Best Bourekas in Israel

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The food-culture diversity in Israel was born from the influx of immigrants from around the world. And because of this, certain foods have become “Israeli” dishes. It doesn’t mean that we now own these dishes like some would have you believe, but we have grown to love them just like their countrymen who brought their beloved recipes with them. Everyone likes to bring the flavours of home with them where ever they may roam.

Turkish and Balkan Jews who came to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s brought their country’s rich Ottoman recipes of long ago. One of these popular foods is the bureka (in Israel), börek (in Turkey), and byurek (in Bulgaria).In Israel, bourekas are typically served with a hard-boiled egg, a Jewish idea that has now become an Israeli custom. In Jewish communities, such as in Turkey, Bulgaria and Iraq, bourekas were served for a late breakfast on Shabbat, when the men returned from prayer in the synagogue, and the hard-boiled eggs that had been cooked in a slow oven, below the hamin, were a natural accompaniment. Sometimes the larger bourekas are split in half and filled with a little salad and a hard-boiled egg.

These flaky pastries were invented in Central Asia by nomadic Turks and became a popular element of Ottoman cuisine.

According to Ayla Algar’s book, Classical Turkish Cooking:

Börek was an established part of Ottoman cuisine by the time of the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. At least two varieties of it were prepared for Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The position of chief börek maker in the palace kitchens was always an important one. Numerous apprentices labored under his watchful eye rolling out the dough on huge marble slabs. Evliya Çelebi (1611-1682), a Turkish traveler who journeyed through the territory of the Ottoman Empire and neighboring lands over a period of forty years, tells us that Istanbul in his time had no fewer than 4,000 börek shops — interestingly enough, a figure four times higher than he gives for baker’s shops.

Here are some of the best bourekas shops in Israel. Is your favorite one of these or do you have another favorite?

Leon and Son

Julie Cohen and her family came from Bulgaria in 1948 and set up a phyllo production to make a living. They were the first and only people who did this in Jaffo. They used to stretch the phyllo on their beds. People would come from all over Israel to buy their phyllo and people still flock to their store for their delicious pastries. Leon, her son, joined the business, and then Leon’s son’s Avi and Eli.

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Leon and Son’s Turkish Bourekas shop in Jaffo sells a variety of Turkish and Balkan savory and sweet treats. Make sure you try a selection of their bourekas. Take home their baklava which is not too sweet, and the long pastries filled with sweet cheese and raisins. The truth is, you will have a hard time walking out without buying everything. And for the skilled baker, you can buy fresh phyllo and kadaief to make your own treats.

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Leon and Sons Bourekas
17 Olei Tzion Street, Jaffo
(03) 683-3123
Kosher

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Moshe Pinchas is a third generation Turkish-Israeli who follows a tradition set by his maternal grandfather, who sold bourekas in Istanbul. In Yehud, a town southeast of Tel Aviv with many Turkish immigrants, he doesn’t do the baking himself, but has two Turkish bakers who come in early every morning: one of them, master baker Mehmet Kazelrak, has been doing it nearly all of his life after leaving school at the age of eight to apprentice with a master baker in city of Urfa, in southeastern Anatolia, famous for the birthplace of Abraham.

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Turkish Delicacies is a meat and dairy shop that makes bourekas stuffed with cheese, potato, and spinach and also make Turkish water börek (su böreği), which is stuffed with spinach or cheese.

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Make sure you try the Anatolian pide, which is shaped like a torpedo and stuffed with cheese, spinach and topped with an egg that is “soft-cooked” when it bakes.

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They also make lahmacun (pronounced lahmajoun), a flat pide that is covered with a spicy lamb filling, Anatolian pide stuffed with lamb filling, and pide stuffed with vegetables. Don’t leave here without trying at least one pide and one boureka, and be sure to take home several pieces of kadaief stuffed with walnuts.

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Turkish Delicacies
10 Zvi Yishai Street, Yehud
077-546-6830
Kosher

Photo by Sarah Melamed

The small stand of the Original Turkish Bourekas is in the heart of the Ramle market. Haim Kulo’s father, who immigrated from Istanbul, started selling these flaky and mouthwatering delicious pastries in 1957. Today the third generation is proudly selling their bourekas. The “original” also has branches in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem, but the original wagon and the old-fashioned lemonade siphon make those bourekas taste that much better.

Photo by Sarah Melamed

Original Turkish Bourekas
3 Jabotinsky Street, Ramle
(08) 925-5911
Kosher

In a neglected municipal market built in the 1950s, is a boureka shop that is hidden in an alley behind a blue tarp. You would never imagine that you would find some of the best spinach bourekas in Israel among the crumbling buildings. The Hazan family uses an heirloom spinach called Galilee spinach (sbanach) to make these delicious treats. Sbanach, which you can buy at the shuk, are vibrant green leaves that make an appealing and flavorful addition to salads, and hold up well when cooked. Be sure to try the bourekas with an eggplant filling that is slow-cooked instead of being grilled.

Hazan Bourekas
Ashkenazi Market, Ashkenazi Street, Yehud
A few doors down from the fruit and vegetable stand. Look for the blue tarp.
(03) 536-1649
Kosher

Neve Tzedek – Old Tel Aviv

Neve Tzedek, which means Oasis of Justice built outside of Yafo’s walls. It was founded in 1887 by Aharon Chelouche, 22 years before Tel Aviv was founded.

Many of the neighborhoods turn of the century houses can still be seen and it has retained much of its old charm thanks to a re-gentrification of the neighborhood in the 1980s. The Nobel prize winning author and poet S.Y. Agnon lived there, as did the famous artist Nahum Gutman.

Neve Tzedek’s narrow winding lanes, colourful plaster walls and tile roofs have become one of Tel Aviv’s latest fashionable districts. If I could afford property there, I would move there immediately.


