Yid. Dish: Tahina

tahina

Tahina, the thick, brownish-gray paste of ground sesame seeds, is one of the latest foods to turn “gourmet” – at least in Israel. If supermarkets once sold only one brand of tahina, today it comes in squeeze bottles and glass jars with fancy labels; brands with Arabic on their labels proclaiming their “authenticity” vie with the all-Hebrew labels of the standard brand. (As far as I know, however, Melo Hatene is the only place to actually offer tahina tasting — the ultimate sign of a gourmet food.)

Once tahina was mostly found thinned to a watery sauce in the corner felafel stand or served in a neat glop in the center of a plate of hummus. At best, you could be served green tahina – a thick concoction mixed with chopped parsley – for dipping pita. Nowadays, the additions can run to chopped tomatoes, different herbs, and even (what else?) pesto.

Some hints for mixing the perfect tahina:

  • Buy the best raw tahina available. If you can find organic tahina, so much the better. Whole tahina, on the other hand, is a matter of taste – some find it to have bitter aftertaste.
  • Mix equal amounts of water and tahina. If you have time, use boiling water and let the mixture cool; your tahina will be thicker and creamier, and mix more easily.
  • Stir vigorously, and keep going until the tahina is completely smooth.
  • Add garlic, salt and lemon juice to taste. Go slow, taste, and add more if needed. (Remember, the garlic flavor can get stronger as it sits.) For extra-smooth tahina, try chopping the garlic on a cutting board and then mashing it with the salt using the end of your knife.
  • Optional: Add a generous amount of parsley or any other minced herbs, tomatoes or green onions. If you’re using tomatoes, add less water initially.
  • For baba ghanoush, simply add the already-mixed tahina to eggplant that has been roasted or charred on an open flame, cooled, drained, peeled and chopped (about 1/3 tahina to 2/3 eggplant, more or less according to taste).
  • Try topping roasted or steamed vegetables with tahina and heating them in the oven until just warmed through. This is a vegetarian version of a dish (usually made with lamb) called sinaya.
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    One Response to “Yid. Dish: Tahina”

    1. shev Says:

      Nicely written. Thanks!

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