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madbuy

Real Zaatar Has No Citric Acid

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I went last week to Yaffo (also called Jaffa)--one of the oldest cities in Israel, where you can find the best food in the middle east (they say) searching for 100% real zaatar with no luck..They had "Zaatar" alright, or at least it looked like it and it is also the only thing people can get that is called Za'atar on the title of the package.

I've tried before expensive Supermarket Zaatar, or one from an original Spice shop, But if you can read Hebrew or Arabic, then you can find in the ingredients on the back of the package: PARSLEY AND CITRIC ACID!!!! :blink: I WAS IN SHOCK!!

For the first time I have realized that I NEVER ATE REAL ZATAR although I was on the source. :shock:

Real Zaatar is not made with Citric Acid. The original recipe includes Sumac for the sour taste. And THE PARSLEY!?!?!? IS JUST TO GET CHEAP VOLUME! :huh: Grose!

Therefore I have decided to make it myself. I even got fresh Zaatar, a special

Zaatar plant (Majorana syriaca) and not Thyme as many think, Authentic (relativley expensive) Sumac from the north Lebanon Border (grape looking/Red) and even grind that myself, because I even heard that most Sumac u get are mixed with something red to win on volume :angry: -- because you can only trust what you make yourself from scratch. :wub:


Edited by madbuy (log)

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That's weird. I've never heard of za'atar with parsley OR citric acid. Then again, I get my supplies in Brooklyn, NY, USA. I use thyme, sumac, salt and sesame seeds. One never asks for measurements, you just "use your judgement". My sumac is a more purple kind of red. I LOVE it. Yes, I do. I'm going to marry it. Or else I'll marry m'jeddrah. One never knows, I'm fickle.

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That's weird. I've never heard of za'atar with parsley OR citric acid. Then again, I get my supplies in Brooklyn, NY, USA.  I  use thyme, sumac, salt and sesame seeds. One never asks for measurements, you just "use your judgement". My  sumac is a more purple kind of red. I LOVE it. Yes, I do. I'm going to marry it. Or else I'll marry m'jeddrah. One never knows, I'm fickle.

Hi Rebecca,

I was surprised myself. All my life I have been making Mana'ish with these commercial Zaa'tars, and I was satisfied, because I never knew anything else--not all have citric acid, you are right, but you can't taste the parsley if they put 1 part on 5 parts Thyme.

The Sumac is a very expensive Spice and is in the border to Lebanon available fresh from the tree. It becomes much much redder than the one I used to buy (which was also dark red/purple) when you grind it yourself.

If you have a microscope you could see different particle shapes which is proof that you have a mix--just like most people. 100% Sumac looks like tiny beads with a crack in them--just like tiny Pacman figures :laugh: without long shaped stripes and thin strings in between. Check it out!

You can know that you have real Zaatar if it tastes raw the same as cooked. Most Zaatars I tasted in their raw powder form straight from the package hardly had taste the first few seconds, but when you baked or cooked them then they were great as well. But the real Zaatar tastes just like a freshly baked Manushi smells when u have the fresh uncooked powder in your mouth immediately.

BTW I love Medjadara as well!! Do you eat it with Arabic salad, cabbage salad or just plain yogurt?

Ron


Edited by madbuy (log)

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First of all, I don't know who says that Yaffo has the best food in the Middle East, except perhaps for some particularly chauvinistic Yaffo residents -- and I've lived in Israel (including Yaffo) for 28 years now. There are certainly some good restaurants in Yaffo, but I wouldn't say they are any better than a lot of other restaurants in Israel (as for the rest of the Middle East, I only have experience of food in Egypt and Jordan, and a little bit of south Lebanon).

I've certainly encountered pre-packaged zaatar that includes citric acid, presumably to add sourness to the sumac (although not very often); but I've never seen pre-packaged zaatar that includes parsley. Typically, stuff you buy at the supermarket includes the zaatar itself (technically, it's hyssop in English), sesame seeds, sumac and a little olive oil. At one foodie heaven where I sometimes shop in Ra'anana, they also sell bulk zaatar with added garlic.

However, it's also worth pointing out that there is (usually) a difference between pre-packaged supermarket zaatar and the stuff you buy in market stalls, which tends to be the pure herb. In Amman, for example, I bought a biggish bag of zaatar that was pure dried hyssop with no additives. As far as sumac is concerned, I've bought it in bulk at the supermarket, and it is the real thing without additives (the only additive that wouldn't change the colour significantly is parika, but it would change the taste noticeably).

