What should I buy at the Kosher deli/market?
June 13, 2012 2:32 PM   Subscribe

There is a Kosher deli near my new office. I'd like to have a look around and find some new stuff to try. I am almost completely unfamiliar with Jewish food. Where should I start?

I've never lived anywhere with any sort of Jewish community before - I'm familiar with things like lox, kugel, matzoh ball soup and gefilte fish from books. I've never actually tried any of them but they all sound pretty awesome.

I love all kinds of food, especially pickled things, fishy things, salty things, and sour things. Sweet and rich is good, too. I'm not a massive bread fan, but if there's something other than bagels I should try, I'll have a go. What should I buy?
posted by cilantro to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you like bagels, then try bialys...better!
posted by Postroad at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Knishes! Whitefish Salad!

Matzo ball soup, if you haven't had it, is really good. It's easy to make at home, though (follow the recipe on the side of the Maneschwitz matzo meal box (not the matzo ball soup mix, that's unnecessary) for the matzo balls, then serve in good-quality chicken broth).
posted by leahwrenn at 2:35 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, knishes!
posted by jquinby at 2:38 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Israeli pickles are absolutely nothing like regular American or Jewish deli pickles. They usually come in a can and they're delicious.

I would avoid getting pre-packaged gefilte fish. It's an acquired taste and you should probably have some home-made before trying to canned stuff.

Halvah! Delicious halvah! It's a sesame-based snack. I'd suggest getting a chocolate flavored one if you've never had it before.

The similar-sounds Challah is a tasty, sweet bread that makes for amazing french toast.

Liverwurst is delicious, if you've never had it. Probably the best place to start eating liver if you didn't grow up eating it (as I have recently discovered most Americans have not.)

Whitefish salad is like tuna salad, but a somewhat different taste. If you're fond of tuna salad, you'll probably rather enjoy it.

Lox is cured salmon. Have some on a bagel with plain cream cheese, or butter.

Don't buy Manischevitz-brand wine expecting good wine. Buy Manischevitz-brand wine because you're curious about what Blue Raspberry-flavored wine tastes like. (Spoiler: juice.)
posted by griphus at 2:38 PM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

whitefish salad is one of my all time favorite things.
posted by violetk at 2:38 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gefilte fish is fishy and pickled (and delicious! to me, anyway.) If they just sell the jarred stuff, that's less exciting, though. The only acceptable corned beef is found at kosher delis.

If they have a decent baked good section (the website isn't clear) I'd experiment with a bunch of that stuff - not just bagels and bialys, but sweet stuff too. Rugelach is tasty, and the deli back home made a cinnamon roll-like thing that was absolutely divine.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:39 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Different kinds of kugel are good for a side dish. There's potato kugel, which can sometimes taste like french fries and other times taste more sophisticated. And there's noodle kugel, which is often made with raisins and a sweet ricotta-type cheese.

And yes, knishes, always, all the time. Spinach or beef. *drool*

Get your gefilte fish (yum--very pickly-tasting) and challah bread on Friday afternoon, when it will be freshest. Challah is great for sandwiches and french toast, if you like that.
posted by Melismata at 2:39 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

mmmmm...Chopped liver!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 2:40 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, I just realized that the deli is in England, and so you may not be American. However, my point stands.
posted by griphus at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If they got gribenes at the deli there, I HIGHLY suggest you try 'em. I used to be skeptical as hell about the idea of fried bird skin as a snack, but I now realize that I was merely weak and scared, and now obsessively save all available extra chicken skin in my freezer to make it at home.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:42 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh! Chocolate-covered matzo is great, although it may only be available during Passover. I'll also second the suggestion about rugalech.
posted by griphus at 2:47 PM on June 13, 2012

Cinnamon babka (there's also chocolate babka, but cinnamon is my favorite).
posted by kimdog at 2:52 PM on June 13, 2012

Israeli pickles aren't anything like UK pickles, either, so they'll almost certainly be a new taste for you.

Bialys are marvelous, as are babkas (sticky sweet breads) and rugelach.

Pickled herring is another treat to look out for. Pastrami, if you're not already familiar with it, is delicious cured spiced beef.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:06 PM on June 13, 2012

Gefilte fish isn't pickled. ("Gefilte" = "stuffed"; this is from a time when the mixture - basically ground fish with onions and matzah meal - was stuffed back into the carp skin for serving; this is no longer typically part of the presentation.) It's neither particularly salty nor at all acidic. But most of what is available commercially - i.e. in jars - is pretty disgusting. I'd stay away from it myself. There are some good brands available, but they involve boiling the loaves in court bouillon, not just serving from a jar. If the deli near you has it, give it a try, but if you don't like it, don't write it off if you get a chance to try homemade sometime.

