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Which food products available only in Israel are worthy to bring to the US?

c oliver Dec 29, 2013 09:44 AM

(This is on the Kosher board thanks to Iris but it seems it belongs here also.)

"What food products available in Israel but not in the US are worth bringing back? The last discussion on this topic was in 2008, so would love an update. Thanks!"

We're leaving for Israel in about ten days and always love to bring back special foods. Any advice would be really appreciated. TIA.

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    bcc RE: c oliver Dec 29, 2013 10:26 AM

    If you like tehina (tahini), the Karawan brand from Nablus, available in the big markets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, is really excellent. Fresh dates are also great, but you have to figure out if they can stand up to the rigors of travel to your destination.

    5 Replies
    1. re: bcc
      c oliver RE: bcc Dec 29, 2013 10:31 AM

      Thanks. It's likely illegal to bring the dates into California. Most/all produce is banned, I believe. But we can eat them en route :)

      1. re: c oliver
        MikeG RE: c oliver Dec 30, 2013 07:58 AM

        It's not just California - all fresh fruits/vegs, as well as many other foods, are forbidden entry to the US in general.

        1. re: MikeG
          c oliver RE: MikeG Dec 30, 2013 08:14 AM

          Thanks for adding on. I'm SO aware of CA's stringent (for good reasons) rules that obeying them assures me of being in compliance probably everywhere.

          1. re: MikeG
            MikeG RE: MikeG Dec 30, 2013 09:31 AM

            Just adding a current link to the relevant USDA page: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/travel/

            1. re: MikeG
              c oliver RE: MikeG Dec 30, 2013 09:44 AM

              This really should be added to every thread of this kind. If there's one thing I DON'T want is to get on the bad side of a customs agent.

      2. e
        elliora RE: c oliver Dec 29, 2013 10:59 AM

        Personally I always fill one suitcase with Tahini, pita, pickles and salami :) Of course most of my family thinks I'm a wee bit crazy! Of all of those I think the tahini is the most crucial like bcc said. I like the brand with a dove on it, blanking on the name at the moment. Most brands that you find in the market are far superior and cheaper than what you find here. Most food items are available now in the states but for significant mark up. So I would stock up on anything you personally enjoy. I also love any type of chocolate. If you want to bring something back for kids, my dad always sends kinder eggs with a toy inside to my children. They are available now in limited supplies here but again much more expensive.

        Enjoy your trip! You will love the food!

        4 Replies
        1. re: elliora
          almond tree RE: elliora Dec 29, 2013 11:06 AM

          If it's tehina you're after, there's a stall in Machane Yehuda market (Jerusalem) where they grind it fresh. You can buy it with any of a large number of flavorings, after tasting tiny samples to see which you like best. Personally I prefer the plain - very pure and nutty tasting.
          The stall operators recommend storing it at room temperature rather than in the fridge, and it's sold in sealed containers so it should be fine for traveling.

          1. re: elliora
            c oliver RE: elliora Dec 29, 2013 11:07 AM

            Thanks! We begin in Tel Aviv and end in Jerusalem so I'll have time to have faves, I'm sure :) VERY excited about the trip...and the food.

            1. re: elliora
              FoodDee RE: elliora Dec 30, 2013 03:06 PM

              I have read that it is actually illegal to bring kinder eggs into the US.

              1. re: FoodDee
                c oliver RE: FoodDee Dec 30, 2013 03:54 PM


            2. r
              rockycat RE: c oliver Dec 30, 2013 04:55 AM

              We bring back the chickpeas for hummus (as opposed to the chickpeas for soup), olive oil, halvah, chocolate with pop rocks, chocolate with adashim (lenitls aka mini M&M's), and any other candy my kid can get her hands on on. I'm addicted to the licorice Mentos. The candy you can get in the States, but I can only find it in NY or FL and it's usually stale.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rockycat
                Elljaym RE: rockycat Mar 2, 2014 11:43 PM

                USDA prohibits import of chickpeas from Israel. They,re trying to prevent importation of the Khapra beetles.

