The Person Behind The Posts

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tandoori Salmon - A Photo Blog

I kind of need a vacation. Before we made aliyah, we always came to Israel. Now, I have no desire to leave the country. I just want a bit of a break from the routine.

Don't misunderstand, often my routine is quite lovely, and I can prove it.  Here's a little taste of today's routine afternoon.

When we first made aliyah, we planned to visit the shuk every Thursday night to shop for Shabbat. The first time we went, we did our shopping and stopped for a late dinner in a tiny restaurant nearby. By the time we got back to the parking lot, the attendant was livid.  Didn't we know that the parking lot closed 45 minutes ago?!  Actually, no we didn't. But we never made that mistake again.

In the end, we found cheaper and more convenient places to buy most things, but the shuk is still a treat, and when we need specialty items, or really, really, really fresh dates, there is no place else to go. The whole thing is always an experience - a chavaya.

The shuk is filled with colorful characters, like the guy screaming his prices for strawberries from one side of his mouth with a cigarette dangling from the other side, the tzedaka collector with the incredibly thick eyeglasses who is there every single time and, despite the fact that there are hundreds of people there, always comes up to us, the 60-something year-old man who wears a gold paper crown without irony and tries to get people to try his halava, the Asian tourists, the 10th generation Yerushalmis, the birthright Israel groups in University of Rochester sweatshirts... You get the idea.  At the shuk, you're not just buying bananas. You're in the midst of a multi-sensory experience. And lately, I've been understanding most of the prices that are shouted at me, so I'm a much more confident shuk shopper than I used to be.

On the way to the shuk, I noticed red something stuck in a stone wall.
Is it an antique mailbox?
Pomegranates are still available in Israel in mid-January.
After shopping for awhile, we sat and my husband had a cup of hot sachlav with cinnamon. According to the guy who sold it to us, it's made from the roots of orchids, cornflour and warm milk.  Yeah, he promises it's good but I'm just not brave enough.

Winter fruits and vegetables are amazing here.  I went a little crazy buying peppers and they wouldn't all fit in the fridge. These are the overflow and they are in the big wooden bowl that my grandmother used to make gefilte fish.

Since childhood, I have loved eating raw peas in the pod. In America, they are in season for about 20 minutes a year, usually in early June. (Hence the name June peas). In the shuk today, there was a single vendor with a small supply of fresh peas. I went to his stash and started to pick out the firmest, plumpest ones. And I had my first-ever somewhat heated exchange in Hebrew:

He: You can't pick them one at a time.
Me: Why not?
He: While forcing a pile into my bag - They're all good. Just take a pile. On the inside, they're all good.
Me: I want what I want.

I was persistent and I kept picking out the ones I wanted.  Okay, it's not academic oratory, but I understood him and I stood my ground.  I stand proud.

And they were yummy.

Now the main treasure we went to get was tandoori paste. A friend served it on salmon and claimed in was available "in any supermarket".  Turns out that's not true. I've been to about 7 grocery stores looking and no one had it. But the shuk is perfect for this sort of specialty item shopping.

So I go into a spice store that always has everything I need and ask for tandoori paste.  The English-speaking sales clerk hands me this and says it's the same thing.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I bought it because I'm sufficiently unsure... and desperate. Also, it wasn't that expensive.
But I'm not sure, so I keep stepping into different spice stores to ask.  I don't know how to say tandoori paste in Hebrew so when one clerk asks me what it is, I tell him, in my limited Hebrew - It's red?  For fish?  From India?  Not surprisingly, he doesn't recognize it from this description and waves me off.

After the sachlav break, I see a dark, dank hole in the wall spice store.  I go up to the man behind the counter (who clearly hasn't looked in a mirror recently) and, with pretty low expectations, I say, "Tandoori paste?"

After the shuk, we make one more stop at a charedi grocery store where everything we buy is a few shekels cheaper than at Rami Levi. After we get home, as we're unpacking our haul, my crazy funny 17 year-old daughter holds up the bag with medjool dates (truly the BEST in the universe) and dried apricots and says, "Hey, dried fruit! Old people candy!"

And, after all the food is put away, I make the tandoori salmon that this trip was really all about.

It was yum.


Karen Eisenberg said...

I'm so proud of you! Red curry paste is Thai, not Indian, and not at all what you wanted. And you didn't buy it because some pushy Israeli told you to, AND you found what you wanted in the end. SCORE!

I wish I could go to the shuk. I miss it so much. It's exactly as you said, there are some things you just can't get anywhere else. And some experiences you just can't have anywhere else.

Bat Aliyah said...

Karen: I did buy it. But I kept looking. Red Curry Paste anyone? B'datz hechsher. NIS20 :-)

Devorah said...

What a beautiful blog post... if ever there was a blog post to encourage Aliyah, this is it.

Bracha said...

Beautiful post! Now,what about that vacation? (And where in the shuk did you find the pea pods?)

SaraK said...

Fabulous post! I love the shuk too and I LOVE the peas story :)
Where is the store where you got the tandoori paste? Can you ever find it again? :)

Bat Aliyah said...

Sara, Thanks for reading! The sign on the store was so decrepit it wasn't worth photographing, but the store is kind of across from the sachlav place, just up from the pet store. My husband promises that he can find it again, but I don't know yet how long a jar of Tandoori Paste lasts...

Nettie Feldman said...

Rivkah, you've discovered the best entertainment secret in Jerusalem: I go every week and love it!