I went last week to Yaffo (also called Jaffa)--one of the oldest cities in Israel, where you can find the best food in the middle east (they say) searching for 100% real zaatar with no luck..They had "Zaatar" alright, or at least it looked like it and it is also the only thing people can get that is called Za'atar on the title of the package.

I've tried before expensive Supermarket Zaatar, or one from an original Spice shop, But if you can read Hebrew or Arabic, then you can find in the ingredients on the back of the package: PARSLEY AND CITRIC ACID!!!! :blink: I WAS IN SHOCK!!

For the first time I have realized that I NEVER ATE REAL ZATAR although I was on the source.  :shock:

Real Zaatar is not made with Citric Acid. The original recipe includes Sumac for the sour taste. And THE PARSLEY!?!?!? IS JUST TO GET CHEAP VOLUME!  :huh: Grose!

Therefore I have decided to make it myself. I even got fresh Zaatar, a special

Zaatar plant (Majorana syriaca) and not Thyme as many think, Authentic (relativley expensive) Sumac from the north Lebanon Border (grape looking/Red) and even grind that myself, because I even heard that most Sumac u get are mixed with something red to win on volume :angry: -- because you can only trust what you make yourself from scratch.  :wub:


Edited by Tapenade (log)

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zaatar the mix which is used on pastries like mana'eesh, is quite distinct from the dried herb itself.

the traditional way it is made is for the ground herb to be rubbed with olive oil between the hands until it is a soft texture and the sharpness of the herb has been dulled. then it is mixed with sumac and salt, the mixture is roughly 4/5ths zaatar, more or less to taste. finally, when the desired taste is achieved, toased sesame seeds are added to increase the crunch and add a bit of nutiness.

since the zaatar (or hyssop) is quite expensive, lesser commercial varieties add bulking agents. it is quite common in the middle east to get some chick pea flour to be added to increase the bulk, but i have never seen parsley, which i would imagine would impact the flavor quite a bit.

the best zaatar is made with the wild herb which can be bought from kids selling it by the roadside across the region in the springtime.

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In terms of the herbs rather then the herb mixture, is "Zaatar" a generic name for a group of aromatic plants or does it refer to a specific plant in some regions? I have many plants what include "Zaatar" in the name, not just Hyssop. For instance one plant I grow Satureja thymbra (Thyme-leaved savory) is traded as "zatar parsi" and tastes nothing like the flavour profile of Hyssop.

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After reading this post, i had someone translate my Zaatar package that I have ordered from Israel and Parsley was definitely included in the mixture!!

Its pretty sad to see how the quality of everything you buy pre-packaged is bootlegged!

Ron do you know a supplier for Authentic Homemade Zaatar with the REAL STUFF in it and not commercially produced???

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zaatar is the arabic name for the herb Majorana syriaca, which is also sometimes referred to as wild marjoram. it was my understanding that this is also referred to as hyssop.

after doing a little research, i see that this is not accurate. according to wikipedia, hyssop is one of the following herbs:

Hyssopus ambiguus (Trautv.) Iljin

Hyssopus cretaceus Dubjan.

Hyssopus cuspidatus Boriss.

Hyssopus ferganensis Boriss.

Hyssopus latilabiatus C.Y.Wu & H.W.Li

Hyssopus lophanthoides Buch.-Ham. ex D.Don

Hyssopus macranthus Boriss.

Hyssopus ocymifolius Lam.

Hyssopus officinalis L.

Hyssopus seravschanicus (Dub.) Pazij

Hyssopus tianschanicus Boriss.

this is commonly referred to in Jordan at least as zaatar Khlat, and is eaten only as a green herb, and as part of a salad (typically with onions, olive oil, and lemon juice). it is never part of the mixed herb mixture known as zaatar, and i have never seen it sold dried.

sufficiently confusing?

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I grew up eating yogurt or sour cream on m'jeddrah (with extra crispy onions, thank you) but now I like buttermilk. My eyes aren't good right now, so I can't check my sumac, but I do agree, it smells AMAZING. Za'atar is so sense pleasing, you feel that you could wallow in it. Maybe za'atar is the Middle Eastern version of wasabi- most people grow up on the ersatz thing, and never know the difference, even Middle Easterners. Kind of like Americans and mayonnaise.

