Eating bourekas in Yehud

by Sarah on November 5, 2011

bourekas hazan

Yehud is not a tourist destination. You won’t find wooden camels, Dead Sea skincare products or T-shirts printed with Moshe Dayan. But like a good Sephardic grandmother, even if they’re not expecting company, they know how to feed you.

turkish bakery, yehud

A few sticky plastic chairs, a wobbly table and a napkin dispenser with the Coca Cola logo is all you’ll get for atmosphere. By the end of the meal, that won’t matter anymore. Even the first bite is enough to make this irrelevant.

burek, turkish, yehud, hazan

My last visit to this blue-collar town was in the height of summer. The air was acrid and the sun seemed to be stalking me. I can easily become a kvetch in these conditions, yapping incessantly about what I cannot change. Instead Yael and I were wandering around town in search of little Turkish bakery called Bourekas Hazan.

We found ourselves in the Ashkenazi Market, remnants of the city’s old commercial area, now just a lone vegetable vendor, a handful of mom and pop stores and strips of low lying derelict buildings.  In another city with a historical society, perhaps this would have been renovated and made into a classy shopping district with over priced coffee houses. Here they waited to be consumed by the residential high-rises that sprouted rudely around them.

yehud, shuk Ashkenazi

Our meanderings led us on a road between two abandoned structures decorated with a crisscross of electrical wires. This is where the locals pointed us to and according to the map, where we were supposed to be. It didn’t look like any place at all.

I walked behind an enormous blue tarp to search for someone to ask, “I’m Hazan”, responded the man behind the counter. Then I noticed a shelf full of bourekas (burek) and a refrigerator with cold drinks; there was scarcely room for anything else.

“Hey Yael! You won’t believe this but here we are!”

We chatted with the owner as he showed off his specialties, phyllo dough pastries filled with spinach, cheese, eggplant or potato. They were heavier and more substantial than the mass produced variety, without the usual sesame seed coating. It crackled when bitten into, releasing rivulets of steam and scalding my mouth. I soon had a flurry of crumbs on my shirt.

bourekas hazan, phyllo dough

Since we were his only customers, I asked him if he would mind showing us how he made them. With hands as dexterous as a matador’s he worked his magic. Within seconds, a tiny ball of dough was stretched and lengthened until it became the size of a table cloth, a seemingly impossible trick. He placed a row of the cheese filling on one side of the dough, rolled up the entire length and set it on a tray to be baked. When he was done and we put our cameras away, he walked over to a brawny fellow I hadn’t noticed before and put his arm around him, “Now take a picture with my son.”

bourekas hazan

Hazan with his son

I asked the younger man what he did for a living. Perhaps it would be considered rude in other countries but here it’s a way to start a conversation. I already dismissed him as an owner of a clothing shop on the other side of town or perhaps a truck driver on his day off. Instead he said “I’m a neurosurgeon”.

So on that dusty hot day in a tiny bakery, Yael, who is a neurobiologist, discussed the more intricate parts of the brain with the baker’s son. Me? I was eating my bourekas, enjoying the little surprises of life.

Location:

Hazan’s Bourekas

Ashkenazi Market, Yehud

Telephone: 03-5361649

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa November 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Mmmhhh, they look so good!

Cheers,

Rosa

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usha November 5, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Bourekas…….I want !
Sticky plastic chairs……well…not so sure !

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Emily Segal November 5, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I love this! Imagine the lucky girl who will win the cute neurosurgeon with the boureka-making father!!

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Ruth's Real Food November 5, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Sooo funny. I used to live right around the corner from there and didn’t know about Hazan.

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Turkey's For Life November 6, 2011 at 1:40 am

Ha ha, loved this story. The pastries look soooo good – and I wouldn’t have had the other guy down as a neurosurgeon! Isn’t it great when people actually like you to take photos of them rather than being frowned at or worse?!
Julia

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Yaelian November 6, 2011 at 4:44 am

What a lovely post:) I hope that place stays there for a long time and does not disappear because of the high rises. That bureka must be so delicious!

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Sarah November 6, 2011 at 7:51 am

Thanks for the comments. The baker told me what part of Turkey his recipe is from but I just don’t remember. Need to head back soon. The bourekas are indeed delicious.

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Carolyn November 6, 2011 at 8:59 am

What a delicious discovery!

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Yael November 6, 2011 at 10:26 am

Forgot to comment silly me. I can’t comment through the iPhone. Well, great post as usual from our good days. Wrote about it in Hebrew btw. Hope this week will find something great to eat and see.

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Faye November 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Wonderful post! I’m putting Hazan’s on my list of places to visit. I do hope he will teach his craft to someone who will continue. Yes, it would have been nice to know what region of Turkey his recipe is from.
Do you have any idea whether he brushed the dough with butter (as they often do in Turkey)?

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Sarah November 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Thank you, I believe he said he learned the technique from someone from Izmir, Turkey or perhaps he is from there himself. I must check as it was months ago. As for the butter, it’s too expensive and not always available in Israel, most bourekas bakeries use vegetable oil (such as Leon’s in Jaffa, for example).

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Jamie November 8, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Bourekas or knishes? Either way they look so delicious and once again you have me nostalgic for Israel! And a neurosurgeon? Too cute!

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Liz November 12, 2011 at 3:44 am

So nice when people share their secrets. I wonder if he considers them bulemas or burekas — my family was always firmly convinced that burekas were made of a more solid dough, not filo.

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Sarah November 12, 2011 at 8:01 am

Liz, Good question. He calls them bourekas but perhaps that is what his customers recognize. They could easily be bulemas (or boyus) by the shape of them.

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Sreifa November 15, 2011 at 2:33 am

Butter, oil, or margerine? You didn’t say…

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Sarah November 15, 2011 at 2:39 am

He uses vegetable oil

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Miriam Kresh December 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Loved this post, Sarah. Got to try them bourekas. Or bulemas. Whatever they’re called, they look wonderful.

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