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Jul 1, 2013 10:17 AM

Hummus - SF Dish of the Month July 2013

The SF Dish of the Month for June 2013 is hummus!

The goal of Dish of the Month is to collectively try as many versions of hummus as possible during the month of July! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos.

For those who regularly eat hummus in the Bay Area, hopefully this project can lead to a new favorite, and for those who don't usually seek it out, hopefully this will be an excuse to go out and try some!

Here's a link to the vote:

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  1. Old Jerusalem has a variation called mossabaha that's the best I've had in a restaurant around here.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Best in what way?

      Always interested in what qualities are important for folks (in our family of four--with two grown kids who have lived/traveled in the Middle East, eating the "real" thing--there are no two with the same criteria for what makes great hummus.)

      1. re: sundeck sue

        I wish I'd known, I almost bought some at Oasis yesterday when I was buying fetas for cheese of the month (did you know Chowhound has a cheese board with a cheese of the month discussion?)

        Yes, there are lots of variations and preferences. Some people like it thick and/or chunky, some people like it smooth and almost runny. More or less tahini. More or less garlic. More or less lemon. Etc.!!!!

        1. re: sundeck sue

          More tahina, oil, and lemon, plus hot pepper for zing, made very creamy but then they add whole chickpeas for texture, and serve it warm.

          1. re: sundeck sue

            Fully agree.

            I turn out to be a fan of Israli style not .... what's the other kind that lighter and fluffier, arab style? .... so I love Oren's in PA. My GF disagrees, says it's too heavy and she likes the other style.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            Old J-m hummus is amazing. I totally agree with Robert that it's the best I've had in the Bay Area.

          3. I'm glad to see a Middle Eastern entry for DOTM! As a bonus, this is also an opportunity for us to document which places have housemade, or at least good quality, pita.

            In hummus reports, something I'd be interested to hear about is the level of smoothness and garlic use-- upon not tasting garlic at a few places, I asked the owner of Palmyra about his exclusion of garlic. He said that garlic breath was fine at home, but not in a restaurant.

            3 Replies
            1. re: hyperbowler

              My favorite is the one at Arabian Nights in the Mission. Smooth, creamy - almost silky - but not too runny, drizzled with olive oil, garlicky, and very fresh tasting.

              1. re: hyperbowler

                and extra points if they serve a quality whole-wheat pita.

                1. re: escargot3

                  my kids would call the latter a contradiction in terms! :) but since i DO buy/order whole-wheat pita, I'd be interested in whose whole-wheat (and white) ARE quality.

              2. Hummus isn't really something SF does exceptionally well, in my opinon, but Arabian Nights, Old Jerusalem and (sometimes) Yumma's are all good versions.

                For store bought, there's a Southern California company called Jericho that produces a great product. It looks like a Sabra knockoff so I was surprised how good it is.

                Hamati Pita on the other hand is as good as it gets, and would make any hummus better.

                10 Replies
                1. re: sugartoof

                  I'm also a fan of the hummus at Old Jerusalem. The Middle Eastern store a few doors down (Samiramis Imports) seems to have a decent amount of brands I have never heard of nor tried. That's something I should take care of in the future.

                  However, my favorite hummus I can buy to take home is from R Image Market (25th/Folsom). It's delicious and I don't buy anything else these days. The texture is fantastic and it's one of my favorite I've had in the Bay Area. It could use a little more heat but that's easily solved with a dash of habanero olive oil.

                  1. re: trampoline

                    R-Image Market is a new one to me. Apparently it's a favorite of Jennifer Siebel Newsom and she recommends the falafel.

                    What about the texture makes it fantastic to you? Silky, chunky . . .

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Ah, I forgot about that article! That's how I found it in my neighborhood. The falalfel wraps are ENORMOUS! I'm generally only a fan of freshly fried falafel but for some reason, I'm drawn to the wraps. It's also another quick option near me that isn't a taco or burrito, so points on that.

                      re: the texture. It's silky smooth and not too stiff when dipping chips and pita into it. I'm not a huge fan of chunky, dense hummus so this was a treat once I had it. I'm a huge fan of their hummus paired with the Have'A corn chips.

                      They also have dolmas, baba ganoush and other prepared foods I haven't got around to trying yet.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          I'm pretty sure it's not in-house but at an offsite facility since it's a corner store and sandwich shop. I'm pretty certain they only sell it at that store and it carries the owner's name. I can inquire the next time I stop in.

                    2. re: trampoline

                      I've been by R Image Market a million times, and this discussion gave me a reason to check it out. Cool.

                      Their hummus appears to be made in house. Got a tub of it and there is no other branding, just their own minimal label (no ingredient list, nutritional info, or much of anything).

                      It is very heavy on the tahini, presumably at the expense of garbonzos which are practically absent, with a nice cayenne kick. The texture is very smooth, almost liquid, with a high oil content. By itself its a bit heavy on the tahini flavor and aroma for my tastes, but it really works well in their felafel wrap.

                      1. re: BernalKC

                        " The texture is very smooth, almost liquid, with a high oil content."

                        In trying to find pictures, that's exactly what they seemed to show. I couldn't tell if I was looking at their hummus.