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I grew up eating yogurt or sour cream on m'jeddrah (with extra crispy onions, thank you) but now I like buttermilk. My eyes aren't good right now, so I can't check my sumac, but I do agree, it smells AMAZING. Za'atar is so sense pleasing, you feel that you could wallow in it. Maybe za'atar is the Middle Eastern version of wasabi- most people grow up on the ersatz thing, and never know the difference, even Middle Easterners. Kind of like Americans and mayonnaise.

very well concluded Rebecca, Israel isn't what it used to be 20 years ago. Now that the USD has gone so low everybody is fighting for survival here. The avarage Israeli pays 60% of his earning only for rent, and if they have a car then it really makes you wonder how they do it.

Perri: PM me if you ever need help finding something or any other info


Edited by madbuy (log)

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I have to agree with most of what Maher wrote here, especially his detailed explanation of the distinction between the dried herb zaatar and the ready-made mixture that one buys in shops and supermarkets. Unfortunately, at least here in Israel, some manufacturers do include parsley in order to increase the bulk very inexpensively: I can't say I have seen chick-pea flour yet, but I'll keep my eyes open now!

Maher is definitely right to say that the best stuff is what is collected from the hillsides and sold by the side of the road. But here, zaatar is a protected plant and so it is difficult to come by in this way.

Incidentally, we just tried a new use for zaatar at home the other day: I suggested that my other half mix a little zaatar to the flour coating in which we deep-fried a batch of red mullet (barbounia) fillets. It was a great success, although I think we could have added a little more zaatar. We've also done this in the past with fresh thyme, oregano and chives mixed into the flour (or matza mea, which is even better).

zaatar the mix which is used on pastries like mana'eesh, is quite distinct from the dried herb itself.

the traditional way it is made is for the ground herb to be rubbed with olive oil between the hands until it is a soft texture and the sharpness of the herb has been dulled. then it is mixed with sumac and salt, the mixture is roughly 4/5ths zaatar, more or less to taste. finally, when the desired taste is achieved, toased sesame seeds are added to increase the crunch and add a bit of nutiness.

since the zaatar (or hyssop) is quite expensive, lesser commercial varieties add bulking agents.  it is quite common in the middle east to get some chick pea flour to be added to increase the bulk, but i have never seen parsley, which i would imagine would impact the flavor quite a bit.

the best zaatar is made with the wild herb which can be bought from kids selling it by the roadside across the region in the springtime.

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Incidentally, we just tried a new use for zaatar at home the other day: I suggested that my other half mix a little zaatar to the flour coating in which we deep-fried a batch of red mullet (barbounia) fillets. It was a great success, although I think we could have added a little more zaatar. We've also done this in the past with fresh thyme, oregano and chives mixed into the flour (or matza mea, which is even better).

It's also very tasty when used as the herb mixture for croutons, or as the flavouring for pita chips!

I bought my zaatar (the mix rather than the herb on its own) in the UAE from the bulk bins at Carrefour. I wonder what else is in it...

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Just recently I got a Kilo (2 labs +) of pure dry Zaatar from Eastern Jerusalem, it has no trace of sumac or parsley and includes sesame, for 40 Shekels ($10)

Fresh ground Sumac is 58 Shekels a kilo in a large Hypermarket. ($15)

Boaziko

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zaatar is the arabic name for the herb Majorana syriaca, which is also sometimes referred to as wild marjoram. it was my understanding that this is also referred to as hyssop.

after doing a little research, i see that this is not accurate. according to wikipedia, hyssop is one of the following herbs:

Hyssopus ambiguus (Trautv.) Iljin

Hyssopus cretaceus Dubjan.

Hyssopus cuspidatus Boriss.

Hyssopus ferganensis Boriss.

Hyssopus latilabiatus C.Y.Wu & H.W.Li

Hyssopus lophanthoides Buch.-Ham. ex D.Don

Hyssopus macranthus Boriss.

Hyssopus ocymifolius Lam.

Hyssopus officinalis L.