Universally appealing and accessible:
*bagels, with or without cream cheese (an Americanism btw - not available in Israel)
*chicken soup

*whitefish salad (smoked fish = delicious but rich and strong tasting) - try on a bagel
*lox (smoked salmon) - try with cream cheese and tomato slice on bagel, or in scrambled eggs
*chicken soup with matzah balls -- matzah balls can be highly variable, and what is tasty home cookin' to one person is going to be bland and leaden to someone else)

*rye bread
*pickled herring (I love this but it makes my husband hurry away)
*smoked mackerel (very very strong and fishy, amazingly delicious on brown bread!)
*gefilte fish

posted by fingersandtoes at 3:06 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by nathancaswell at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and if it's the only Jewish deli in the vicinity, the place is going to be packed ass-to-elbows on Thursday evening and probably up until they close on Friday (which seems to be 2 PM.) I wouldn't suggest going there at that time for anything that isn't guaranteed to be freshest at the moment.
posted by griphus at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2012

Oh and blintzes are crepes stuffed with sweet cheese. Good for beginners.

Chopped liver is another highly variable one. If you do it right it is delicious and not at all slimy like French pate' can be.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2012

Smoked Salmon (lox) on a bagel or rye bread with cream cheese and capers or red onion is delicious.

Pastrami, is amazing also delicious on rye bread or bagel.

Honestly just ask someone who works there if they aren't busy, most people who sell food in places like this know so much about it. They would probably be delighted to have you show and interest and might let you have a little taste or 2 of things you might be interested in trying.

Oh liverwurstif it's done right is so good too.
posted by wwax at 3:26 PM on June 13, 2012

Hm. Going by their product listing, here is what to do.

- buy a nice loaf of rye bread (seedless is my personal preference). if they have marble rye (rye swirled with pumpernickel), even better
- get some pastrami
- get some nonfancy yellow mustard
- PICKLES OMG PICKLES (not like branston pickle, pickled cucumbers)
- smear that mustard on your rye
- stack the pastrami up high
- slice pickles lengthwise into spears to nosh on the side

Traditional accompaniment is a Dr. Brown's Cream Soda. Now you can pretend you are at Katz's.

Gefilte fish is a very acquired taste. See also: pickled herring in cream sauce.
posted by elizardbits at 3:29 PM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

My favorite way to gauge whether a deli is any good is to order a pastrami sandwich on rye bread. Please do not ask for mayonnaise on any of the sandwiches you order at a deli as it is considered both gross and, well, just wrong. It will be served with mustard, a pickle on the side, and maybe some fries. But really what you're ordering is about a pound of delicious sliced warm pastrami on toasted rye bread. One of the best things on the planet.

If I weren't preggo right now I would so be getting myself a pastrami on rye tonight. Yum!
posted by ohyouknow at 3:31 PM on June 13, 2012

Oh! And definitely treat yourself to some latkes! They are potato pancakes (hopefully) done right.
posted by ohyouknow at 3:33 PM on June 13, 2012

Pastrami sandwich on real rye bread
If the bagels are good (not those fat cakey things) with cream cheese and lox
creamed pickled herring
Pickle barrel dill pickles
Matzo ball soup

(personal quirk, nothing with liver in any form. My husband is Jewish, I am half Polish, neither of us can stand liver, even chopped) Your taste may differ.
posted by mermayd at 3:38 PM on June 13, 2012

I'd say corned beef on rye, yes, with delicious pickles and mustard. (In the case of this shop, maybe that's what's listed as "pressed beef"? You might ask.) Or get bagels and lox (smoked salmon) with cream cheese. Or get some latkes and frozen blintzes to reheat at home.

As for candy, if they have halvah, it's worth trying; I find it kind of oily and dry at the same time, but you should give it a shot and see. Oh, and if they have other Israeli candy (Israeli Kit-Kat! Israeli cow chocolate with pop rocks!), definitely grab some.
posted by limeonaire at 4:21 PM on June 13, 2012

I'm on the iPhone so I can't see the website, but you have not lived until you've had kisheka. It's intestine stuffed with potatoes and carrot purée and smothered in an oniony brown gravy. So good.

Ask the owner to show you some yummy things. he or she should be happy to guide you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:36 PM on June 13, 2012

Kishka is also called derma.
posted by brujita at 4:40 PM on June 13, 2012

Okay. Get a bagel, some lox, and some pickles. Go get some cream cheese at a market (they won't have any dairy stuff in the deli if they're kosher). Put the cream cheese on the bagel. Add the lox, some tomatoes, and some cucumbers. Put it in your stomach.

