The History of Arayes
Arayes is a recently trendy Israeli dish that has probably been around for a long time.
M25, a Tel-Aviv-based restaurant, is credited with making Arayes popular around 2015. Arayes is considered a sandwich with very Israeli flavors. It’s classically a pita stuffed with minced lamb, spices, and onions. Served with a side of a tomato salad and tachina.
A Case of Corona and My First Arayes
I had my first Arayes in 2020 when I was locked in my room for a month with one of my kids during the first wave of corona and strict quarantines.
I was just launching Veg it Out from said room, and we were ordering a lot, like almost every meal, because I didn’t have access to the kitchen in the small bedroom.
One day while browsing 10bis, I came across a local restaurant called Machane Yehuda, which was touting Arayes and vegan Arayes to boot. Since this dish was just getting popular on social media, I was excited to try them.
I ordered the vegan ones for myself, and they were stuffed with Impossible or Beyond minced meat. They were spiced extremely well, and they were delicious!
Then and there, I knew I had to make my own version. Fast forward to 2022, and I finally got to it! I didn’t want to use Impossible meat because while tasty, it’s expensive and not particularly healthy. I wanted something veggie-based, so I debated whether or not to add mince tofu to the veggie mix, which would work, but I did this recipe without it.
The Veg it Out filling combines diced veggies and nuts to get a meaty texture and flavorful filling.
“No Meat! Oh, That’s ok, That’s ok, I Make You Lamb.”- Aunt Voula, MBFGW.
I made them for the first time when we had Shabbat guests. While preparing the meal in the kitchen, I told the wife that the Arayes are vegan. (I learned from a past mistake of not telling serious meat-eaters that some of the dishes that look like meat are not. Let’s just say one of the husbands was pissed at me). This woman asked me not to say anything about it not being meat because she wanted her kids to try them. So I went along.
Later in the meal, I mentioned the Arayes were Vegan, and the husband said he didn’t realize they weren’t meat. Bkitzur, the point of this recipe is not to fool anyone but to capture the flavor and texture. And apparently, we did it. Hara! 🤗
No Food processor, That’s Ok Too.
In this recipe, I call for a food processor. If you have one, I recommend using it. It will be the quickest way to get a fine dice of the veggies, which is what you want to get a meaty texture. If you don’t, that’s cool too. Just make sure to finely dice the onions and mushrooms. For the carrot and beet, I would use a grater to fine grate them. That’s the best way to guarantee they will cook through with everything else and not add a crunch to your filling. You can also use the grater on the onions and mushrooms if you want to save time on dicing.
- Food Proccesser optional
- Olive oil
- 4 medium pitas
- 1 onion
- 3 cups mushrooms (any kind)
- 1 carrot
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 beet for pink, meaty color and more veg. I wouldn’t skip, but you can and just use another carrot ;
- 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp allspice optional
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp tachina paste
- 1 tbsp corn starch mixed into 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup of parsley or cilantro
- Heat up olive oil in a large frying pan. In the meantime, process the onion and garlic. Then add to the frying pan. Saute until translucent. Now process the mushrooms and add them to the frying pan. Now process the carrot and beet (if using) and add to the frying pan.
- Add in the spices. And continue sautéing
- Sauté until veggies are soft. Add 1 tbsp of water to avoid burning. Process the pecans and add to the frying pan.
- Now add in tachina paste. Mix corn starch in a 1 cup measuring cup of water, and add to the veggie mixture (the corn starch will help the veggie mixture stick together). Once finished, transfer to a flat bowl or deep plate and refrigerate for at least an hour (this will help the mixture set and make it easier to handle).
- Cut your pitot in half. Take out the veggie mixture from the fridge. Oil your hands and stuff half of the pita to the top. It’s about 1/4 cup of the stuffing. Make sure the outside of the pitot is covered with a bit of oil from your hands. Do this until all the pitot halves are stuffed, and the stuffing is finished. You can keep them like this, or you can cut them in half using a very sharp knife to create mini Arayes.
- Heat up a grill pan with a little bit of olive oil. Once very hot, start adding in your Arayes- stuffing side down. You want to get those black lines from the pan. Once the stuffing side is done, flip to one of the other sides. Continue to do this until all sides have the chared lines from the pan.
- Serve on a tray or plate. Drizzle with tachina and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with extra tachina on the side. You can also serve it with a tomato salad.