Hidden away along Waterloo Street is Elite Kosher, a kosher grocery in the Maghain Aboth synagogue building (also known as the Jacob Ballas Centre). It’s not the most publicly accessible place though. To get to the supermarket we first had to answer some questions about our nationality and job at the gate, before exchanging our NRIC for a visitor’s pass. We also weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the compound.
The shop occupies a small room on the second floor of the building, and is no bigger than a convenience store, although the shelves are packed with items you wouldn’t normally find in chain supermarkets. Suck in your stomach to navigate the cramped space, and you’ll find rows of products commonly found in Middle Eastern cooking; jars of olives, spices, date and pomegranate syrups, and even tubs of tahini (curiously enough, we also found items like soy sauce and Chinese-style chilli oil). They also have a range of imported dailies like biscuits, cereal and condiments, although most of the packaging is printed in Hebrew, so do your research or ask the cashier.
While everything here is catered for a kosher diet, including a whole fridge of meat and wines, they also stock some interesting and hard-to-find items that’s worth exploring, even if you don’t keep kosher. We picked out a few to try:
Achva Seasoned Tahini
Made from ground sesame seeds, tahini is a major condiment used in many parts of the world including the Middle East and the Balkan states. Unseasoned, it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. The tub that we found was already flavoured with garlic and lemon juice, so you can just add chickpeas for instant hummus!
Taste test: this was very lightly seasoned, so think about adding more garlic and lemon juice, and maybe some cumin and paprika.
Star Food Yaprakes De Parra (rice-stuffed grape leaves)
Dolmas are grape leaves stuffed with rice and sometimes meat and is a dish that appears in many different cuisines: in Greece, they’re known as dolmades, while the Lebanese call it mahshi
wara’ inab. The version we found came in a tin, and came soaked in olive oil. Elite Kosher also sells just the brined leaves, should you be inclined to stuff your own.
Taste test: The leaves themselves have the texture of spinach, with a slight, not-unpleasant tannic taste, although the rice is a little too sour and mushy for our liking. The olive oil this came soaked in also tasted slightly dubious.
Marble sesame halva
Halva (or halwa, or about a dozen other similar-sounding names) is the name given to a whole family of nut or starch-based confections that are eaten all across the Middle East, South Asia, Eastern Europe and by the Jewish diaspora. The version we found is made from tahini and sugar, with chocolate swirls.
Taste test: Crumbly, sweet and redolent with sesame; this tastes like a more delicate, sesame-saturated version of the Chinese sesame candy you get during Chinese New Year.
Tostaim – Toasted Bread Slices with Sesame
These are dry, crisp crackers similar to rusk. While not traditionally “Jewish”, sesame seeds have been added to bring things a little closer to home.
Taste test: Pretty tasty! We reckon this would be great with some sort of spread or tuna/egg mayo.
Kedem Premium Cream Red Concord
If the plastic screw-top, 9% ABV and “premium” label hasn’t already given it away, this isn’t the kind of wine any self-respecting adult will drink under normal circumstances. Rather, it’s for more ceremonial purposes: to fill the four symbolic cups of wine that is drunk during the Passover feast.
Taste test: We’ll let the comments section of a wine rating website say what’s on our mind:
“Classic kosher super sweet beverage, unfit for any secular or gentile purpose, but quite appropriate for a Seder (Passover feast) in Diaspora”
“Absolute garbage. I couldn’t take another drink it was so bad. Tastes like old grape juice. Terrible experience.”
Instant Noodle Soup, Vegetable Flavour
Your standard budget cup noodles, complete with seasoning packet, dubious dried garnish and flimsy plastic fork. The packaging was fully in Hebrew so we can’t ascertain if it’s fully vegetarian.
Taste test: The broth tasted like salty hot water, although the noodles held up surprisingly well after a prolonged soak in the soup.
24 Waterloo Street. Tel: 6337 2189