What to expect at an Israeli butcher
Coming from Australia, I’m used to buying raw meat packed in trays at the supermarket, lined up and ready to be picked up. They have labels specifying the quantity and how much they cost, and the whole process is very simple – decide what you want, pick it up and put it in the basket.
Of course it is done differently in Israel, like many, many other things! In Israel you need to go to the butchers to buy meat, or the butchers counter in the supermarket, and actually talk! In Hebrew!
After being vegetarian for a few weeks, I finally decided to brave the butcher. The experience was far more involved than I’d expected!
I walked into the butchers near our apartment armed with the sentence I wanted to say written down carefully in Hebrew.
“I want half a kilogram of chicken breast | Ani rotsa khezi kilo shel haze off | אני רוצה חצי קילו של חזה עוף”
I get to the counter, and there is no carefully displayed meat with little price tags on them. Oh no. There is some meat at the counter, and there is a blackboard to the side where there is lists of cuts and prices. But I of course can’t read that!
I reached the counter and stammered out what I wanted to say. The butcher responded in English.
“Ok, how many people is it for?
“Well four people….” I responded, wondering where this was going. Why is the butcher asking me questions?
“That’s not enough for four people, you need more than that!”, says Mr. Butcher. Err, ok then. I’m not used to being told what I need from the butcher… I’m the customer, I know best! I do not need to be told how to cook thank you very much!
“800g is better”, he said. Israelis always have an opinion.
“Ok, 800g then”, I relent, not so happy that I’m buying more, but trying to be Israeli and go with the flow…
“And how do you want it cut? Is it for schnitzels?” says Mr. Butcher. Now I’m very put off. This guy is trying to up-sell some raw chicken, and now is going to cut the meat for me. What? This never happens in Australia or the UK! I always cut my own meat! But I try to go with the flow…
“It’s for a stir fry”, I say.
“You want stripes?” says Mr. Butcher. I’m confused. Then remember that Israelis will often say stripes instead of strips when they speak English, a cute mistake I’ve grown to like now!
“Yes, strips”, I saw, just thankful that this whole confusing episode is almost over.
The butcher weighs out 800g of chicken breast. Then puts in on a cutting board, where he carefully cuts off all the fat, and cuts it beautifully into strips with a very sharp knife, puts it onto a tray, wraps it in plastic, and hands it to the cashier. It wasn’t expensive, as chicken is only about 35 shekels a kilo here.
But it was quite an experience!
That evening, all the chicken was eaten by the four people, just like the butcher said. Israelis eat more than Australians, I’m reminded. And it was quite lovely to have the meat already cut for me – a service that I’m quite used to now!
I’ve learned since then that our local butcher is quite a gourmet butcher, with top quality meat and swarms of regular customers. I always go back to this butcher now because the meat is always good, and I like watching how tenderly the butcher cuts the meat! (It’s Basar Netto | בשר נטו, on Yehuda Maccabi near Ibn Gvirol. Thanks for letting us take the photos!).
Essential vocab for the Israeli butcher
butcher | katsav | קצב
chicken breast | khaze of | חזה עוף
chicken thigh | kraa-im | כרעיים
chicken pieces | khatikhot of | חתיכות עוף
chicken leg | re-gel shel of | רגל של עוף
with skin| im or | עם עור
without skin | bli or | בלי עור
beef | basar | בשר
steak | stek |סטייק
lamb | tale | טלה
chunks | kubiyot | קוביות
minced/ground meat | basar takhun | בשר טחון
strips | retsuot | רצועות
If you want to buy your fruit and vegetables to go with your meat, read Want to go to the market | shuk | שוק? Here is the essential vocabulary!
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