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 Winner: Karawan

The Also Rans
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

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About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

13 Comments

  • All the way to Tel Aviv to get Karawan? You weren’t looking hard enough. You can find it within a one block radius of your apartment.

  • Hate to ask but …WHERE can you find the best Tahini in the Tri-State area of the U.S.A. and what brand would it be?

  • harry: No you can’t. I checked. In fact, when I returned triumphant with my jar of Karawan, and showed it to one of the merchants, he asked me to bring a few back for him next time I was in Carmel market in Hell Aviv. Not for resale mind you – for his own personal use. This is a guy who sells Al Jamal by the gallon at Machane Yehuda. Now if you know something I don’t, then stop being all cryptic and dish. It’ll be a public service. or write an article about it on jerusalemite and I’ll link to it. For free even.

    Chutzpah: Raw tahini paste ought to be easily available wherever Israelis are. The Holyland Market on St. Mark’s place in Manhattan for sure will have at least the Israeli brands but any kosher establishment worth its salt will have it too. I don’t know what brands are popular but I do know that i never had a problem gettin’ me some in Montreal…

    • Oh good! I live in Montreal, and aside from being funny, your article really made me want to try it! I’m new to the whole hummus/tahini thing.

  • Since it does not have a teudah I cannot let you know in a public forum how to get it there. I do not want to put anyone’s livelihood in jeopardy.

  • THIS IS GREAT. Last night I was writing a piece about my visit to the FANCY FOOD SHOW in NYC.. and my eralization that the kost Halva (Hallawah) with an O-U heksher, no less, was from a company in Egypt (El Rashidi)… more on this later

  • For all who care, I have been trying tahini since I was a hoy in Jerusalem. The best brand of tahini in the USA is ZEINA, made in lebanon. It is the creamiest, nuttiest one available in the USA, hands down. If you see other brands around you, just get the Zeina brand if it is available.

  • Sittoo’s Tahini & Sesame King Tahini
    Sunshine International Foods makes a all natural great tasting high quality Tahini Paste made from the finest sesame seeds available. The Tahini is produced in the USA under strict FDA standards and is pasteurized using state of the art machinery to ensure a clean great tasting Tahini. Please visit us online http://www.sunshinefood.com and request a sample to try for yourself.

  • Hi. I’ve tried a few different varieties of Tahini over the past two weeks. Normally, I always purchased the brand called Ziyad because that is packaged in glass and I really like the idea of buying products in glass instead of plastic. Strangely I can barely tell the difference between all the new recent versions of tahini other than the brand called Sahtein because it just seems to have a more robust nutty flavor that hit’s the palet quickly. But my real post is more about asking you if you have had any experience with the brands of tahini that purchased recently. I hope you can give me your opinion on the quality and taste of these tahini brands.

    Ziyad: This is the brand I started with when I discovered hummus, and now after I’ve tried more tahinis, it seems to taste like any same tahini.

    Sahtein: seems to be the most tasty
    Alwadi: tastes the same as any tahini
    Alkanater: tastes the same as any tahini

    I hope you have tried these brands and want to share with me what you think about them because I don’t know anyone else that loves hummus like I do lol.

  • Karawan Tanini is now available in Holyland Market at 122 St. Marks Place in NYC, an Israeli/Mediterranean Products grocery store. Now NYers are no longer deprived!

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