Going shopping at the Middle East Market

“Dang it.” I muttered.

After driving across Tulsa, fighting construction and traffic, I was staring at the dark “open” sign of Middle East Market (5459 S Mingo Rd, Tulsa, OK 74146). I looked at the hours of operation; they were supposed to be open another four hours!

Squinting my eyes, I peered through the tinted windows. Were those lights on? Holding my breath, I pulled on the door handle.  The door opened and a cheerful bell announced my entrance.

“I thought you were closed,” I said.

“We get that alot,” the young man behind the counter nodded, “Several times a day, actually.”

But I was already looking around, taking inventory. A case of Middle Eastern cheeses, drinks in arabic, beautiful persian teapots, glass teacups, spices, teas, syrups, pickled vegetables, several kinds of couscous. There was even a small rack of clothing.

The whole place smelled like toasted spices.

I walked in circles for a while, eying everything.

“I could use those glass tea cups and that giant tea pot for my Global Table dinners,” I thought, knowing full well that I couldn’t fit one more cup in my cabinets.

“Tea would fit!” I decided, and hurried over to that aisle. I stared blankly at the labels, half in arabic, half in english.  What to buy, what to buy?

I asked David, the young man who greeted me a few minutes earlier, for his advice. He cheerfully obliged and recommended Alwazah’s ceylon tea, stating it was not as bitter other brands. I took the box, grabbed a bag of lump sugar and checked out.

The key to shopping in an international foods store such as the Middle East Market is to ask lots of questions. You can learn alot from a local.

The Middle Eastern Market has been in Tulsa for 13 years. David’s father, Abdu Mohamad, took the small shop over 7 years ago.

Farmers Cheese etc
Dairy case
Hedysasum Water


      • Brian S. says

        the link just gives the address of 10 different places, including the IMAX theater, which is useless to me because the 3D glasses don’t work for me.

  1. I have always wanted to go wandering around in some of the ethnic markets we have in Tulsa but have always been slightly afraid to do so…..not sure why.

    • Lori says

      Don’t be afraid of these folks. I’ve known the family for more than a decade. They’re good people.

      Oh, and Sasha, try the cardamom tea from Sadaf. Thank me later. 😉

  2. aunty eileen says


    I think you are maybe leary Jenn because the shops can tend to be darker and more dreary some times than shops we are used to and the writing on the jars and boxes and tins is so foreign looking and without being able to read ingredients might make us feel uncomfortable.

    But go, I think they must speak english and they will speak with you and be nice… try it with a friend. It will be ok as long as you stay in a safe district of a town or city.

  3. aunty eileen says


    I found this interesting on ‘wiki’ so I will put here for reading while we wait for Sasha’s feast : )

    Middle Eastern cuisine or West Asian cuisine is the cuisine of the various countries and peoples of the Middle East (Western Asia). The cuisine of the region is diverse while having a degree of homogeneity. Some commonly used ingredients include olives and olive oil, pitas, honey, sesame seeds, sumac, chickpeas, mint and parsley. Some popular dishes include kibbeh and shawarma.

    History and influences
    The Middle East was where wheat was first cultivated, followed by barley, pistachios, figs, pomegranates, dates and other regional staples. Fermentation was also discovered here to leaven bread and make beer. As a crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa, this area has long been a hub of food and recipe exchange. During the Persian Empire (ca. 550–330 BCE) the foundation was laid for Middle Eastern food when rice, poultry and fruits were incorporated into their diets. Figs, dates and nuts were brought by Arabian warriors to conquered lands.

    These were only the first influences on the area. During Turkey’s Ottoman Empire the sweet pastries of paper thin phyllo dough and the dense, sweet coffee was brought to the area; coffee is now consumed throughout the Middle East.

    The area was also influenced by yoghurt from Russia; dumplings from Mongol invaders; turmeric, cumin, garlic and other spices from India; cloves, peppercorns and allspice from the Spice Islands; okra from Africa; and tomatoes from the New World, via the Moors of Spain. Religion has also changed the cuisine as neither Jews nor Muslims eat pork, making lamb the primary meat. In addition, the Qur’an forbids alcohol, so consequently the region is not generally noted for its wines.[1]

    Many Middle Eastern dishes are made with a paste called tahini. Tahini is a sesame paste made with hulled seeds, unlike its Asian counterpart. It is used to make such popular meze, or appetizers, as baba ghanoush and hummus along with pungent dipping sauces served with falafel, keftes or kofta and vegetables.[3] Hummus is made from chickpeas, which are staples of the diet.

    Aside from the ever-popular Middle Eastern coffee, there is also a popular alcoholic drink called arak. Arak has a high alcohol content, so water and ice is almost always added, producing the drink nicknamed “the milk of lions.”[4]

    In some areas in the Middle East, it is common for people to take their food from a common plate in the center of the table. Rather than employing forks or spoons, people may scoop up hummus and other foodstuff with pita bread. Among Muslims in particular, the left hand is reserved for bodily hygiene and considered unclean. Thus, the right hand should be used for eating; shaking hands or handing over an item with one’s left hand is an insult.


  4. Khadija says

    Jenn, of all the markets in Tulsa to wander around in, THIS is the place to start. All of the members of the family who owns the store speak fluent English. David and his wife are very friendly, and if you run into his parents there….well given the chance they might just talk your ear off! They are genuinely nice people, generous, funny, and as honest as you could ever hope to find. I go there frequently, driving from Stillwater past several other Middle Eastern markets just to do business with them.

    Yes, they do carry basmati rice, usually in the larger burlap-style bags. There are sometimes smaller bags on the shelf which can be harder to spot.

    Two things the blog post didnt mention are worth noting – the meat and the produce. They carry two kinds of meat – commercially packaged halal meat from companies like Midimar, and hand slaughtered hand butchered halal meat that is locally raised. If you call ahead, they can tell you what they have in stock in the local meat. If they don’t have what you want, they can tell you when the next meat delivery will be (usually every two weeks or so), and will cut to request. Everything is packaged neatly and frozen fresh – beef, lamb, and chicken in a variety of forms (including whole chickens).

    The produce area contains varieties you won’t likely find in the big box stores, like small Japanese eggplant or exotic varieties of citrus. Everything is really fresh. I’ve never seen a bad piece of fruit or vegetable in the bins…ever.

    And as for tea – next time you go back try the Sadaf cardamom tea. I’m addicted to the stuff!

  5. L'Abeille says

    OK now you’ve ruined me, instead of getting anything done this afternoon I am going to the Blue Olive and drool over their bulk jars of couscous and spices and preserved lemons and maybe even treat myself to some baklava..
    Our local store is staffed by Tunisians so I may have to trot out my French. When my fluent daughter and I visited she got chatting with the owner and he o=got us to try some Tunisian tea, oolong with more herbs and depth than the Moroccan mint I’m used to.

    • globaltable says

      Sounds like a perfectly fun afternoon to me! 🙂 Eat a piece of baklava for me … mmmm

  6. Abigail says

    hi sasha, I know this post is from a few years ago, but I just found it and I love it! I have been following your blog for so long. I’m fifteen and my parents always think it is so weird when I request thingsd like bulgar wheat be added to the grocery list, but they’ve grown accustomed 🙂 i blame this blog haha! I have always been so so so interested in the Middle East (I’m even learning Arabic!), and there is a Middle Eastern market near my house I really would like to visit, but to be honest, I’m a little scared! I don’t even know what I want to buy, and I’m afraid I’ll get more than a few stares! What do you think is the absolute first, most important thing to buy from a Middle Eastern market? I need a solid plan, a purpose, so I don’t look like I got lost on my way back from the chipotle next door. thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.