Hyssopus seravschanicus (Dub.) Pazij

Hyssopus tianschanicus Boriss.

this is commonly referred to in Jordan at least as zaatar Khlat, and is eaten only as a green herb, and as part of a salad (typically with onions, olive oil, and lemon juice). it is never part of the mixed herb mixture known as zaatar, and i have never seen it sold dried.

sufficiently confusing?

So Zaatar is a type of marjoram how interesting. The Syrian version of the herb looks quite different to the types I have, but the flavour makes more sense then the minty flavour of hyssop. Thank you for the detailed information.

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zaatar is the arabic name for the herb Majorana syriaca, which is also sometimes referred to as wild marjoram. it was my understanding that this is also referred to as hyssop.

after doing a little research, i see that this is not accurate. according to wikipedia, hyssop is one of the following herbs:

Hyssopus ambiguus (Trautv.) Iljin

Hyssopus cretaceus Dubjan.

Hyssopus cuspidatus Boriss.

Hyssopus ferganensis Boriss.

Hyssopus latilabiatus C.Y.Wu & H.W.Li

Hyssopus lophanthoides Buch.-Ham. ex D.Don

Hyssopus macranthus Boriss.

Hyssopus ocymifolius Lam.

Hyssopus officinalis L.

Hyssopus seravschanicus (Dub.) Pazij

Hyssopus tianschanicus Boriss.

this is commonly referred to in Jordan at least as zaatar Khlat, and is eaten only as a green herb, and as part of a salad (typically with onions, olive oil, and lemon juice). it is never part of the mixed herb mixture known as zaatar, and i have never seen it sold dried.

sufficiently confusing?

So Zaatar is a type of marjoram how interesting. The Syrian version of the herb looks quite different to the types I have, but the flavour makes more sense then the minty flavour of hyssop. Thank you for the detailed information.

When I travelled to Israel a few months ago I fell in love with Levinsky. :biggrin::wub:

You can buy the freshest and cheapest herbs and spices there. A kilo of Oregano or Paprika for on ly 20 Shekels. That is a crazy price..

Its a shame things here aren't as cheap and fresh.

Its quite hard to find places to buy Arabic or Lebanese products here where I live.

Im looking forward to returning to Israel and eating all the fresh food again. I miss the manoushi and a good ol Shawarma. :raz:

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Hi Perri,

Respect! you've really found one of Israels last real Authentic source for Spices: Levinski (next is Jerusalem), but don't buy Zaatar there! I looked everywhere and it's all crap!

But you can get there very good prices for other normal and Arabic Spices or Grains like Hummus and Fava Beans in Wholesale and also the best Sunflower Seeds in Town.

I also highly recommend the various Olives and the Olive Oil you buy there in ugly looking refilled water bottles. It is not fancy but it is standard to be cold pressed, first Press and obviously extra virgin, which is THE BEST.

It is though kind of dangerous to walk around Levinski and co. after dark since all the junkies hang out there since it is very near to the Tachana Merkazit (central Bus Station).

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Hi Perri,

Respect! you've really found one of Israels last real Authentic source for Spices: Levinski (next is Jerusalem), but don't buy Zaatar there! I looked everywhere and it's all crap!

But you can get there very good prices for other normal and Arabic Spices or Grains like Hummus and Fava Beans in Wholesale and also the best Sunflower Seeds in Town.

I also highly recommend the various Olives and the Olive Oil you buy there in ugly looking refilled water bottles. It is not fancy but it is standard to be cold pressed, first Press and obviously extra virgin, which is THE BEST.

It is though kind of dangerous to walk around Levinski and co. after dark since all the junkies hang out there since it is very near to the Tachana Merkazit (central Bus Station).

true i do know how dangerous tachana merkazit can be. Junkies and there drugs basically.

But during the day Levinsky is everyones dream. fresh nuts, spices, and the olive oil...

I never personally brought my Olive Oil from there, I preferd the olive oil you get from the Muslim or Arabic shops in places like yaffo & yefet/yaffo :wink:

I think i only ever purchased zaa'tar once in the shops other than that i had a friend who made it themselves and it tasted divine :wub:

Do you have any idea where i could get the "real arabic coffee" from?? i can't seem to find it anywhere, its all turkish or greek :sad:

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Hi Perri,

Respect! you've really found one of Israels last real Authentic source for Spices: Levinski (next is Jerusalem), but don't buy Zaatar there! I looked everywhere and it's all crap!

