Crush Chats to Ofer Hollinger from Nish Nush

Words: Robyn Paterson | Photography: Russel Goodman

Ofer Hollinger, owner of Nish Nush, takes his falafel and shawarma very seriously and as fellow falafel lovers, we really appreciate that. An ex-corporate turned falafel aficionado, Ofer decided that it was time to live his dream of owning his own business and showing South Africans what proper Middle Eastern street food is.

Lockdown may have been a difficult time for many, but Ofer decided to use the change of pace to think about what really mattered — hummus and pita was what came up, so Nish Nush was born. We chat to Ofer about what makes the best falafel and why street food culture is such an important part of global cuisine. 

Nish Nush

Crush: We’ve heard so much about Nish Nush’s hatch on Bree Street and are excited by this revival of street food culture in Cape Town’s inner city. How did you find yourself in a storefront on Bree, selling beef shawarma and falafel?

Ofer: It was very much a ‘right place at the right time’ kind of thing. Through our stall at the Biscuit Mill, Ben Cox, who is the MD of the Neighbourgoods Market, connected us with the brothers that own Hanks on Bree. They were looking to bring someone in to take over the space and it was exactly the little hole-in-the-wall spot we were looking for. We met on a Thursday and opened the following week!

Crush:  People take their falafels seriously…What are your non-negotiables when it comes to making a good falafel?

Ofer: The secret to a good falafel is freshness. It must be eaten hot and made with only the freshest real herbs and spices. We only use fresh herbs in our falafel and it makes such a difference to the flavour. Texture is also a key factor. It should be grainy and crunchy, not smooth.

Nish Nush
Nish Nush falafel
Crush: We’ve heard that you pride yourself in a good pita, what do you look for in a pita and how long did it take to perfect the Nish Nush pita?

Ofer: Pita is a way of life in the Middle East. I’ve been living in South Africa for a decade now, and after looking for an authentic pita for years, decided it was time to make my own. Using an authentic recipe and a bit of patience, we started producing our own pitas.

An authentic Middle Eastern pita is fluffy, soft and pillowy. The pitas that South Africans are used to are much flatter, harder, more dense and bready. Our pitas are soft like clouds – literally made to wipe up hummus and tahini.

Nish Nush pita

Crush: Tell us a bit more about your hummus plate — this isn’t something South African’s are used to seeing at a shawarma place, but it’s delicious. What’s the inspiration behind this dish?

Ofer: In the Middle East, hummus is the main event. Bowls of hummus still warm from the blender are served topped with everything from tahini, to spiced mushrooms, falafels and shawarma meat, with a pile of fresh pillowy pitas and a very basic chopped salad on the side. It’s the perfect combo.

Our hummus bowl is inspired by this and although it’s new in South Africa, people are loving it. It’s a great light lunch, especially as people are leaning towards more plant-based eating.

Crush: What do you like about the street food/takeaway experience versus dining in?

Ofer: Street food has such a huge culture in other countries, so much so that it’s even inspired a whole series on Netflix. Street food is what people all over the world love and eat on a daily basis – quick, affordable and eaten with your hands. Although it comes from humble origins, it inspires lots of fine dining and fusion food.

In the Middle East, we have a huge street food culture, and I just love the whole vibe that comes with it. It’s simple, honest food with tons of flavour, made right in front of you.

Nish Nish is open for takeaways or you can find them on UberEats or Mr D.

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