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Worldwide Culinary Cruise – Without Leaving Tel Aviv’s Iconic Mall, Dizengoff Center

Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg needed 80 days to travel the world, but after Time Out Israel’s English edition sent me on a tasty discovery to Dizengoff Center’s food fair, I only needed about 80 minutes to conquer the globe.

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Most big city malls are the last places to look for authentic heritage, or any kind of culture – walking into a shopping center in Bologna, Budapest or Brussels will all give you a relatively similar sensation. But not in Tel Aviv. A colorful, international food fair at Dizengoff Center displays a variety of global gourmet dishes every Thursday and Friday. Here’s a taste of the international menu…

Iran – Pilaf

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What is risotto for the Italians and paella for the Spanish is what Persians like to call pilaf. They are just mad about it: it’s not only that they have nine kinds of pilafs mixed and matched with all kinds of vegetables, nuts and even fruits, but they even stuff their veggies with rice. Try the one with pine nuts and raisins!

Meal deal for NIS 40

India – Pakora

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Tel Aviv’s authentic Indian restaurant, Chandra spices up the air with a selection of crunchy pakoras – flower-coated veggies – with chutney and curries in all colors of the rainbow. Don’t let the teeny-tiny counter confuse you: it hides huge surprises. And the garlic naan is a must – even worth an afternoon of being unkissable.

A box of signature savory pastries for NIS 30

Japan – Noodles

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Good news for sushi-haters: Japanese food is not all about slippery, raw fish. Most of the dishes here are vegetarian versions. The noodles, served in a box portion, are perfectly cooked and flavorful. If noodles aren’t your cup of tea, then opt for the tasty fried rice as an alternative.

From NIS 28 for a noodle box

Tunisia – Couscous

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Imagine an enormous pot of steaming pumpkin, potatoes and sweet potatoes swimming in a golden broth, atop hefty spoonfuls of freshly-made, fluffy couscous. Now you know what Tunisian heaven tastes like. For non-veggie options check out the fish stew and the meatballs hidden inside huge oven-baked potatoes.

Dishes vary between NIS 20-33

Mexico – Tortilla wrap

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Close your eyes and find yourself in Mexico City by taking a bite of these famous tortilla wraps. The options are endless, but a favorite is the chickpea and lemon version. Another great hit? The spinach-eggplant-cheese mix… and not only because it costs a mere NIS 15. Hurry up though, they’re usually sold out by 15:00!

You can’t spend more than NIS 25, unless you want another roll. And another one…

Hungary – Kürtős (kalács)

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Literally translated as ‘chimney cake,’ this sweet surprise became an ultimate favorite of sweet-toothed Tel Avivians in the past few years. It’s soft inside and crunchy outside is doused with a special syrup glaze, then sprinkled with sugar, spice and everything nice. Ask for a recommendation from the friendly Hungarian merchant and he’ll tell you what flavor to opt for…if you wish, in Hungarian.

A gigantic piece of Körts costs NIS 25, perfect for sharing

Yemen – Jachnun

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When Friday night comes and Shabbat falls, the red light turns green for jachnun lovers. These cooked doughy rolls dipped in shredded tomato sauce are the number one holiday favorites of every Yemen household, and when you’ll taste them you’ll understand instantly what it’s all about. The flat, non-rolled version, cooked in sizzling oil and served with shredded tomato sauce, is called malawah, and although it’s made of the very same dough, it’s a whole different gastronomic experience.

NIS 15 for each piece

Italy – Lasagna

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You can’t go wrong with this one. A real Italian ‘mamma’ serves delicious lasagna, ravioli and gnocchi, offering major help to the drooling tourists who just can’t decide what to pick. And who could blame them? Over 15 kinds of pastas are on display in less than two square meters. Top pick? The plump spinach ravioli.

Prices vary between NIS 30-40

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Netherlands – Poffertjes

These cute little things are somewhere between profiteroles and pancakes, but they taste better than both. You can stand by the counter and soak your poffertjes in Nutella, Dulce de Leche or the super-rich strawberry jam. Definitely not to be missed.

A box of freshly baked treats for NIS 15

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Dizengoff Center’s food fair is open on Fridays 10:00-17:00 Follow me on Facebook for even more delish foodie tips from Tel Aviv. Pictures: courtesy of PR,

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