Overpriced souvenir shop presents are a thing of the past. These days when foodies travel they know that the best deals on some of the country’s finest gourmet food products come from where the locals shop: the supermarket.
As far as gift-giving goes, fun food products make for a delicious trip down vacation memory lane for you, and are an enjoyable learning experience for your loved ones.
With new products popping up on shelves every day, and an equal appreciation for handcrafted gourmet foodstuffs and Israeli classics, the supermarket can be your ever-evolving playground.
Pack some bubble wrap on your way here, then head away from the kenyon (mall) and into the “super,” as Israelis call it, and do all your gift shopping in one easy and very Israeli locale.
Here are our recommendations for the top 10 foodie gifts that can be purchased in the Israeli supermarket.
- Boutique wine
Let’s start off on the safe side. It is always a sure bet to bring someone a gift of wine. Even better if it is a really good wine, and even more so if it is from boutique wineries in the country you have visited.
And who doesn’t like affordable wine? There are always tons of great deals on different labels in the supermarket. Ka-ching on the gifting front, and you can save yourself a bottle or two for later.
Let’s start off on the safe side … Yes, beer qualifies too! Even more so if you and your friends are not so into wine. Luckily, Israel has experienced a craft beer boom in recent years. Now, the drink that originated in Egypt is literally everywhere, and in high quality.
There are so many craft breweries that beer stores such as the famous Beer Bazaar in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market and in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market opened up to offer a taste of 100 different varieties under the same roof. Try a few, decide what you like best, and then book it to the supermarket to pick out some more to bring home for you and your friends. They will toast you for your delicious, delicious, Zionism. Packing tip: two 12-ounce bottles will fit nicely inside a pair of running shoes!
With some of the world’s most ancient olive presses within its borders, Israel knows how to produce
some high-quality olive oil. And Israelis literally use olive oil for everything. It must be the Mediterranean way that is ingrained in our blood, or our excellent produce that just begs for a drizzle of the good stuff (the darker and more raw the better), a sprinkle of coarse salt and a quick roast to bring out the best of flavors.
Speaking of olives! Head to the pickle aisle of any Israeli supermarket to find a near endless variety of them. As breakfast cereal options are to Americans, marinated olive varieties are to Israelis. They are doled out with everything: a tuna sandwich, a bowl of hummus, a bar snack. Try out some different kinds while you are here, then pack the cans up in your suitcase to take home. Easy as pie, and oh, so cheap, but a gift that will no doubt be much appreciated.
You’re not truly an Israeli until you drown your street food, white rice and salad in tahini sauce. The stuff is pretty darn good here, and getting more refined all the time. It also happens to be one of the most nutritious things you can down. These days you can find whole sesame tahini paste, which is darker and nuttier than the original version. Use it to whip up a cold sauce, try your hand at halva making, or use it in shakes to up the protein ante.
Did someone say halva? Not your grandmother’s blah sesame treat that came wrapped up like a sad candy bar, Israeli halva is of the gourmet variety.
6) Elite Brand “Cow” Chocolate Bars
These chocolate bars, whose wrapper bears the picture of a dairy cow (hence the nickname), are the signature candy of the Elite food brand in Israel. The bars, beloved by the locals, come in a wide-range of flavors, including the “jumping candies” pop-rocks laden variety, which caught its 15 minutes of fame when Gal Gadot brought some along with her to the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, while promoting her movie “Wonder woman” in October 2017. Pick up a bunch for your friends and family to make them feel like celebrities, and while you’re at it get us a square bar with biscuits and cream inside!
Recommended: Elite Chocolate Biscuit Candy Bar
- Packaged spices
Sure, the spices in the open-air markets look tempting, but airport security get suspicious when riffling through your suitcase. Stay on the safe side, and lower the chances of finding your vacation clothes caked in zaatar, and buy them sealed from the supermarket.
To make your re-creations taste like the ones you scarfed down while hustling from site to site in Israel, we recommend picking up these essential flavorings: cumin, yellow turmeric, sumac, zaatar, grill spice, spicy Moroccan paprika, shawarma spice, Baharat spice blend and (if you can find ‘em) katzach seeds.
This traditional anise-flavored liquor has moved away from retired men’s social clubs and into the hands of young Tel Aviv partiers and upscale Mediterranean mezze bars of late. It is the Middle Eastern spirit of choice for many.
Meant to be sipped (preferably alongside some delicious salads and savory bourekas), the licorice flavor is best when slowly savored, and a little goes a long way with this high-proof spirit. Bring some home for a special occasion with friends and family, or as a palatable digestif.
Recommended: Mabrouka Arak
If you’ve ever traveled with Israelis around our fair land, you might have noticed our slight obsession
with tea. Pass by a patch of wild herbs, and you bet we’re going to forage some for a soothing cup later that day. Walk into any supermarket and you find endless options.
Wissotzky is Israel’s oldest, largest and most beloved tea brand. With offerings that range from Louisa-Verbena to Chai Bedoui, to the mandatory Nana (spearmint), these teas give you limitless opportunity to savor the Holy Land one cup at a time. Visit around Passover time, and you’ll find large wooden gift boxes filled with different varieties.
- Silan (date syrup)
The original honey of the Israelites, this vitamin-packed superfood sweetener is a more natural alternative to sugar, and is recommended for children, athletes and pregnant women. Use date molasses in cakes, on chicken or in salad dressings, and let it remind you of lazy days sunbathing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, or the warm breeze passing through the date palm groves in Israel’s hot desert valleys.
Recommended: Tamar Kineret