Round knishes (round knishes are usually homemade; square knishes are usually made in a factory and fried), challah, rugelach, noodle kugel, pickles, matzo ball soup, and Dr. Brown's sodas are awesome.

I looooooove gefilte fish, but it's definitely an acquired taste. Eat with horse radish for maximum yum factor. Lots and lots of horse radish.

If they have black and white cookies, get a black and white cookie. Israeli salad is also very good. Israeli chocolate is the best!

Just be aware that some baked goods (if there are baked goods) may taste a little different to you. Some will be pareve (no milk or butter). The non-pareve stuff is always better.
posted by topoisomerase at 4:55 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just as a side note, in case you're entirely unfamiliar with knishes (which are so good, I totally agree with the other recommendations that you try them!): the K is not silent. It's like, k'nish, or kuh-NISH. Or like this, if that site works for you.

Thought that might help if you want to order some but don't want to get the word wrong! (Although I suspect it happens to the counter staff all the time and they'd help you.)
posted by theatro at 5:53 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're in the UK:
* lox is much rougher and less tasty than Scottish smoked salmon. It should be much cheaper weight for weight than smoked salmon, though.
* you might have Polish-style bagels as opposed to New York or Montreal style. Polish bagels are small, hard, with a chewy egg-milk crusty. Can be fielded in hand to hand combat, but tasty.
* go elsewhere for the pickled herring. Kosher-style herring is mushy compared to Orkney sweet dill herring.
* halvah, if you've never had it before, will quickly be something that you'll eat too much of. It's very different from Indian halvah/halwa.
posted by scruss at 6:00 PM on June 13, 2012

Kosher chicken is the best, likely because of the ritual brining process. It blows regular chicken out of the water in terms of flavor and tenderness.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:38 PM on June 13, 2012

Not Jewish, but ... challah. Mmm. Plain, with apples & honey, whatever. Mmm.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:40 PM on June 13, 2012

Pastrami has been mentioned but not described, so here goes. It's a rich and flavorful cut of beef (typically a brisket) that's been brined and smoked like a ham, and then typically heated and kept warm in a bit of broth so that when it's sliced thinly across the grain it is meltingly tender and not at all dry. It's expected in the delis I've visited for you to specify whether you want yours on the fatty or lean side when you order, though that may be an American thing.
posted by cali at 11:59 PM on June 13, 2012

Kasha knish!

Or just kasha as a side dish- it's fluffy whole grain buckwheat cooked a special way.
posted by mareli at 6:09 AM on June 14, 2012

Challah is not pronounced starting with the same sound as in "chair". It's actually a guttural sound like the sound in "loch" or "Bach". Pronouncing it "halla" will do for English speakers, if you can't make the actual sound. They'll probably look at you funny if you pronounce "challah" the way it looks like it should be pronounced in English.

Don't try to order anything with meat and dairy combined. Don't order a turkey or pastrami sandwich with cheese or butter on it. You won't be able to get it, since the kosher rules forbid that. They will also look at you funny if you try to order something like this.

There will, of course, be no pork products of any kind, and no shellfish. There may be imitations of these things made from kosher meat or fish.

If you shop for someone who is allergic to shellfish or dairy, the kosher market will be a good place for that. In general, nothing sold in the kosher market will be processed on equipment shared with shellfish, so it should be safe for someone with a shellfish allergy. Meat or parve/pareve (I've seen both spellings) items will not be processed on the same equipment with dairy products.

Fish and eggs are considered parve, not meat, under the kosher rules. Honey is parve. Be aware of this if you're vegan or shopping for a vegan- parve doesn't mean vegan or even vegetarian (unless your definition of vegetarian includes fish). Poultry, beef, and lamb are meat.

They probably won't have meat from hindquarter cuts of beef. The kosher laws say you are not supposed to eat the sciatic nerve, even from kosher animals. This can be removed from hindquarter cuts, but it's difficult and expensive. In countries where there's a substantial market for non-kosher meat, such as the US, the hindquarter cuts usually get sold as non-kosher meat.

They probably will close early on Friday, and not be open at all on Saturday. They will probably be busy on Fridays, with people doing their shopping for Shabbat (which starts at sunset every Friday night and continues into Saturday).

Don't bring food from elsewhere into the store with you. You could get them into trouble with their kosher-certifying organization if you do.

Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat, or sometimes rendered goose fat.

You would probably like lox on a bagel.

You might like gefilte fish. Gefilte fish is a delivery system for horseradish- do not eat it without horseradish. It will taste like cat food if you do.
posted by Anne Neville at 6:14 AM on June 14, 2012

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