Have you ever been to the Middle East? As part of Birthright, I flew to Israel a couple of weeks ago and let me tell you about their food. I'll give you a hint: it's better than ours.

Their food blew my mind. From the world's best hummus to mindblowing sabich, the Middle East provides a whole new world of culinary experiences. 

Halva, in particular, is a popular food that always shows its face at the street markets. But what exactly is this foreign food?

A Crumbly Dessert

This sweet concoction is derived from ground sesame paste (tahini) and a heated sugar or honey mixture. After incorporating all the ingredients, the tahini-sugar combination is left to dry and become quite crumbly.

As you can see by the end of the video, the halva that is made dries into a very solid dessert, unlike our favorite, moist chocolate cakes.

This Middle Eastern treat can also be flour based, mainly consisting of grain flour, sugar and more sugar. The flour halva is softer, however. For now, we will focus on the sesame halva.

A Varying Regular at the Markets

milk, dairy, cheese, dairy product
Phillip Massey

As my Birthright group wandered throughout Israel, we explored markets in Jerusalem and Jaffa. Besides the loads of nuts, dates, and figs, halva was extremely popular.

In America, halva can come in several flavors, but in Israel, they have at least 20 at every market. Flavors, including coffee, pistachio, chocolate, and cookies n' cream.

Showing its face in different flavors at every market in Israel, halva is definitely a must-try in the Middle East.

A Cultural Tradition

At the end of the day, this sweet dessert is a historical and cultural treat. Researchers recognize the first written recipe originating as far back as the 13th century from an Arabic cookbook.

Derived from the Arabic word, halwa, the dessert is widely sold throughout the Middle East region. But which Middle East culture created it?

Actually, each Middle East culture believes themselves to be the creators of the crumbly dessert.

It may be an enigma, but the foreign food is loved by all. Eaten as a snack, dessert, or even breakfast, everyone from the Middle East loves to consume this sweet treat.

cake, chocolate, cream, sweet, birthday cake
Phillip Massey

No matter the origin, halva tastes fantastic. The crumbliness and sweet flavor allows it to physically melt in your mouth. Sold in a market or not, you'd better buy this dessert when you come and visit.

Next time you're in Israel or the Middle East, here's a list of foods you gotta eat