Tourist Tip #161 / Buying Shellfish in Tel Aviv

For the non-kosher foodie, the fruits of the sea are fresh and plenty in Tel Aviv but you won't find them at the corner grocery store.

As any shellfish-loving foodie can attest, largely secular Tel Aviv has a huge variety of non-kosher restaurants to satisfy your cravings. Seafood restaurants serve up a tantalizing selection of lobsters, crabs and prawns, and you can even find imported oysters (at eye-watering prices) during the winter months.  

But if you decide to whip up a tasty seafood meal at home, you’ll find that purchasing fresh or frozen shellfish in a store isn’t quite so simple.

To start, you can forget about buying your ingredients in the majority of the country’s makolets (small grocery stores), or the main supermarket chains. The only exception is the Tiv Ta’am chain of supermarkets, which is also Israel’s largest supplier of non-kosher food products. Here you’ll be able to find a selection of frozen shellfish, including a tempting assortment of prawns that range from the small to staggering in size. Likewise, frozen shellfish can also commonly be found in Asian food stores and certain specialist delis.

When it comes to the fresh stuff, you’ll need to seek out a quality fishmonger. Although Tel Aviv’s famous Carmel market is largely kosher, the large Asian food store near the junction with Hashomer Street has a good selection of frozen shellfish, and a couple of popular stalls in the market also serve fresh shellfish with an offering that changes daily. The Kol Dag store, which has been selling fresh and frozen seafood for over 20 years, is just a short walk away on 18 Hakovshim Street.

It’s also worth heading to Jaffa, where a stroll round the port area offers fresh sea air and a chance to check out what the local fishermen have hauled in. One well-known place is the Issa Fish Center, just off Jerusalem Boulevard on 96 Yefet Street. Since freshness is paramount when it comes to purchasing and cooking shellfish, it’s worth arriving early in the day to ensure you get the freshest stock. If you’re tempted to try something out but have no idea how to prepare it, there’s no need to fret – a good fishmonger will be happy to talk you through the day’s catch and recommend a few tasty recipes too.

Nir Kafri