In the Israeli winter there is nothing like hot Sachlav (pronounced Sock-lahv) to warm you up. Sachlav is a thick milk based drink seasoned with sugar and rosewater and topped with coconut, pistachios, walnuts, cinnamon, or whatever else you enjoy. Sachlav actually translates to orchid, because in the old days sachlav was flavored and thickened with the starch from the orchid bulb. Since orchid bulbs are so expensive, these days, corn flour is used to thicken the drink.
Mallabi is basically a cold, thicker, pudding version of sachlav and is so pleasant when the weather gets warm. It is made with milk, heavy cream, corn starch, sugar, and rosewater. It is usually topped with a sweet raspberry or rosewater syrup, followed by the traditional sachlav toppings like coconut, nuts, and cinnamon.
You can buy mixes or premade sachlav and mallabi in Israeli grocery stores, but it’s very easy to make at home from scratch. This is especially useful if you want to replicate the sachlav/mallabi experience outside of the Middle East. I recommend these recipes for sachlav and mallabi.
For more on the history of sachlav, see here.
The short answer: not cheese!
When I first moved to Israel I made the mistake of buying Pizzarella to make pizza, thinking it was mozzarella. In my newbie state I didn’t read the fine print, which is actually right on the front of the package: חלבון חלב ושומן צמחי aka “milk protein and vegetable oil” that has been formed into little shreds to look just like grated cheese.
The resulting pizza wasn’t that great, and now I know why. I also know why people buy it: it is way cheaper than mozzarella, about 24 shekel per kilo, compared to mozzarella, which costs around 60-80 shekel per kilo depending on the brand. (For reference, at today’s exchange rates, that’s $2.80/lb versus ~$8.20/lb). So, understandably, many people prefer to use Pizzarella for pizza cheese, including some pizza chains.
I really taste and feel the difference between Pizzarella and real mozzarella however, so now I buy mozzarella from the cheese counter at my grocery store, especially when it is on sale, ask them to grate it for me, and store it in my freezer for pizza night. Or, if you want to mix it up, you can try Suluguni for your pizza cheese.
If you also like making homemade pizza, I recommend this quick pizza dough recipe from my fav, Martha.
Suluguni, also known as Solog, is a Georgian cheese very similar to mozzarella. It can be produced from any type of milk, and is a fresh cheese, aged between 6-48 hours in brine (salt water solution). Like mozzarella, the cheese is formed by hand, stretched and folded, to create the characteristic stringy texture. It is often braided.
My supermarket had two types of Suluguni available, both from Parili dairy in Azaria, Israel, which is not far from Rehovot, where I live. Parili dairy is a third generation dairy specializing in Iraqi and Georgian cheeses from cow’s milk. According to this website you can visit the dairy, but call first to confirm.
Back to the cheese: one was braided, and contained 18% fat, while the other was in a circular form (like a round challah) and contained 20% fat. Both were 60 shekel/kilo. The braided suluguni had a slightly more tender texture, but it was a very subtle difference, the two cheeses were almost identical.
Suluguni does taste, look, and feel just like mozzarella. I would have to try it side by side with some mozzarella to see if there is any noticeable difference. Therefore this would probably be a good replacement for mozzarella in recipes. To test out this theory I grated some Suluguni and used it as pizza cheese. It was perfect!
Tzafatit cheese is a delicious, salty, semi hard, decidedly Israeli cheese. It gets its name from its city of origin, Tzfat, in the north of Israel. The cheese was first produced in Meiri Dairy in 1840. The original recipe used goat’s milk, but cow’s milk Tzafatit cheese is now very common. There must be hundreds of Tzafatit cheeses in Israel, and somehow they all have a unique taste and texture.
Tzafatit cheese is somewhat like a feta, but with a higher water content. It is always sold in water, usually in the shape of a disc. I’ve noticed that among different brands, the fat content is usually the same, around 5%. It is moist, slightly chewy, slightly crumbly, with not very good meltability. Tzafatit cheese is a staple in Israeli breakfasts, where its salty fresh flavor pairs well with raw salads and smoked fish. It is also commonly used in sandwiches where it can be paired with tomatoes, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs and zaatar.
I love the flavor and texture of the cheese so much that usually I just eat it plain and it never has time to make it into a recipe! But, if I did happen to have extra Tzafatit cheese lying around, I would try this lentil salad.
This recipe is adapted from Mako.co.il, an Israeli news outlet.
So, you’re looking for yogurt in Israel? Confused much? In the U.S., there is one thing that comes in what we would call a “yogurt container” and that is yogurt.
In Israel, there are dozens of non-yogurt cheese products that come in little plastic containers. You have yogurt, gevinah lavanah (white cheese), cottage cheese, shemenet (sour cream), gil, eishel, etc. Each one of these may come in various fat contents, flavors, and with a myriad of toppings.
What is the difference between them? Which are the tastiest? I set out to answer these questions with some research and a taste test. In this first post I will cover only Tnuva products, since they can be found in any grocery store or makolet. Of these products, I tried two types of yogurt, “Gil”, “Eishel”, “Classic Sheli (My classic)”, and three types of shemenet (sour cream). Below are the pictures of these products with the nutritional breakdown.