Food

Tips When Shopping at Middle Eastern Markets

Shopping at specialty stores like Middle Eastern markets can feel quite overwhelming, especially when the culture is new to you. If this is your first time to buy your groceries from a Middle Eastern market, there are a few must-have items to add to your shopping list.

Dairy

There are several dairy selections that are worthy to try:

  • Cheese

Cheese has several different varieties and some favorites include Chicago cheese, string cheese, and Nabulsi cheese perfect for frying.

  • Laban

Laban is a type of yogurt but there is something unique with this Middle Eastern yogurt in terms of texture and taste. This is a staple ingredient in most Arab households often served together with a lot of entrée dishes. This Arabic yogurt has the tendency to be a bit tarter, almost similar to Greek yogurt although not all have thick consistency.

  • Labneh

This is a strained and thick yogurt and the best way of eating it is drizzling it with olive oil. You can spread labneh on bread for sandwich or dip pita bread into it.

Meats

Lamb is the most popular product in Middle Eastern markets. Most stores even have an entire department dedicated to meat alone. Beef and lamb are common selections of meat. These markets are the best place to go for buying a leg of lamb. It is also possible for you to request to debone and chop it up so you can store and freeze it once you get home. Remember that halal meat pertains to the process of preparing the food according to Islamic standards.

Oils, Pastes, and Spices

There is an exciting plethora of oils, pastes, and spices available at Middle Eastern markets:

  • Magi

This is chicken bouillon cubes although a lot of Arab households swear by the brand. This is also available in several regular grocery stores although you can also purchase this in bulk at most specialty stores.

  • Seven Spice

It is a common staple in Middle East that can be used in numerous recipes such as soups, meat, chicken, and even rice.

  • Olive Oil

Olive oil has an important and big role in the culture of Middle East since olives are harvested in large volumes in the country. It is best to shop for imported brands. Darker oil is better. Check out varieties of fresh or jarred olives if there is an olive bar in your local Middle Eastern market.

  • Pita

A certified staple at any Middle Eastern market, pita has a lot of varieties. A small pocket pita is perfect for everyday meals, sandwiches, and dipping. The thin and large pita is also ideal to use if you want to make some homemade pita chips.

  • Tahini Sauce

This is a sesame-based sauce often used as the primary ingredient in hummus. However, remember that not all types of tahini sauces are made equal. To get a more authentic flavor, it is best to choose an imported brand when shopping from a Middle Eastern market.

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