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the Lebanese-Australian Connection

Bachar Haikal talks about Australia and hummus

Bachar Haikal owns and runs a popular Lebanese Restaurant in the Jewish suburb of Caulfield in South East Melbourne, Australia and it's success has encouraged him to partner in Manakish Levantine Bakery.

Each region of the Levant (Mediterranean Middle East) has it's own distinct style of hummus. Lebanese hummus is more textured with a distinct citrus tang that works very well with toppings, such as grilled lamb with onion - a popular Manakish dish.

How to make traditional Lebanese hummus

Bachar demonstrates the classic Lebanese way to make hummus. It's a recipe that will work for 1 or 51 because the main ingredients are based on proportion. Now you can make hummus for a single person, a dinner party or a restaurant.

Bachar Haikal talks about the benefits of hummus

Bachar is a font of knowledge on the chickpea and it's many health benefits.

Lebanese migration to Australia dates back to the 1870s. 20,000 refugees fled to Australia after the outbreak of Lebanese Civil War in 1975. Over half were Muslim, dramatically changing the established Christian Lebanese community - today 40% are Muslim. Continued unrest in 1970s and 1980s increased in the number of Lebanese migrating to Australia. Today 200,000 Australians claiming Lebanese ancestry across society with celebrated Australian-Lebanese figures in politics, sports, the Arts and business.

The Lebanese in Melbourne have opened restaurants, bars groceries and Middle Eastern shops on Sydney Road, in Northern Melbourne creating "Little Lebanon", but the largest Lebanese-Australian communities are in Western and Southern Sydney.

the Israeli-Australian Connection

Jacob (Yakov) Omisi has transplanted the family business of hummus and felafel to the Jewish suburb of Caulfield in South East Melbourne, Australia. Felafel Omisi, the same name as the family restaurant in Israel, brings authentic Israeli Middle Eastern vegetarian food to Australians and a Jewish community with largely European roots that have a growing passion for the cuisine.

In 2006 there were 3,267 Israel-born people in Victoria. Almost 73% were Jewish and 10% were Christian. Almost half spoke Hebrew at home while one third spoke English and 6% spoke Arabic. The majority today live around the suburbs of Caulfield, Elsternwick, and St Kilda East. - Museum of Victoria

Why do you love hummus?

Jacob has loved hummus since he ate it with his grandmother at her restaurant as a toddler. He likes it Israeli style, nice and creamy with extra tahini - and eaten with everything. He recommends that you eat it fresh and hot with a good pita.

The Israeli Australian connection

Jacob loves Melbourne but misses Israel. He has based his restaurant in Caulfield to cater to the local Jewish community but expects the rest of Australia to become hummus fanatics.

the history of Felafel Omisi

Jacob's grandmother taught him how to make hummus and even came to Australia to help him establish Australia's Felafel Omisi. She began the spice shop with his grandfather after they left Yemen in the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries that began with the birth of Israel. A felafel stall at the front of the shop slowly evolved into a restarant now run by Jacob's aunt where his grandmother is still a popular local figure.


What does 'kosher' mean?

Kosher is not a style of cooking. Kosher or kashrut (כַּשְׁרוּת), refers to the Jewish dietary laws as listed in the Torah. The rules have nothing to do with health issues, they are purely religious. Scholars suspect they may have evolved from ancient environmental reasons. Though a rabbi may approve that a restaurant's food and methods are kosher, they are not needed to make food kosher.

Although the details of kashrut are extensive, there are basic rules:

  • Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.
  • Except for fish, animals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.
  • All blood must be drained from meat and poultry or broiled out of it before it is eaten. (Hagus can never be a kosher dish.)
  • Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
  • Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs (prohibited).
  • The flesh of birds and mammals cannot be eaten with dairy. (Steak Diane will never be on a kosher menu.) Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (Some believe fish may not be eaten with meat.)
  • If utensils, pots and pans, etc, and cooking surfaces, come into contact with meat, they may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. And utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food if the food was hot.
  • Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.

There are a few other rules depending on the region and Jewish sect you belong to. When in doubt consult your local rabbi.

Cattle, sheep, goats, deer and bison are kosher because they have cloven hooves and chew cud. But pigs, horses and camels are not. Neither are rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Fish with fins and scales are kosher but other seafood, like shellfish, are not. Birds of prey are not kosher but the turkey was discovered after the Torah was written and never made the list of kosher fowl.) All animals must be butchered according to the laws which support the Torah's prohibition of the consumption of blood.

All fruit and vegetables are kosher - especially chickpeas!

The English form of the word, 'kosher', can refer to anything that is fit for use and has become a colloquialism meaning proper, legitimate, genuine, fair, or acceptable.

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