They have some beautiful galleries and boutiques there; my engagement ring and wedding band came from Agas v’ Tamar Jewelers. The make beautiful 22k gold and silver jewelry.

And, there are some really nice cafes, such as Caffe Tazza d’Oro, Michelle Bar and Ninawhere you can sit and relax as you people watch in this charming neighborhood of Tel Aviv.


Or you can go to Bellini restaurant across from the Suzanne Delal Center and try their delicious antipasti buffet for lunch.

Since Neve Tzedek is so close to Yafo, we usually go and eat at one of the fish restaurants on the seaside. We usually end up at the Arab-owned Succah Levana (The White Pergola). It is a casual restaurant, reasonably priced with a nice choice of grilled fish. The meal comes with a large assortment of meze which are made in-house. You can have your meal al fresco with a view of the Mediterranean Sea.


The White Pergola, 72 Kedem Street, Yafo. (03) 682-6558. Open Sun – Sat 12:00 – 01:00.


First, they bring a table full of mezze. The salads are nice and fresh. The pita is prepared on-site, so they are nice and warm when they come to the table. One was covered in za’atar.


Hummous and eggplant with mayonnaise salad


Syrian olives and pepper salad


Another eggplant salad, carrot salad and matboucha and labane with cucumber


Israeli salad

Then, grilled Gilt-head Seabream. They also have trout, seabass, drumfish and a few others. And, they also serve shellfish. The food is simple, but delicious.

Israeli Salad

Serving Size: 4

The sad thing is that I am allergic to raw tomato, so my husband always has the Israeli salad all for himself. This salad is dead easy to make, but the key is to have the freshest, tastiest ingredients possible and to finely chop the vegetables like in the picture above.

2 tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped

2 cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped

1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

Juice from 1 lemon

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon of za'atar (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a non-reactive (not metal) bowl, combine chopped vegetables. Toss gently.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, za'atar, salt and pepper. Drizzle over vegetables and toss. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Keeps for two days.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/04/18/neve-tzedek-old-tel-aviv/

Yafo, Yafa, Jaffa, Joppa

Whatever you choose to call Yafo, it will always be that magical place on the sea. I love the Arab architecture, the amazing sea views and cultural mix.

Don’t get me wrong, Yafo is not a perfect place, but there is something that draws me to the old city of Yafo. Maybe because it reminds me of some of the villages David and I visited in Provence.

I would love to buy an old house there and fix it up.

David’s uncle and aunt lived in the middle of the old city of Yafo. His uncle was a painter, potter and stained glass maker. The menorah outside in the courtyard of the Ihud Shivat Zion Synagogue in Tel Aviv was made by his late uncle, Peter Rozsa, and the stained glass windows in the synagogue were designed by his aunt, Claire Szilard and built by his uncle.

Yafo also has some very nice art galleries, restaurants and a Yafo institution, Abulafiya.

Abulafia is open 24 hours a day. There is always a line to buy fresh pita and other wood fired bread straight from the oven, some sprinkled with za’atar or kashkaval cheese.

I try not to do this very often, but I love to go to the Arab pastry shoppes and look at all the beautiful pastries. Okay, sometimes I buy one or two pieces. The best Arab pastries come from a shop in Nazareth. My boss is from there and sometimes she brings us treats when she goes to visit her family. They are not as sickeningly sweet as you find at Greek restaurants in the States.

The best baklava that I ever had was in Istanbul. However, the best baklava is suppose to be from Lebanon. Maybe one day I will be able to cross the border and try some.

Since we are on the subject of baklava, I found a savory baklava recipe some years ago that I would love to try, but the main ingredient, duck, is just a little too expensive here to play with. This definitely is a special occasion dish. Perhaps for an anniversary…..

I finally made the Ducklava and it is delicous. However, I have to call it Clucklava, because I made it with boneless chicken thighs instead of duck and I also made it with very large dried cranberries (I thought they were cherries) instead of the dried cherries. I also used round warka leaves, fried the cigars in a frying pan instead of baking them, and drizzled chestnut honey on the outside of the cigar instead of adding it to the filling. It was a perfect first course and I will definitely make it again.

Ducklava

Serving Size: 6 as an appetizer

2 c (500g) cooked duck meat

1/2 c (113g) almonds, pecans, pistachios or walnuts

1/4 c bourbon

1/2 c (113g) dried sour cherries

2 T minced shallot

1 T honey (optional)

1/2 pkg phyllo, thawed

1/2 c melted butter or olive oil

Chestnut honey or similar strong honey such as Greek Fir, for drizzling

Soak cherries in bourbon for 30 minutes. Grind the nuts and duck meat in a food processor or chop by hand until combined. Add cherries to duck mixture, reserving the bourbon. Briefly pulse to combine. Add shallots and three tablespoons of bourbon, pulsing to incorporate. Add more bourbon by the tablespoon until the mixture is thick and chunky. Season with salt as needed and add honey, if desired.

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

Warka

With a pastry brush, brush butter or oil on the top layer of two sheets of phyllo. Fold in half to form a long rectangle. Brush top lightly with more butter or oil.

Making Ducklava

With your hands, use 1/2 cup of duck mixture to form a log to place at the short side of the phyllo dough, leaving about 1/2-inch on either side. Roll the short end with the duck mixture into a thick cigar.

Rolled up Ducklava

Place the cigar, seam-side down on baking sheet, tucking in the phyllo on either end. Brush lightly with butter or oil. Repeat this five more times.

You can refrigerate the ducklava for up to 6 hours by wrapping the cigars in plastic wrap. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden, or according to the phyllo package directions. Remove from oven and slice cigars diagonally into two-inch sections, if desired. Drizzle with honey. Serve hot.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/05/jaffa-view/

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