Cultural Tuesdays with Debora Mordkowski: Sabich, An Iraqi-style Brunch Sandwich

We've all heard of the typical Middle Eastern spread: vegetable salads, taboule, hummus, and spicy dips. But, Iraqis use fried eggplant. And, that my friends, is a feast for the palate! So, next time you make brunch give your eggs a twist and turn them into Sabich, an Iraqi-style sandwich that makes for a hearty and exotic mid-day meal. It all started one hot summer day in Tel Aviv, Israel many years ago. My friend Dana and I were at the beauty parlor doing our hair and makeup before her wedding later that evening. Between cuts and dries our stomachs started growling by lunchtime. Hungry, I glanced over at a falafel stand across the street, grabbed my wallet, and as I headed out Dana shouted: "Get us Sabich instead of falafel." With that, I crossed the street trying to remember the word Sabich. Once on the other side, I entered a small store where a middle-aged man stood behind a counter full of salads, from hummus and tahini to spicy carrot and purple cabbage. As soon as I ordered a Sabich, he smiled and showed me a pan with fried eggplants, which he stuffed into a pita. After that he pealed a hard-boiled egg and put it inside together with hummus and tomato cucumber salad.

Biting into that sandwich transported me from the hair salon to an exotic location. The eggplant soaked in olive oil was soft, juicy and full of flavor. And, mixed with the hummus, it melted away all the wedding stress. The egg in the middle was a very nice and consistent surprise. All in all, it was an unforgettable soft, creamy and crispy lunch on a pita!

It was later that I learned that the Sabich is an Iraqi specialty brought to Israel by Iraqis who immigrated during the early years of the young state. Jews in Iraq used to prepare and eat this dish every Saturday. In fact, the root of the word Sabich resembles that of 'sabah,' which means morning in Arabic.

So, go buy some eggplants, hummus and pita and treat yourself to an exotic, yet homey brunch next weekend! If you are having friends over, you may want to try a wrap variation. Roll fried eggplant, hummus, egg and tomato slices on a wrap, and cut it up for an easy to grab 'finger food Sabich'. Enjoy!