Which brand of tehini should I buy?
A consumer report based on a Channel 13 Israel television program - Osot Heshbon - aired on Monday, May 21st, 2018
Love, love tehina? Tahini is the main ingredient of this delicious salad. Basically is sesame seed paste - fresh sesame seeds either hulled or whole ground down to a fine paste. It's super simple to transform tehini (Heb. tehina golmi) into tehina - just add water (ice water preferred) maybe salt and lemon juice and this super-food is an instant delicacy. Tehini can be eaten in many ways; in hummous, as a condiment in felafel or fish, salad dressings, a binding agent replacing eggs in vegan recipes, halva, biscuits and even ice-cream.
Grinding sesame seeds in the Levant goes back 3,000 - 4,000 years. Experts say that the best sesame seeds come from Ethiopia where unique weather conditions result in a paste sweeter than locally grown sesame seeds.
|A stone grinder typical of that used to grind sesame seeds in ancient times|
Although tehini has a high calorie count, around 600 per 100g it is a great source of Vitamins A, B-6 and B-12, vitamin C and vitamin D, magnesium, calcium and iron. The Israeli standard calls for 16-25.5g protein (per 100 grams) and 53g -67g of healthy vegetable fat (per 100g).
Sugar, salt, stabilizers, preservatives and a long list of other ingredients are added to tehini paste which is then turned into the tehina salad found in supermarket delis and refrigerators.
The purpose of last night's program was to compare the ingredients, contaminants and flavor. Israelis prefer to make their own tehina salad from tehini paste and the local market for ready made tehina is considerably smaller.
10 brands of tehini paste (tehina golmi) were tested
- Har Bracha
- Al Arz
A sample of ready-to-eat tahina salad from the deli counter was also tested.
Comparisons on nutritional value, ingredients, contaminants (pesticides and bacteria) and of course the taste-test were performed
None of the 10 brands of tehini paste, as listed above were found to be contaminated with pesticides, salmonella, listeria or other bacteria.
The tehina salad on the other hand had more than double the amount of coliform bacteria (that nasty ecoli one) allowed by the Ministry of Health. These tehina salads can easily be contaminated in the manufacturing process - the greater the number of ingredients, the greater the risk of contamination. Less than perfect refrigeration or an unsealed container, a slightly unclean utensil or even a latex glove can be some of the points of contamination.
The panel of 6 judges including Chef Avi Levy (the 2011 winner of Master Chef), restaurateurs, caterers and a food editor judged as follows for flavor, from worst to best:
8 place - from the deli counter
7th place - Achva
6th place - Barakay
5th place - Nasich
4th place - Ayash, Yerushalayim and Caravan
3rd place - Hayona
2nd place - Al Arz
and the best, in first place - Har Bracha
The folks at Har Bracha suggest serving tehina (using their tehini paste of course) with parsley, potatoes, avocado, pomegranate seeds and roasted almonds.