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                ammusteddy RE: c oliver Jan 3, 2014 02:15 PM

                Am I too late to reply? I'd suggest turkish sweets like Cheese Kunafa(keeps for less than a week) so buy before a day of travel. Or just taste it there when you are there!
                Also, Assorted arabic sweets like Baklava,and the biscuits are good. Tahini (for hummus) and also date syrups and dried fruits (figs, apricots, dates) and various nuts( macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios cashew almonds sunflower seeds are common and cheap in the arab region. I have also seen shops sell dried strawberries. It will last long and surely cheaper and better than what's available the US or anywhere in the world. Dry fruits are my TOP most picks while traveling to anywhere from the gulf- both for personal baking use or for gifting. Its much cheaper and more variety here. Also, , arab halwa (like omani/egyptian halwa/dates halwa) , tahini are my next picks.

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                  oferl RE: c oliver Jan 3, 2014 03:33 PM

                  I cannot think of something really unique, that you will not be able to get in the US at probably similar or better quality, depending of course where you live and what are your possibilities for markets with products from the middle east, which i think are not too hard to find today in many areas..
                  Of course you can look for interesting spices that might be nice to bring if you identify good quality in markets - like Zaatar, ras el hanout blends.. Maybe a good local olive oil - like Magal's company Koroneiki which in my opinion is great, pomegranate wine from rimon winery, actually their "port style" is much more "drinkable" then the wine i think, and this is probably something you won't find elsewhere.
                  Very good dates is another option, Thini and Halva the usual suspects.. But for sure can be found also in the US.. Knafe should be eaten very fresh but other Arab pastry assortments of good quality might be nice.. If you find good Zahar/Orange flower water in Jerusalem markets..

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: oferl
                    c oliver RE: oferl Jan 3, 2014 03:42 PM

                    You and ammusteddy aren't too late and have given me more good ideas. I had kunife multiple times in Turkey and love. Actually bought most of what I need to make it but haven't gotten around to it. I love getting local olive oils everywhere we travel. And thanks for the "port style" rec.

                    1. re: c oliver
                      oferl RE: c oliver Jan 4, 2014 01:39 AM

                      When in Tel Aviv, don't miss a store called Nitzat Haduvdevan, Ibn Gavirol 58, opposite to the Rabin square, this is the main store of a good and mainly organic chain, prices not bad in general for this genre and you will find there the best that Israel can offer, including the Masik Magal olive oils, Rimon winery and many other excellent things including vitamins, soaps and herbal medicine that might be pretty unique. In general a really fun foodie place to explore when in Israel, for sure if organic is relevant but not only. On the same block there is a very small and one of the best chocolatier stores in Israel called Cardinal, i think it worth a visit if you are looking for quality boutique chocolate..

                      1. re: oferl
                        c oliver RE: oferl Jan 4, 2014 07:47 AM

                        Oh, goody! One stop shopping :) In addition to us, I like to bring things back to friends and family. Sounds like a great place/area. Thanks.

                  2. v
                    Vinnie Vidimangi RE: c oliver Feb 11, 2014 12:11 AM

                    I am high priest of a cargo cult. I go both ways.
                    From Israel I bring olive oil, but from the shouk and you have to taste and trust the merchant. Olives too. Also carnations -glorious! Boxes of medjool dates are good and much cheaper, but I get the grade which is just below export grade. Check the box- not all boxes are alike.
                    I once brought a half suitcase of tomatoes and cucumbers.
                    More things can be brought into Canada than to USA. You must check.

                    1. c
                      cresyd RE: c oliver Mar 5, 2014 10:04 AM

                      I was recently asked this question by a friend traveling to Israel and asking me what I'd want brought back - initially I had a huge question mark about what to ask for.

                      But I finally got there! The one thing that I imagine to be worth bringing back (provided you are not in a position to bring back high quality olive oil - I would never ask just a friend to bring me back olive oil just do to size/weight) and that's whatever spices there are that are referred to as "paprika sweet" and "paprika spicy" (or really just 'sweet pepper/spicy pepper'). It's a spice that I feel ranks neither as spicy nor sweet actual paprika but some weird middle ground of powdered pepper/chili from the region. Another spice request I had was for the whole dried chili peppers the large sweet ones, the smaller spicy ones and the tiny Ethiopian very spicy ones. Also sumac.

                      Personally I'm not a huge saffron enthusiast so I can't comment on that - but none of the other spices I got in Israel were either so much better or so much cheaper that I'd have someone bring it back for me. Overall spices are cheaper but not to the point where I'd ask someone just to bring me cumin or coriander.

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