But you can get there very good prices for other normal and Arabic Spices or Grains like Hummus and Fava Beans in Wholesale and also the best Sunflower Seeds in Town.

I also highly recommend the various Olives and the Olive Oil you buy there in ugly looking refilled water bottles. It is not fancy but it is standard to be cold pressed, first Press and obviously extra virgin, which is THE BEST.

It is though kind of dangerous to walk around Levinski and co. after dark since all the junkies hang out there since it is very near to the Tachana Merkazit (central Bus Station).

true i do know how dangerous tachana merkazit can be. Junkies and there drugs basically.

But during the day Levinsky is everyones dream. fresh nuts, spices, and the olive oil...

I never personally brought my Olive Oil from there, I preferd the olive oil you get from the Muslim or Arabic shops in places like yaffo & yefet/yaffo :wink:

I think i only ever purchased zaa'tar once in the shops other than that i had a friend who made it themselves and it tasted divine :wub:

Do you have any idea where i could get the "real arabic coffee" from?? i can't seem to find it anywhere, its all turkish or greek :sad:

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Well here in the Middle East which includes Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Lebanon and in Jordan we do have 1 very specific plant called Zaatar and it has nothing to do with the names you mentioned. Do you have pictures of the plants you are saying that meant to be related?

In terms of the herbs rather then the herb mixture, is "Zaatar" a generic name for a group of aromatic plants or does it refer to a specific plant in some regions? I have many plants what include "Zaatar" in the name, not just Hyssop. For instance one plant I grow Satureja thymbra (Thyme-leaved savory) is traded as "zatar parsi" and tastes nothing like the flavour profile of Hyssop.

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I am out of zaatar! i called my stepmother, and she has promised to make me a batch next week.

My old bag had no parsley in it, nor citric acid, by the way. I got it in Brooklyn last year, on King's Highway. Which I miss! I miss Syrian cheese and decent olives!

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I wish I could send you some!! Hereis what Ifound on Za'atar:

Za'atar

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Strange that sumak is so expensive in Israel. In Turkey it's one of the cheapest spices.

Istanbul is a long way from zaatar country, so I have to settle for a commercial one here. I get it at an Antakya food store, and it comes from Aleppo. The brand is Al-Seran. The ingredients listed are:

Thyme

Hims (?)

Coddle Flour (?)

Anise

Coriander

Cumin

Sumac

Sesame

Salt

Pistachio

Seed

and......

Acid

I'm pretty sure the "seed" was once connected to "sesame" and fell victim to left-right dirctional text on a word processing program. Anyone know what "hims" and "coddle flour" are? The package does show chickpeas in the picture of ingredients so perhaps chickkpea flour?

This stuff tastes really good. I can sit and eat it by the spoonful. :) But I'm sure that when I finally get to Syria and have it homemade (or get a friend to send me some), I won't be able to eat the commercial stuff agian.

As for other uses - anyone ever try it on popcorn? :cool:


Edited by sazji (log)

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Well here in the Middle East which includes Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Lebanon and in Jordan we do have 1 very specific plant called Zaatar and it has nothing to do with the names you mentioned. Do you have pictures of the plants you are saying that meant to be related?
In terms of the herbs rather then the herb mixture, is "Zaatar" a generic name for a group of aromatic plants or does it refer to a specific plant in some regions? I have many plants what include "Zaatar" in the name, not just Hyssop. For instance one plant I grow Satureja thymbra (Thyme-leaved savory) is traded as "zatar parsi" and tastes nothing like the flavour profile of Hyssop.

This page has images of various Savory plants, some of which are known as Zaatar. This shows Hyssop, which is often described as the "real" zaatar. Here is yet another herb that is known as zaatar.


Edited by Adam Balic (log)

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I now have obtained a few plants of Syrian Marjoram (Majorana syriaca, Origanum Maru etc.) which most people agree is the real zaatar (and possibly the biblical hyssop, hence the confusion with Hyssopus officinalis). From the flavour profile I would say it is the real deal, and is similar thyme leaved savory, which is also sometimes given as zaatar (not commonly though).

When the plants are mature I will post some images of them all.

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Georgians also use this plant as base for their famous Khmeli-Suneli - Spice Mix especially fresh along with coriander, dill, mint and indeed they use loads of fresh coriander.

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