TEL AVIV - You are not Israeli until you've had your first mangal session: A group of 50 new immigrant families was invited to attend an Israeli-style barbecue in Jerusalem Monday, where the newcomers received a crash course in Israeli-style grilling.
Mangal is the Hebrew word for barbecue, and arguably one of the most important words in the Hebrew language, according to the average Israeli at least. The almost-sacred ritual is also commonly referred to as "al ha'esh," literally "on the fire."
In preparation for Indepedence Day, notorious for its heavy mangal action, steakhouse owner and chef Yehuda Zidkiyahu offered the American newcomers a beginners guide to the "art of the mangal" - the Israeli version of a barbecue involving a small portable grill fired with charcoal and fanned endlessly with anything you can get your hands on - preferably an overused piece of cardboard.
Israel's Independence Day is usually celebrated by overeating and not only with sing-along celebrations and other festivities, the chef told his audience.
Tips of the trade
The first step to learning how to use the mangal is to buy the correct charcoal, Zidkiyahu said, explaining how to fire it up using one drop of flammable liquid.
He then proceeded to demonstrate the correct way to fold a piece of cardboard into two and powerfully "fan" the fire, refusing to resort to more sophisticated store-bought
Another tip offered by the chef is how to prevent meat from sticking to the grill. He recommended rubbing the grill with a piece of oil-covered onion.
An Israeli favorite
Zidkiyahu also presented the crowd with the favorite Israeli outdoor cooking option - skewered meat. Not every piece of meat that goes on the grill has to be a steak, he told the new immigrants.
Vegetarians can grill fresh vegetables instead of the meat, the chef said - on a skewer, of course.
To conclude, he carefully demonstrated how to "correctly" extinguish the charcoal in order to preserve it for the next meal.
-Yigal Walt also contributed to the story