                        Mixing the too, or having a looser tahini makes sense for a sandwich topping. Is it thick enough to use as a dip/spread?

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          Plenty of dips are more liquid than this, so sure. Its just looser, closer to liquid, than what I'm used to with hummus. I snarfed down my tub of the hummus with carrot slices and corn chips, no problem! Its smooth like Oren's, much smoother and silkier in both cases than the store brands I've tried including Haig's. But compared to Oren's, R's has a higher oil content and is looser. Definitely a good mix in ingredient for sandwiches and wraps.

                          1. re: BernalKC

                            You're right, but Hummus is Hummus. Using it as chip and vegetable dip is a modern habit. I'm sure that suits some preferences though.

                        2. re: BernalKC

                          Thanks for doing a far better description of their hummus than I ever could. :-)

                    3. Oren's Hummus has to be part of this conversation. What stands out in my experience is how creamy it is, silky. I also like the pita. I have not been back in a while, so now I have a good reason to return.

                      A work colleague suggests that Oren's is a specifically Israeli style of hummus. I'd be interested to learn more about regional and ethnic variations.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: BernalKC

                        This is my favorite too. So creamy and silky. DH would agree that it's Israeli-style hummus, though I don't know what makes it different. We're at Oren's probably once a month, with our standard order being two classic hummus, a falafel add-on, a chicken skewer add-on, and whole wheat pita.

                        1. re: BernalKC

                          No real major regional or ethnic differences exist, it's just that certain regions are more forgiving, and have access to different additives. In general, Israeli style will be creamier, and thicker, served with fresh warm pita... but that should be the case region wide and what should just be considered as "good". Lebanese tend to make a thinner version, but it's not really a regional thing. Tahini on the other hand is a little more controversial.

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            Interesting you mention additives. The Israeli hummus I've seen in magazine pictures seems to have plenty added -- pools of olive oil, hot sauce and other things. Is that because it's bland? I have to admit I'm not a fan of Oren's. Though I like the texture, I prefer more (some?) garlic.

                            1. re: Glencora

                              Traditional prep is olive oil and usually a sprinkle of spice in the center.

                              There's definitely regions that used different mix ins (even meat), but most of it's relatively new, in an attempt to modernize, and elevate the dish. The Israeli places are more prone to "gourmet" concepts, going as far as different flavored falafel balls, or the extended condiment options that everyone's adopting. It's a lot like the wheat pitas, that came along around the time hummus became popular in the US.

                              Garlic is more of a Babaganoush/Eggplant spread thing.

                          2. re: BernalKC

                            The other great Israeli hummus place besides Oren's in the South Bay is Falafel Stop in Sunnyvale. The hummus and pita are similar in style to Oren's, though I like the pita much better at Falafel Stop, and the hummus a little better at Oren's. Falafel Stop's Israeli-style falafel is unequaled in South Bay, so that's what I nearly always get there. but the hummus is very worthy.


                            1. re: mdg

                              We tried Falafel Stop recently. It's as different from Oren's as an Israeli falafel place could be. The falafel is unique in my experience, much lighter in color. I was going to ask them about it, but it got really crowded. I liked it. I also liked the eggplant in pita combo of a bunch of things. Their pita bread is clearly better than Oren's for me, a much nicer texture.

                              I can't compare the hummus, because we got it as part of the hummus plate, so it was mixed with all sorts of other things. Next time, I'll get something more along the lines of straight hummus.

                              The menu is very limited. Don't go there looking for anything other than falafel, hummus, eggplant and very little more.

                              Unfortunately for me, this place has a lot of cold ingredients in the food, unlike Oren's where nothing is refrigerator cold and lots of things are hot. I don't like cold food, so my meal over all at Falafel Stop didn't really hit the spot, even if I liked aspects of it.

                              1. re: maigre

                                I re-ordered the hummus plate at Falafel Stop yesterday to refresh my memory. It's a smooth, creamy, not-too-garlicky-or-lemony hummus. This goes well in the plate where the fresh and pickled vegetables, tahini, and other condiments provide both complementary flavors and textural contrast.

                                If you don't like cold food then that can be an issue here. Personally I love the play of the ingredients, both in the falafel sandwich and the hummus plate.

                                The falafel is Israeli style - the light color comes from being all chick peas, no fava beans, and not being overfried like you can get at Oren's. Oren's has great hummus but I don't like the falafel at all.

                                It will still be hard for me to order anything but the falafel sandwich here, but the hummus and the sabich are both very worthy indeed.


                          3. Even though there's no longer a deli in the Richmond, Haig's is still making hummus for sale via other stores--and I think theirs is the best store-bought around.

                            I generally pick it up @ Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market.

                            Feel the same re their baba ganoush.

                            Perfect texture (smooth), good/smooth garlic flavor, a depth and balance that I don't find in Sabra et. al.

                            And it's local.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sundeck sue

                              I agree about Haig's Hummus. It's my favorite store bought hummus. I always get the spicy version. There is some slight variability in batches I have noticed but it's always good. It has a good blend of spices and I really like the good dose of coriander they use.

                              1. re: Ridge

                                Thumbs up on Haig's for me too. I just get the regular one. I love the amount of lemon they use. Nice and tangy.