The mission: To find the best tahini in Israel
The method: Prepare equal parts of several brands of raw tahini using the same amount of water and lemon juice, then subject random denizens of the Jerusalem Shuk to a blind taste test. Compile their responses and determine a winner.
The Winner: Karawan
The Also Rans
Why a Tahini Taste off? Well, any regular reader of this blog knows we love hummus. Just do a search on Jewlicious and you’ll see dozens of posts that reference that Chick Pea Paste from the Gods. But the second most important ingredient in hummus is tahini, and frankly tahini on its own is quite good too. I’m not talking that almost tasteless watery crap served at most felafel establishments. I’m talking good, quality tahini. Yum! So this is my attempt to give tahini the respect it deserves. Tahini doesn’t have it’s own dedicated blog like hummus does, but this taste off is a start.
So what I basically did was I purchased a mess of raw tahini paste, prepared it in exactly the same way – mix crushed garlic, water and lemon juice into the paste till the right texture is achieved. I dispensed with garnishing the tahini with paprika and parsley because I wanted it to be all about the pure essence of tahini. I then took the tahini out to Machane Yehuda – Jerusalem’s central market, and had random people, shopkeepers, workers etc. taste the tahini and rank it. At first they thought I was kind of nuts but when they saw I was serious, they took the test and provided thoughtful commentary and responses.
There are two types of tahini generally available in Israel – the made in Israel/by Jews variety and tahini made in Nablus/Shchem by Palestinians. There are dozens of Israeli varieties and the most readily available Nablus variety is Al Jamal – it can be easily purchased at any appropriate stall in the shuk. Those of you in North America may note that the Lebanese also make tahini – and yes, this is true. But it is generally acknowledged as inferior to the Nablus-made tahini brands.
So the winner? Karawan brand tahini. Hands down. I had to go to the Carmel market in Tel Aviv to get this tahini but it was worth it. We all know that Zionists do not in fact eat Palestinian children – but if they did, it would be because they taste like Karawan tahini. Made in small batches by a family in Nablus that’s been making tahini for over 100 years, Karawan has a deep color and a distinctive nutty flavor. You can read about Karawan in this awesome article in Haaretz (imagine that!) and in the comments in this post in the Hummus blog.
As for the rest? Well, suffice it to say that one thing the Palestinians definitely have over the Jews is the production of Tahini. Of the three runner ups, 2 were from Nablus and the Israeli one I included almost out of pity. The 3 runners up were Al Jamal (red label with a camel), made in Nablus and readily available everywhere in the Shuk, Dove brand Tahini (Made in Nablus, all Arabic, golden hued label with a dove), and finally Yonat Hashalom Techina (blue label and that ubiquitous dove, made in Ma’aleh Adumim but nonetheless “Arabic” tahini, we are assured).
I’m a bit snarky true, but really, these were all pretty decent. The Israeli tahini was even pretty dark, I was almost impressed, but the others just had better flavor based on taster comments. Besides, darkness means nothing – Al Jamal was the lightest but still pretty yummy.
So… if you ever find yourself in Israel, along with your stupid t-shirt and tacky souvenir purchases, do your taste buds (and sex life apparently…) a favor and get a big ol’ tub of whatever good tahini you can find. None of the good brands of tahini are readily available overseas because they are made in small batches to maintain quality and that does not lend itself to the exigencies of the export market.
After the bump? A video that demonstrates the erotic properties of tahini.
This video demonstrates some of the fetching qualities of good tahini – albeit somewhat erroneously. But I forgive the producers… Be warned it’s not quite safe for work, especially if you have speakers…
source: Humus 101