My colleagues at Tablet were shocked that I had never had shakshuka. This tomato dish, originally from North Africa, is an Israeli staple that’s been making serious inroads in urban Jewish centers in North America. Truthfully, I have no excuse for this gap in my culinary education; there are numerous restaurants serving shakshuka within a half-mile of my apartment. Yet I remained innocent, untouched, blissful in my shakshuka oblivion.
Fortunately, a six-week-old roving kosher food truck called Shuka Truck (@ShukaNYC on Twitter) was lo this very day parked a few blocks from the Tablet offices. My colleagues Elissa and Stephanie insisted that it was time to swipe my shakshuka v-card, so off we went.
We discovered that the truck was staffed by three flirty Israeli dudebros named Josh, Gabriel, and Solomon. Josh and Solomon had been in the real estate business; Gabriel was the chef. In classical Israeli style, the truck’s menu was divided into two categories: “Our Way (The Best Way)” and “Your Way (Two eggs, 1 Sauce and Up to Five Toppings).” It is a truth universally acknowledged that all Israelis are certain that their way is the best way.
We ordered Red Shakshuka for me, since it was my first time and my colleagues felt I should have the canonical shakshuka experience. It involved two organic eggs swimming in a sauce of tomatoes, harissa, feta, za’atar, and roasted red pepper with grilled onions. Stephanie got the Green Shakshuka, with the eggs on a bed of pureed asparagus, spinach, zucchini, fresh oregano and goat cheese with caramelized onions. Elissa got the Humshuka, in which the eggs were nestled in homemade hummus with chuma pepper, garlic confit, roasted red peppers and smoked paprika. (The shukadudes also offer a White version involving bleu cheese and mushrooms. Feh.) Each dish came with a chunk of homemade challah (torn, not sliced!) and a side of Israeli salad chopped into tiny perfect cubes. Chef Gabe is clearly a man who values precision. We also ordered a side of homemade potato chips dusted with za’atar and cumin (served with a labneh dip), so salty and perfectly bar-food-ish it made one crave a beer at one’s desk. (One did not indulge.)
So how was Marjorie’s First Shakshuka? Very, very, very satisfying. The yolks could have been runnier, but given the 8-block walk back to our office from the truck, they probably kept cooking in the sauce. When I make this at home, as I surely will (with either Leah Koenig’s recipe or Dina Alfasi’s), I will be yolk-vigilant. I actually preferred the green version to the red—ordinarily I think zucchini is the stupidest vegetable—but I loved them all. I now want not only to make my own shakshuka, but to go all over NYC trying everybody else’s. Abstinence is clearly not one of my virtues.
Marjorie Ingall is a former columnist for Tablet, the author of Mamaleh Knows Best, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.