Mangal Season! Israel’s National Sport

by Sarah on April 25, 2010

Israeli Independence Day officially opens the BBQ season although most Israelis brave the great outdoors under any weather condition to feed their hungry families. The mangalist, as they are locally known have a passion for their art and have been seen in action in the most unusual places such as the side of a highway,  traffic circles and even in the middle of the sidewalk.  They are also completely absorbed in the grilling process and will not be distracted if the grass catches fire and the oasis burns to the ground as that is little to pay for a perfect shishlick or kebab.


All the equipment for grilling is found in almost every gasoline station around the country-charcoals, lighter and portable grills, the essential tools to participate in Israeli’s national pastime. The mangal aficionado is also never seen without his nafnaf, a piece of stiff plastic or cardboard to fan the flames. Not everybody knows the proper way of using the nafnaf but luckily there will be at least four different people yelling directions. “Fan from the left, fan from the top…”  Although they never get too close otherwise they might be asked to replace the mangal man and do all the work.

halil's grill restaurant

Too intimidated to try your own mangal? Then hop into one of the countless grill restaurants such as Halil’s in Ramle which is always packed with patrons waiting impatiently outside the door. The downside is that you can’t linger after the meal to talk philosophy. If you’re done clear the way for the next group, if not you might be escorted out.

At home, we have a gas grill which everyone knows is not the real thing but it is convenient when coming home famished and in need of some instant food.


Middle Eastern Style Shish Kebab

500 grams ground meat, beef or lamb at least 20 percent fat

1 bunch parley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon baharat spice

1 onion, finely chopped

Preheat the grill or oven to medium high. Combine all ingredients, kneading with your hands.

You can either cover skewers with the mixture by flattening and molding or form round or oblong patties. It can be grilled in the oven or on an outside grill.

women grilling

Women have also been seen to man the grill

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter April 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm

The kebabs look absolutely delicious and I have to get or make some baharat mix.


Sarah April 25, 2010 at 9:04 pm

thank you, there is a big difference between baharat mixes from one spice store to another. My favorite mix has lots of cinnamon. The ingredients according to my local spice store (she refused to give me the ratios)
Rose petals


Yael April 25, 2010 at 11:12 pm

I should have sent you some old pics of Erez and his Engineers geeky friends trying to light a mangal in the Carmel mountains. It was ages ago and Erez is an expert by now but the pictures are still funny.


Sarah April 25, 2010 at 11:32 pm

haha! glad that Raviv is not the only who is mangal challenged, once it took him an hour to light it


Olivier Amar April 25, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Hi Sarah,

Wonderful post :-) I was arguing with an Israeli over the mangal last week and tried to explain to him that Israeli’s will never teach a Canadian or American about BBQing to which he answered, you may be better on the BBQ, but not the MANGAL :-)

By the way, I’ve got a kebab recipe I’ve been messing with recently,it goes something like this:

500gr ground meat (20% fat)
1 bunch of mint leaves (chopped)
1 small onion (finely chopped)
2 tbs Paprika
1 tbs cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper


Sarah April 26, 2010 at 12:29 am

Olivier, This is true, nobody can tell an Israeli how to do Mangal,
thanks for the recipe, I also add mint and sometimes pinenuts, I love cumin, that’s a nice addition


Olivier Amar April 26, 2010 at 1:05 am

Pinenuts is nice too. I swap the onion for nuts. I used to do that a lot but with a little girl, I stopped. She’s almost big enough to start again I think :-)


Maryam in Marrakech April 26, 2010 at 3:36 am

I have never heard the term mangal but this is one of my favorite kinds of food! I am getting excited about the idea of rose petals, as someone as suggested above!


Sabera April 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm

OMG these look SO YUM!! I simple adore Sheesh kababs and your recipe is almost the same. In India only the spices used are different but the cooking method is the same. Love it!


Jay P April 27, 2010 at 1:27 pm

It’s called mangal in Turkey too and the Turks also like to barbecue wherever there’s a space to suit them – not always where you’d expect theses spaces to be. Small world :)


Sarah April 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm

funny, I didn’t know that. In Romania too families found very weird places to set up a grill.


OysterCulture May 1, 2010 at 7:09 pm

I love BBQ season and the sound of these kebabs is wonderful. I’ll have to look up a recipe for baharat seasoning, although I see you have gotten us started – is it a 1:1 ratio for all the spices? I have a Middle Eastern grocery down the street, I hope they have this spice, but I am always game to make my own as I have all the individual spices.


Sarah May 1, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Clifford A. Wright’s recipe is much simpler just black peppercorns allspice cinnamon and nutmeg but he uses lots more black pepper
and allspice (1/4 cup to 2 teaspoons cinnamon). This is a Palestinian version. My mixture was quit brown and probably contained more cinnomon. Each place makes
it differently- I tasted one with lots of cloves and even with salt included.


Sarah May 4, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I never made baharat myself, from what I can detect the baharat I buy has more cinnamon than another other spice.


UmmBinat November 15, 2010 at 9:53 am

Here is a recipe for baharat that I make constantly. It is not a spicy version. Ie it does not contain cayenne as there is one that does.

Toast your spices first and it will be even better.


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