The Story Behind Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscousIn the grocery store the other day, I finally splurged and bought a canister of Israeli couscous.

I’d wanted to try it for a while. My family and I love couscous and I thought it would be fun to try something new.

But the truth is Israeli couscous, also known as ptitim, is not really couscous. It’s a toasted pasta that was created at the request of Israel’s first Prime Minister.

Now I don’t know if George Washington ever concocted a new recipe, or if Franklin Roosevelt felt compelled to find a substitute for a much-loved food during the Great Depression, but this is exactly what Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion did.

Between the years of 1949-1959, Israel practiced austerity and rationed food and other goods in order to ensure there was a sufficient supply.

Rice, which was a staple of many Israelis’ diets, was scarce so Ben-Gurion approached the Osem food company and asked them to create an alternative. The result was ptitim, which is now also known as “Ben-Gurion’s rice.”

Ptitim is considered a children’s food in Israel but outside that country – and particularly in the United States – it appears on menus as a special item.

You can purchase ptitim in grocery stores. Prepare according to the instructions on the container and pair it with sauteed onions, garlic, and vegetables for a traditional Israeli dish.

Ptitim with tomatoes, onions, and spinach

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Filed under Eat, Learn, Middle East

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