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What should I bring back from the shuk?

I'm leaving Jerusalem tomorrow. What small items (like spices, olives) should I bring back to the US from Machane Yehuda? I live in DC, and want things that are hard to get, or hard to find in kosher form. Thanks and happy Hametz!

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  1. If you don't have Pereg spices easily available, find their stores in the shuk and have fun with some of the spice blends. I also like trying many different kinds of halvah from the King of Halvah.
    A word of advice, though, if you like dried fruit. Apparently, on airport x-ray devices, dried fruit looks exactly like plastique explosives. Fortunately, El Al operatives are used to tourists bringing home dried fruit.

    1. Curly halvah. It's like cotton candy for grown-ups.

      4 Replies
      1. re: CloggieGirl

        Definitely the curly halva - so much better. In the spice quest, there are some fancier spice places in the shuk that sell black salt which is from the Dead Sea. I don't particularly notice the difference, but I have friends who really enjoy it. For spices, sumac and Za'atar - but there are also a lot of fun spice blends.

        If you're able to bring back larger items, then definitely olive oil - and the only item any of my family ever want me to bring back are the Marzipan ruggelah. They actually do travel fairly well, and has definitely simplified getting gifts when I travel to the US.

        1. re: cresyd

          Your Marzipan rugelach actually made it to the airport? I'm impressed. Last summer we were staying just about across the street from Marzipan and were getting the rugelach right out of the oven. Man, was that ever good.

          And I did forget about the olive oil. You can taste many before you buy so you can choose your preferences. Just be sure to wrap the bottles or cans very, very well. Voice of experience here. Just sayin'...

          1. re: rockycat

            I think like many things, the longer you live around something - the less appeal it holds. But - investing in some "gift" tupperware is definitely necessary for the trip.

            And definitely invest in quality transport for olive oil if you go that way. That is one unpleasant mess to clean up.

            1. re: rockycat

              A relative purchased 6lbs of the rugalech and brought most of it home. Lasted for a while In the freezer.

              Spilled olive oil cannot be good.

        2. oh, i love the shuk! the smells, the colors, the very aliveness of the whole thing! know that whatever you bring home you will enjoy, if only because it will remind you of the amazing place you bought it in!

          1. CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE!!!

            1. I second the spices & halvah.

              1. Zaatar. It's obtainable in other countries, but chances are your friends have never tasted it. It keeps, it travels, it's light.

                My favorite food item in Israel that's not so easy to find elsewhere is ikra salat ... caviar salad, made with inexpensive kinds of roe and available in refrigerated sections of stores all over the country. It's a spread ... visualize a mayonnaise, only made with tiny fish eggs ... lots of them remain intact after it's made ... instead of hen's eggs. Utterly delicious if you like such thing as caviar or lox. Doesn't travel well, unfortunately; needs refrigeration. Very similar, if not identical, to a dish known in some countries as taramosalata. Comes in pink and white varieties that seem to taste alike.

                4 Replies
                1. re: emu48

                  I have bought taramosalata in the US (after I first tasted it in Israel). The Krinos brand (which sells Greek food - grape leaves, etc.) has it with a Chaf-K. I see it all the time in supermarkets.

                  1. re: emu48

                    If you are choosing to go for various roe salads (along with smoked/pickled fish items) - my favorite place in the shuk can be found along the main covered section of the shuk. If you're walking from Aggripas towards Jaffo - it's a vendor a few away from Basher (the famous fancy cheese place) on the right side. This vendor has cheese, olives, and the best smoked/pickled fish items.

                    Every time I comment on shuk recommendations, I have this embarassing realization that I don't know the names of most of the places where I like to shop no matter how frequently I've been there.

                    1. re: emu48

                      May not be legal to bring into the US, if you don't lie on the customs forms. I'm not sure, but I know meat is a no-no. Fish/fish roe? Not sure.

                      1. re: queenscook

                        Along the lines of illegal options (and probably also very very smelly) - the young garlic that's currently everywhere in the shuk right now is a delight to cook with. I'm sure that falls under the US ban on fruits/vegetables - and even if it wasn't, there'd be a strong risk of perfuming all of your clothing of garlic.

                    2. Definitely Chocolate Ruggelach from Marzipan. Only the ones from the shuk will do!!!!
                      They pre-pack them in 1 kilo boxes, but get 2 kilo, 1 to eat and 1 to bring home.

                      1. Halva!! I know -- you're thinking of the sugary stuff we get here in the U.S. But the fresh halava sold in machane yehuda is a revelation. Be sure to try the one with cocoa nibs.