What is that delicious wallpaper paste?
August 9, 2012 11:58 PM   Subscribe

This morning I had this really nice Israeli spread - and I hesitate to use that word because it's quite liquidy - which I would like to know more about. What's in it? Can I buy it anywhere else? What is it called? The name is comething like "chrinach," it's considered a student food (cheap, easy to make), and it has a salty, maybe malty or yeasty taste. Making it is easy: start with a concentrated paste, add water little by little; add salt, garlic. Has the color and texture of wallpaper paste, but tastes awesome. Goes great with bread, vegetables. What is it!?
posted by whatzit to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Tahina?
posted by roofus at 12:06 AM on August 10, 2012

posted by donnagirl at 12:31 AM on August 10, 2012

I also think it might be hummus? you can buy the chickpeas and tahini already mixed in a paste in a can sometimes, so then your addition ingredients would be right or close, though hummus usually isn't made very liquid, but that could be an anomaly?

another option might be some kind of eggplant dip like baba ghanoush? the look is very similar..

I'd guess one of those two, and the taste that you're interpreting as malty or yeasty is actually sesame from the tahini. I've also seen a few times, people just eat tahini alone, dipping carrots or something in it. adding a few little extras would probably be good, and water would make it thinner. I'd go buy a bottle of tahini and taste it alone, and if it's not right, I'd use it to make baba ghanoush and hummus and it will possibly be one of those.
posted by euphoria066 at 12:47 AM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: Baba ganoush is called "salat ḥatzilim" by Hebrew-speaking Israelis. Fish roe paste (like taramosalata) is called "ikra". Both are savory and gray. (My apologies for Wikipedia transliterations, I only know these words by ear.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:36 AM on August 10, 2012

Best answer: I'm guessing you know what hummus is - it's hard not to after more than 5 minutes in Israel.

It sounds to me like you were eating a version of a tahini sauce/dip/paste. This is a a lot like the base for hummus, except minus the chickpeas.

It is simple to make, and simple to adapt with other things. So, for example, green tahini. It becomes more liquidy simply by altering the water/tahini ratio as you describe.

I'm not sure what the malty-ness is if it is over and above the taste of tahini, but in other countries like France (and others) you can buy brewer's yeast as a health food and when that is added to liquid it assumes roughly the same color as tahini. I assumes a more dairy-like taste and texture so one can see the attraction in Israel, if that is what it you ate. You can see an example here.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:40 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's techina ( Tahini) Made out of sesame seeds, oil and lemon. So delicious!
posted by marsbar77 at 2:44 AM on August 10, 2012

Forgot to add that Sabra makes it and sells it internationally, along with most other common Israeli salads. Any bigger supermarket should have it.
posted by marsbar77 at 2:48 AM on August 10, 2012

Response by poster: You know, I think you guys are right, this was a tahini. This possibility didn't even cross my mind: the texture of the concentrate (this was an Israeli product labeled only in Hebrew) is very different from the Tahini that I buy in the store (French product), and the pronunciation as a Hebrew word sounded so far from the English word. So, I will start looking for imported tahini!

Sidhedevil, I appreciate your savory and gray description. I had another awesome spread of eggplant that I'll probably never find which fits the same adjectives!

I make my own hummus using a mash of recipes found here, but I'm so tired of it sometimes.
posted by whatzit at 3:59 AM on August 10, 2012

Please do yourself the favour of eating your tahini thinned down with lemon juice and served with fried cauliflower.
posted by howfar at 4:26 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Howfar- top the tahini coated roasted cauliflower with shredded basil and you can die happy.

Tahina was my first guess too. It's super adaptable and yummy!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:42 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

The texture of Tahina as you add water to it is amazing. It goes from peanutbuttery, to almost solid, and then the thinner texture you'd expect.

Was this the bottle you saw? http://www.baracke.co.il/ItemImages/82/tahini_100_new.jpg
posted by Phredward at 10:30 AM on August 10, 2012

About the names: Hebrew and Arabic are closely related languages written in what were originally different forms of the same alphabet. In Hebrew it's spelled טחינה and pronounced tkhina. In Arabic it's طحينة which would usually be transcribed tahina or taheena. The Hebrew name faithfully transcribes the Arabic spelling with corresponding Hebrew letters and then pronounces it like it's a Hebrew word.

Arabic has two h sounds, and Hebrew has letters corresponding to each of them. The Arabic letter ه is pronounced like the English letter h and corresponds to the to the Hebrew letter ה, also pronounced like an h, or silent. The letter ح, the second letter in طحينة, is a pharyngeal fricative. It sounds sort of like a an h but not exactly, and it's usually transcribed with an h in European languages. It corresponds to the Hebrew letter ח, pronounced as a velar fricative rather than a pharyngeal fricative in Hebrew. The Hebrew pronunciation of this letter sounds like German ch after a, o and u, or like a French r after an a, or like a Russian x. It's usually transcribed ch or kh.

So basically the Arabic word has a weird Arabic consonant in it, and the Hebrew approximation ends up not sounding much like the English one.

I'm not sure why the English word is 'tahini' instead of 'tahina'. Hebrew Wikipedi says there's an alternate Arabic form طَحِينِيَّة tahiniya. That might explain it.
posted by nangar at 11:46 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

According to the owner of the Lebanese grocery nearest to my house, "tahini" is an English-speaker's best approximation of the Lebanese word for it. Lebanese and Syrian émigrés were the first largish Middle Eastern groups to open groceries and food factories in the US, so the US English names for foods from that region are usually Anglicized forms of the Lebanese or Syrian versions.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:48 PM on August 10, 2012

Nangar obviously knows much more about this than I do, but I suggest that the reason the Hebrew name has this form is that the Hebrew word for "grinding" is "טחינה ... pronounced tkhina". I presume that the Arabic name has a similar etymology. It's inconceivable that Jews in the Middle East could have survived without tehina; they must have called it something and the word they probably used was "טחינה".
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:55 PM on August 11, 2012

Response by poster: I feel like I cheated and asked several different questions at once, getting great answers for all of them. Thank you for the new variant recipe suggestions, etymology and sociology lessons.

The container I saw may have been this one. Anyway, it was blue not read. The person who prepared (and pronounced) it for me is a native Hebrew speaker but with Russian influence.
posted by whatzit at 3:22 AM on August 13, 2012

The eggplant spread is possibly baba ganoush (like houmous the spelling varies a lot). I've only ever made it at home but Sabra and Yarden sell their own versions in UK supermarkets. (Every supermarket seems to do about 10 kinds of flavoured own-brand houmous, I prefer the OG version.)

That container looks very much like the huge tubs of tahini they sell in the Asian grocers here, although they have Arabic rather than Israeli labels.
posted by mippy at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2012

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