For those of you who crave something for breakfast that goes beyond the bacon and eggs, fear not: Shakshuka is popping up on menus across D.C.
Though there are countless variations of the one-pan meal, the common components include tomato sauce, peppers and eggs, which all get baked together until the egg whites firm up, and the yolk remains runny.
The dish has humble — and contested — origins. Historians believe it was brought to Israel by North African Jews, where it served as an easy and affordable way to feed a large number of people. Today, many associate the dish with Israel, though its origins may be in Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria or Morocco.
“We used to label it as ‘Israeli’ on our menu, until guests started getting political over a brunch dish,” says Rose Previte, owner of Compass Rose. “To avoid every server being inundated with political discussion, we list it as Middle Eastern.”
D.C.-based chef Rebecca Hassell, along with her business partner Evan Rosenthal, is so fond of the dish that she’s in the process of opening a restaurant dedicated entirely to it. Called Shakshuka Shack, the forthcoming menu will highlight three to four variations and include such upgrades as quail eggs or duck eggs.
“It’s a lot like ramen or fried chicken and other homey things that you can elevate, but you don’t have to,” says Hassell of shakshuka. “They’re good fancy or basic. Either way, it’s satisfying.”
You can sample the dish on Saturday at Skillet Battle, a cook-off between local chefs hosted at Wunder Garten by REI and Brightest Young Things. Can't make it? Here are a few other places to find the so-hot-right-now dish.
The sauce for Zaytinya’s shakshuka is prepared with onions, piquillo peppers, tomato and a touch of cinnamon and allspice. “The peppers give it a nice, sweet flavor,” says Zaytinya chef Michael Costa. The carnivorous version is made with chunks of duck leg confit, which adds a bitter edge. A vegetarian alternative is also available, made with mushrooms instead of duck. It’s served with fresh pitas which release a puff of steam when torn open.
$12. 701 Ninth St. NW. 202-638-0800. zaytinya.com.
For its Sunday-only brunch dish, chefs at Compass Rose sauté onions and garlic and toss in cumin, turmeric, paprika and chili flakes. Tomatoes and peppers are added, and the combination stews for an hour resulting in a deep, earthy sauce. It’s topped with eggs, feta, yogurt sauce and a spicy Middle Eastern condiment called zhoug, made with parsley, cilantro and Serrano pepper. “I serve it with bread, so you can sop up the tomato,” co-executive chef Chris Morgan says.
$14. 1346 T St. NW. 202-506-4765. compassrosedc.com. Available at brunch only.
Oded Weizmann, chef and owner of Carving Room, has eaten his share of shakshuka. “My parents are from Morocco, so it’s a dish I grew up eating,” he says. Because the menu at his restaurant is influenced by his childhood, it seemed a natural addition to the brunch menu. Two eggs are cooked in a base of tomatoes, olive oil, cumin, garlic, chili flakes, roasted peppers and paprika and then served with a side of toast.
$11. 300 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-525-2116. carvingroom.com. Available at brunch only.
The opening chef at Ghibellina was of Jewish decent, which may explain why shakshuka landed on the menu at this otherwise Italian restaurant. The popular dish — which diners demanded be brought back once it was taken off the menu — is made with eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce laced with cumin, basil and roasted mushrooms. It’s served with toasted bread.
$13. 1610 14th St. NW. 202-803-2389. ghibellina.com. Available at brunch only.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Rebecca Hassell's last name. This version has been updated.