IN Israel, there is a special name for food outlets dedicated to hummus.
“We call them hummusia,” said owner of Darlinghurst’s Simply Hummus Bar, Yoash Dvir. “When I was in Israel I used to eat hummus for lunch at least three times a week. That’s what you do – you eat hummus.”
Outside of Israel, hummus bars are sprinkled in cities the world over, including in New York, Miami and Madrid.
After moving from Israel to New York in 2014, Dvir experienced New York’s hummus bars first-hand.
Three years later, Dvir – along his wife and their three daughters – moved to Sydney where he decided to set up his own hummus bar.
“Israeli food is very small here, it’s not like New York. I was thinking about starting a hummus bar for about a year,” he said. “Then someone said to me, ‘You don’t regret the things you do, you regret the things you don’t do.’ I decided to go for it and make it happen.”
Opening in 2018, Simply Hummus Bar is located in Darlinghurst and serves a delectable array of Middle Eastern food with a vegan twist.
In March this year, the bar received its kosher certification with the Kashrut Authority.
At the centre of Dvir’s food philosophy is elevating the standing of hummus from a condiment to a main meal. But encouraging Australians to appreciate hummus’ special place on the dinner plate has taken some convincing.
“That’s a big challenge we are still facing – convincing Australians that it’s a dish not a side to a meal. The title of our marketing plan when I was talking to investors was ‘from a dip to a dish’,” said Dvir.
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The key to quality hummus, he asserted, lies in how the chickpeas are soaked.
“People often don’t soak them for long enough, and they don’t soak them in enough water,” he said. “Then it becomes a question of flavour – how much cumin, garlic, tahini and lemon you add. But once you have the basics, the rest is about playing with flavours.”
Falafels, too, can be a tricky business, and it’s rare to land upon a falafel in Australia that is as moist and flavoursome as those in Israel.
According to Dvir, the key to a good falafel is creating the right moisture in the mix, and finding the right temperature for deep-frying.
Having recently expanded the bar’s menu, Dvir has adapted his business to meet customers’ needs as a result of COVID-19.
“We had a lot of orders for the week when everything shut down that were then cancelled, so we got hit really hard but that helped us make the changes we wanted.
“We changed some recipes, we changed the menu, we extended it and now we are stronger. We used COVID as an opportunity … During these times it’s really challenging. We hope the community will keep supporting us.”
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Popular dishes that were added to the menu include shawarma cauliflower – now one of Simply Hummus Bar’s “best dishes”.
“It’s colourful, flavoursome and we are very happy with it,” said Dvir.
He added that their Jerusalem mix (made from tofu and mushrooms), and masbacha – the bar’s signature dish of hummus, tahini, warm chickpeas and lemon – have been particularly popular too.
For those with a sweet tooth, sachlav – a sweet and thick almond-based drink with a hint of spice, and often referred to as ‘the hot chocolate of the Middle East’ – will be on the menu for all of winter.
“In Jerusalem, places that are open the whole night offer sachlav. When you hang out with friends and are studying until late, and then at 2am you are craving a pastry and a warm drink, you have sachlav,” said Dvir.
“We have a lot of Israeli clients here, and we have many returning clients from the neighbourhood as well.”
Simply Hummus Bar is located at 393 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst and is open every day (hours differ). For more information, visit simplyhummusbar.com.