Al Arz Tahini and Halva: Authentic Treats from Israel
Al Arz is a small, family-owned and -operated food manufacturing company based in Nazareth, Israel, that makes sesame tahini and halva, a popular sesame confection.
Tahini is a traditional Middle Eastern spread made of finely-ground sesame seeds. Its consistency and color is similar to hummus and may be served with it as a dip. Al Arz’s Tahini is made with sesame seeds from the mountainous area of Himora, Ethiopia. These fatty seeds are sorted, rinsed in whirlpool baths, peeled, oven roasted, and then strained and finely ground into a paste that becomes raw tahini. There’s nothing else added to the sesame seeds – no preservatives, no flavorings, no artificial coloring, or other ingredients. Al Arz Tahini is kosher and comes in organic and non-organic varieties.
The tahini paste is packed into plastic jars and, to use, customers simply add an equal amount of water, some lemon juice, salt, and, if desired, garlic and chopped parsley.
We made up some Al Arz Tahini and found it to be thick with a rich, earthy grainy flavor (the tahini can be made thicker or thinner depending on the amount of water used). The flavor has a deep sesame nuttiness that’s quite satisfying.
One of the things we appreciate about Al Arz Tahini is how easy it is to use. The ground sesame seed paste makes it quick to make tahini and, even after opening, it doesn’t need refrigeration. Just put it in your pantry for the next time you need tahini.
Halva (spelled “halvah” in English) is a confection that’s popular in many places in the world such as Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Israel. While it may be made with nuts and other ingredients, in Israel, it’s made with sesame paste and sugar syrup.
We sampled three flavors of Al Arz Halva: Vanilla Halva, Halva with Cocoa Beans, and Halva with Pistachio. When it comes to quality halva, it’s all about texture and Al Arz Halva has the perfect texture – a bit crumbly with slightly crunchy crystals all in a silky base. The flavors are distinct and delicious. The Vanilla Halva has a pronounced vanilla flavor. The Cocoa Bean, our editors’ favorite, has a mild chocolatey flavor with a nice crunch from the beans. The Pistachio, which is studded with pieces of green nuts, has a distinctive nuttiness that sings “pistachio.”
Al Arz Halva isn’t overly sweet and our editors found it to be addictive. We returned again and again for “just a taste” of this sweet treat. One of our reviewers has extensively traveled the world enjoying halva and he pronounced it “some of the best halva I’ve ever eaten.”
Al Arz halvah is parve, meaing it does not contain meat or dairy, so that it can be eaten with/after either milk or meat dishes according to religious laws. This halva is made in the traditional Israeli style, without semolina or wheat flour. It does contain sesame tahini, glucose syrup, sugar, and saponaria root extract (soapwart), a whipping agent.
We have one caveat about Al Arz Halva. While the doesn’t contain any preservatives, it is made with partially hydrogenated palm oil, a fact our editors found troubling. Hydrogenation is a chemical process that turns liquid vegetable oil into solid fat. It also creates trans fats, which are thought to raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol and are believed to be more harmful than saturated fats. While we love the flavor and texture of Al Arz Halva, we’d love it even more if the company found an alternative to using partially-hydrogenated oil, which would make this sweet treat more healthful. — BH