Afghani Food Tour Part One: Tangiers International Market

For birthdays and anniversaries, Chris and I tend to get each other gifts of experience rather than of material. That is to say, instead of "presents," we get "presence" - each other's, specifically, in the form of taking a trip, or taking a class, or going to a play or concert. When I saw Prudence Sloane's Afghani Food Tour, I knew this is what I would get Chris for his birthday, and although his birthday was in September, we experienced it on Saturday.

We pulled up to
Tangiers International Market at 9:00 a.m., just in time for some strong Turkish coffee and an introduction to Prudence Sloane (a food expert, TV/radio personality, writer, dancer and all-around celebrity in these parts) and the many members of the Latif family who own and run the market. The handsome and charming Winfield, a.k.a. child #5, would be our tour guide through the products the store carries, how they are used, and their role in Middle Eastern cuisine.

First, we tasted our way through the dairy case, trying several cheeses, including Halloumi, one we were told is great for grilling. We heard about other varieties of cheese and yogurts, how they are made, and how they are cooked and/or used in recipes. The frozen foods section yielded some goodies as well, such as phyllo dough, spanakopita (spinach and cheese in phyllo dough), a variety of pita and flatbreads, and more.

We were introduced to and chatted about different meats and cuts of meat, and the best way to cook each. Then we got to taste one of the market's specialties, falafel. Their falafel is delicous, warm and soft and flavorful on the inside, crisp and not greasy at all on the outside. Interesting to note here that they fry their falafel in extra virgin olive oil, which adds to the excellent flavor and texture. After I dipped mine in the housemade tahini sauce, I realized that I never had decent falafel until that moment. Chris gave me the "I told you so" look because this is where he first tried, and fell in love with, falafel.

In the aisles is where I had the most fun. "Win" pointed out some of the more interesting products that we might not be familiar with - preserved lemons, a spice called sumac, pomegranate molasses, Turkish tea, candy made from sesame seeds, and much, much more. We tasted olive oil and found out which one they use to fry their falafel. We also tasted Tangiers' homemade hummus and baba ghanoush, both delicious dips sprinkled with lemon juice and drizzled with another olive oil they carry and recommend.

Finally, when we turned to face the lunch and bakery counter, my eyes grew wide with desire as I gazed upon the baklava that was being handed to me to taste. Light, flaky phyllo dough soaked with honey and filled with walnuts - sweet, crunchy, salty, savory - this is everything in one. Love. It. There were many other varieties of pastries and cookies as well. Prepared foods are available to eat at the counter or to take home including spinach, meat and cheese pies, salads, stuffed grape leaves, curries, and of course, kebabs.

As I flipped through the matriarch's cookbook (available for purchase, naturally!), I realized how little I had known about the cuisine of the Middle East before, and how much I had learned in that morning. Laden with purchases, including the cookbook, we left feeling satisfied, in both our stomachs and our minds.

Tangiers is a local, family-owned and operated business. Their prepared foods are homemade and each one is better than the last. The family members are polite, friendly and disarmingly good-looking. They are also more than willing to answer questions. If you like Middle Eastern food, or if you'd like to find out more about it, get to Tangiers. You won't be sorry you did.


Alicia said...

I've driven by Tangiers a million times, but I've never gone in. Next time I'm visiting the BF I'm definitely stopping by. Thanks for the great review!

jck said...

Ahem...I told you falafel rocks!