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Grocery Shopping In Israel

 

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Ask Us: Dalesusan asked, “Where do you find the “same” ingredients in Israel that you used in NY? When I visit for a month, I miss some of my “staples”, although other items are better in Israel (like soft cheeses)?”

Answer:

I totally agree with you. I just adore the soft salty Bulgarian cheese readily available in Israel. I crumble it into omelets, scoop it on top of salads and spread it on bagels. It’s got this fabulous creamy crumbly consistency (almost like a soft smooth feta) that just makes it perfect for all these applications. I also love soft salty Chemed and Tzfatit cheeses and well, I could go on, but that wasn’t your Q.

As for the “same” ingredients… the answer depends on where you live. If you find yourself in a heavily Anglo neighborhood some of your “staples” should not be too difficult to come by. My local supermarkets carries everything from familiar national brands like Heinz Ketchup, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Philadelphia cream cheese, Kellogg’s cereals, Hershey’s chocolates, Duncan Heinz cake mixes and icings, Oreo Cookies, Kikoman Soy Sauce, Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce, Gold’s Duck Sauce and Horseradish Sauce, Mikee’s Teriyaki Sauce, Mike and Ike candies, Barilla Pasta, Keebler’s Graham Cracker Crust, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Sharon’s Sorbet, Tofutti Better than Sour Cream, Skippy Peanut Butter, Nakano Seasoned Rice Vinegar, Costco’s Kirkland brand products, Organic pumpkin puree, frozen spelt pie crust, and the list goes on. There is a large selection of gluten-free products as well.

I shop in Ramat Beit Shemesh at BEST Market and in Beit Shemesh at Osher Ad. No, we don’t have everything (I really miss Earth Balance, Toasted Sesame Oil, and Ume Plum Vinegar) and it’s impossible to completely transplant the American shopping experience (with it’s over abundance of selections) but we do have enough.

“Enough” meaning we get by and make adjustments. Especially if you are only coming for a month at a time it can be fun to break from your “staples” and lean toward local ingredients and products.

Since moving here I use tahini, silan (date honey) and amba (tart mango sauce) like crazy. Cumin and z’aatar are two of my favorite spices. I buy persimmons 20 at a time and I’ve gotten used to the fact that we may never cut into a large pineapple ever again. (In Israel we have these adorably cute little pineapples. But what’s not so cute is how many of those adorable mini pineapples it took me to make my Tropical Fruit Salsa).

I know anglo neighborhoods in Jerusalem and around the country that report similar findings. I think it all really depends on what your staples are. I cannot get Greek yogurt here (similar to the Chobani I loved and lived on) to save my life. So I make my own Semi-Homemade Greek Yogurt and make do. I find the chickens really fresh and juicy and CLEAN here and the checked herb and lettuce selection bountiful. I adore the tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplants and have gotten used to the fact that the onions look like they were just pulled from the earth. (They arrive at the store roots and dirt and all). And most importantly I live by this handy dandy list of Israel cooking tips and substitutions put together by our wonderful friend Dvora Rotter and the ever helpful and supportive JOY of KOSHER Israel community. Also check out our community comments on this SOS call to all Israeli cooks. Perhaps if you let us know WHERE you come when you come and WHAT you miss we can be of more help.

Until then, we can’t wait until you join us again soon.

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About Jamie Geller

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Jamie Geller is the only best-selling cookbook author who wants to get you out of the kitchen – not because she doesn’t love food – but because she has tons to do. As “The Bride Who Knew Nothing” Jamie found her niche specializing in fast, fresh, family recipes. Now the "Queen of Kosher" (CBS) and the "Jewish Rachael Ray" (New York Times), she's the creative force behind JoyofKosher.com and "Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller" magazine . Jamie and her hubby live in Israel with their five busy kids who give her plenty of reasons to get out of the kitchen - quickly. Check out her new book, "Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes."

 

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23 Responses to Grocery Shopping In Israel

  1. You can def find toasted sesame oil here. I have even seen ime vinegar, though its harder to find. But oh, do I miss earth balance!!
    Other things Ihave brought to me are silken tofu and unsweetened chocolate.
    And I’d really love to perfect homemade tortillas, because the ones here are so expensive and bad.

  2. this is so cool, thanks for the nice post.

    • oh YAY! so happy you found it helpful.

