Actually, the preparation method is the difference. The (official) base of this dish is warm cooked chickpeas stewed in their own juice with a little added cumin, chopped parsley and lemon juice. Pine nuts fried in either in olive oil or clarified butter are sometimes poured over the chickpeas and additional ingredients can include tahini and crushed garlic. Aside from all that, I always maintain that the porridgy texture is like double cooked humus beans, wholesome but delightful on the palate with a creaminess which extends to moreishness. Needless to say you must try it for yourselves to know what the hell I am waffling on about!
Although Han Manuli specialty dish is warm Masabaha (which they make from Bulgarian chickpeas, ground in a mortar and pestle with sage & olive oil) they add variety by topping this with meats or vegetables such as the crispy okra that I indulged in. They also offer a limited but tasty array of other goodies. For example lovely vegetarian options like tabula salad with wild herbs or spinach with caciocavallo cheese plus a menu “from the land” which include high proteins such as lamb kebabs wrapped in vine leaves or minute steak with bone marrow.
Each table is assigned a brown paper bag holding fresh hot pita bread and served with a small bowl of spicy dip ( just in case you’re not hot enough.) plus raw onion and lemon to mix in with a mouthful of Masabaha.
This is one of my favorite stops for an ethic lunch plus they do shake up a mean cocktail of arak, almond liqueur and fresh mint leaves!
♥ Han Manuli
7 Beit Eshel Street
Opening hours: Sun to Thurs: 11:00 am to 23:00pm
Friday: 11:00am to 17:00pm
Saturday: (Brunch) 12 noon to 17:00pm