Machshi. Tunisian Street Food
I bet you never heard the word Machshi. Machshi is a Tunisian dish, brought to you by Ido Dahan and his partner at Machshi ethnic street food restaurant, Tel Aviv. Mahshi is a Tunisian Arabic word meaning stuffed. As in gefilte or cabbage for Ashkenazim. The portions at Machshi are generous, so perhaps the name is a pun on the way you will feel after eating.
Machshi is a combination of vegetables, rice, meat or chicken breast and a sauce. It is served in a pita or on a plate. It is the kind of low-cost but nutritious street food that has kept people in Tunisia and the Middle East alive for hundreds of years.
The Tunisians take credit for the best of Israeli cuisine. Just ask and they will tell you that shakshuka is a Tunisian dish. If Shakshuka is the Tunisian street food of yore, Machshi is the new shakshuka.
Welcome to Machshi restaurant on Yehuda Halevi Street. The restaurant tries to create an ethnic Tunisian vibe. The decor includes patterned middle eastern style floor tiles and the rhythmic music of the region. Step right up to the counter and choose one of the 5 - 6 options, none exceeding 45 shekels. There is Machshi in a pita, on a plate, with or without meat,
Then pull up a stool - a higher or a lower stool, sit up alongside a bar inside or tables outside. When your meal is ready, come and get it.
Machshi is a meatball made of pargit, chicken thigh meat, ground with herbs and covered on top and bottom with a slice of vegetable (either potato, sweet potato or squash). The meatballs are then either fried or cooked in a tomato sauce. A mix of the balls is served either in a pita or on a platter with side dishes,
We wanted to try the whole effect, so we selected the platter with all the trimmings. The large platter has side courses of rice, Israeli salad with lemon juice and parsley, a bit of humus, tehina, salsa (not hot) and a beautiful, fluffy yellow rice. You can choose either the fried machshi or the cooked machshi, or half and half. In either case, you get a mix of the all three vegetable coatings: the potato, sweet potato and squash.
The fried machshi has a consistency not dissimilar to falafel or chicken meatballs. The flavor is mildly sweet, and not spicy. The herbs contribute a nice oriental touch. The machshi cooked in tomato sauce is less sweet and has a distinct flavor of coriander (kusbara), which I like, but some people dislike intensely. The platter is served with a pita, which I found unnecessary with the rice.
There are small bowls of pickled vegetables (raw cabbage and carrots mostly), hot peppers, matbucha (another type of tomato salsa), and olives on the counter for the taking.
This was my first experience with machshi, and I found it quite enjoyable. I would be happy to go back any time.
Machshi is located on Yehuda Halevi, close to Nachalat Binyamin. The restaurant is also not far from Rothchild, so if you are downtown, this is the place to stop for lunch.
The hashgacha at Machshi is Tzohar. The restaurant is closed on shabbat.
From the Menu: Machshi in a pita: From NIS 32, Machshi in salad: 39. Machshi in a platter with rice, salad, humus, tehina, salsa with either the fried, cooked (in tomato sauce) or vegetarian machshi, or a combination, NIS 45. With a can of soft drink, NIS 49.
Take Away: Call and have your Machshi delivered.The restauarant works with Ten Bis, Cibus and Wolt
Parking: There is limited street parking, but the restaurant is a short walk from the shuk Levinsky underground lot. Waze can find it.