You haven’t fully explored Westchester’s ethnic food scene until you’ve been to Al Rayyan in Yonkers, an Arab market that opened in 2013. The three brothers who own it were tired of traveling to New Jersey to find foods their families craved, so now county residents can find things like canned ful medames (an Egyptian fava bean dish), Nabulsi cheese studded with black caraway seeds, and pita bread paved with za’atar, to be slathered with labneh, a thick yogurt cheese-what a combination!
Al Rayyan in Yonkers houses many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean products you’d have a hard time finding elsewhere.
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The dairy section.
Hookah much? Even if the answer is no, the dazzling, colorful mother lode of hookahs here, along with an array of tea sets, platters, bangles, baubles, and beads, provide an exotic backdrop for your hummus run.
A deli on one side of the store means there’s warm food and sandwiches in your future. A dairy section offers uncommon cheeses (akkawi) and many brands of labneh and ayran (a yogurt drink), and then spills over into cold cuts—all halal (prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary law), as is everything in the store. Halal meat is of the essence here, and you’ll find everything from fresh meat, frozen quail, and special-order holiday platters to a formidable selection of luncheon loaves—otherwise known as SPAM.
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The aisles of Al Rayyan.
Approach the deli, where an artful platter of grilled vegetables awaits. There’s no printed menu at the moment, so have what others are having: a hummus and veggie or shawarma wrap (if you want to order in advance, they’re on grubHub). While you wait, there’s no missing the barrels of sesame cookies and biscuits in front of you—do throw a few in your bag—and explore aisles of halvahs, sesame and nut crunches, unusual fruit leathers, roasted squash and melon seeds, and Turkish delights and nougats, many available by the piece (try the coconut-coated fig). Also look for piÅŸmaniye , a Turkish cotton-candy-like confection, in flavors such as pistachio, rose petal preserves, carob molasses, and the grape syrup pekmez, most famously used in the Turkish dip tahin pekmez (sometimes referred to as Turkish peanut butter and jelly): pekmez on one side of the plate, tahini on the other, swirled together in a pretty pattern and served with bread at breakfast.
785 Central Park Ave
(914) 200-5666; facebook.com/AlRayyanMarket