If you’re a foodie and plan to visit Israel sometimes soon (hey, if you’re a foodie, you should visit Israel sometimes soon), you might want to bring back home some of the culinary magic.
So here’s a list of some of the best spices, oils, coffee and condiments you’re actually allowed to bring with you (check your country’s import laws). Bring them home, enjoy them until your next visit. Most of the items can be purchased in big markets around the country which you’re likely to visit, like the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, or the Machne Yehuda and the Old City markets in Jerusalem. Barbara Streisand and Bill Clinton, this one is for you:
1. Espresso coffee beans from Ilan’s cafe chain (branches all over the country). Try their Equator line, fair-trade coffee from Ethiopia, Brazil, Columbia and Papua. Ilan’s coffee is now available in capsules for Nespresso coffee makers as well.
2. Landwer’s ground Turkish coffee, available in most supermarkets.
3. Coratina olive oil from Olia, an olive-oil store. This peppery, almost bitter oil is my personal favorite, but you’ll be able to try their full variety in the store and tapas-bar in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. Try their tomato powder and figs vinaigrette as well.
4. Red tahini from Al-Giberini in the old City in Jerusalem. I learned about the red tahini, a dark roasted sesame tahini that’s Gaza specialty, when I wrote about the Gaza Kitchen Cookbook. Unfortunately, buying the original Gazan tahini is impossible, but this little factory in the old city makes a similar paste. Al-Giberini roasts the sesame seeds on stone and the owner says he even has clients from Gaza (where the roasting is done nowadays on iron stoves). Al-Giberini, Hart Al-Sadia Street (near Herod’s Gate), Old City Jerusalem, phone 02-6274816.
5. Karwan Tahini or Baracke tahini, two Palestinian brands available in supermarkets, specialty stores and markets around the country.
6. Za’atar. I know you want to bring back za’atar, but try to get it from the Muslim market in the Old City in Jerusalem. Sumac too.
7. Roasted chickpeas and fried dried fava beans from any nuts stall at the market.
8. Bitter almonds from a specialty nuts store (Levinski Market in Tel Aviv has them, as well as others. Try asking in the markets). Bitter almonds beautifully enhance the flavor of any recipe that contains almonds, such as marzipan or homemade almond syrup, and they’re not available in the U.S. (Okay. Bitter almonds are not available in the U.S. because they’re illegal. And they’re illegal because they contain cyanide. But only a little bit! And they’re really good!)
9. In the kitchen gadget department get yourself a jachnun (or kubaneh) pot. These are aluminum pots with a very tight lid that are used for cooking the Yemenite delicacies overnight for Shabbat. They come in different sizes, and aside for the original purpose they are also perfect for a Jerusalem kugel or potato kugel. Get yourself a falafel maker as well. You never know when you’re going to need one of those. Both cost less than $10 and are available in kitchen stores in markets around the country.
10. El-Namroud Arak, an anise flavored liquor, that’s made in Israel by ex-South-Lebanon-Militia members who took refuge in the country after Israel retreated from Lebanon in 2000. Available in most liquor stores and supermarkets. Mix it at home with the almond syrup you made with your bitter almonds and enjoy your delicious memories from the Holy Land.