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)?"
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.