      • I just saw your post from 2012 about Chobani yogurt. It sounds like you and I are cosmic twins because I eat the same breakfast inc the lemon water :) I have been in Israel since ’72 but am recently spending much of the year in native Berkeley, for family and work, now that our kids are grown. Long story short: I came for Pesach and am still here. I brought 2 cases of Chobani plain and yes, lots of pkgs of frozen blueberries a la Trader Joe’s and have been living on that. And yes, I paid $70 overweight. That’s just all kids of crazy but let’s get back to the Topic: I am getting near the end of my stash and starting to panic. Please tell us more about labaneh or DIY Greek yogurt. If i don’t find a solution, things are going to get ugly. Thanks so much. Looking forward to meeting you one of these days.

  3. Just wondering what you would use instead of Earth Balance? I don’t like using margarine (for health reasons) and find myself limited in terms of baking. TIA!

    • TOTALLY AGREE!!!!!!! I actually avoid margarine. I bring in Earth Balance when I travel and will be talking to a distributor about importing it here (will keep you posted). SO that means there are some recipes I just have to avoid and for others I make adjustments. SO for mash potatoes I use olive oil or broth or Tofutii in place of Earth Balance.

  4. If you’re already talking about importing and distributing, try Spectrum shortening instead of Earth’s Balance. It doesn’t require refrigeration!
    In RBS one CAN find toasted sesame oil and plum vinegar (though I havent looked for that one in a long time!)
    BEWARE some of the products seem the same, but come from other countries with other hashgachos with which you may not be familiar (Oreos, Kelloggs, Barilla.) so ALWAYS double-check for hashgachos and ask your LOR if you’re not sure!

    • Thanks Sora Deetza for the tips. I have been looking like crazy for Toasted Sesame Oil but have only found Sesame Oil and also have never seen plum vinegar only rice vinegar but I will continue to keep an eye out. How does the Spectrum Shortening compare to Earth Balance in the “healthy” department?

  5. i have lived here for 29 years B”H! you all can not imagine how good you have it now. When we came (and i am a foodie)we could not get American cereals, tuna, low fat mayonnaise,vanilla yogourt,granulated garlic powder,pearl barley,etc. etc. We had no potato chips for Pesach!!!! We have come a long way!

  6. I love that the potatoes here are CLEAN!

  7. avatar says: sarale

    I live in Yerushalaim and I can’t find cream cheese, which is good to use for cheesecake. Do you know which cream cheese I can use, or where I can find american cream cheese? Maybe you have an israeli cream cheese recipe? Thanks

  8. avatar says: dalesusan

    Dear Jamie,
    I am honored that you wrote a special article to address my question. When I travel to visit my son and family, I stay near them in Tsfat. We are from Los Angeles and my son really misses some “Mexican” food dishes. I can’t seem to find canned refried beans for a quick meal after site seeing. Also, most of the salads that are sold are Israeli-style salads. It is difficult and expensive to find lettuce: red leaf, green leaf, etc. Sometimes I find romaine, but as it has to be checked for bugs it is very pricey. And sometimes I find bagged lettuce, but again it is pricey.

    • Oh my pleasure! s have only been to Tsfat once when I was 16 and can not wait to go back for a visit. How super cool that they live up North. So it sounds like Tsaft is a tricky “American food brand” location. In RBS we do have great canned re fried beans from Casa Fiesta – it definitely makes Taco night easier.

  9. avatar says: batya

    Hi Jamie,
    You can get toasted sesame oil at Best- Its the B&D brand and its right near the vinegars and oils or at least it was the last time I checked. Also I have seen Greek Yogurt at best and Osher Ad but they are the 7 and 9% kind, so I started making it myself after I read your “recipe” from like last year or so- and its perfect with a mix of the bio 0% and 1.5% Yoplait- so thanks for the inspiration!
    - Batya Steinherz

    • WHAT WHAT WHAT!?!?!?! How awesome of you — I haven’t seen it but now I will look! I have a few favorite recipes that call for it. I also saw the higher percentage Greek Yogurt so that’s why I started with my own for the 0% but I like the mix you are suggesting (for when I want to mix it up :-) . Thanks so much!

  10. avatar says: Dovid

    Wonderful work Jamie. Glad that you made it to RBS. I used to live there. I read that you like to make yogurt. If you are ever wanting to make yogurt with Chalav Yisrael cultures or kosher cheese (past the vinegar and milk) I would love to meet with you. It has been mentioned to me that I should contact you so as I am in the kosher arena myself. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    My wife loves your site and sent me here today.

    R’ Dovid Wheeler
    Ramat HaGolan, ISRAEL

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