Please don't joke with me about bourekas...
If you’ve spent any time in Israel, then you know what a boureka is. Cheap and handheld, these flaky pastries served for at least a quarter of the meals which I ate during Year Course. While the enjoyment of bourekas is a point of unity for Israelis and Jews worldwide, the choice of fillings inside of them have regularly been a point of contention. Israeli’s are so serious about these baked goods that there’s even a law regulating their shape. So next time you’re in a debate about the best boureka flavour, make sure to reference the conclusive hierarchy which I’ve composed below.
Admittedly, there aren’t many bourekas which I don’t enjoy. While cheese filling was my entry into the boureka game, the awe and shine that it once had has now almost dissipated. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll enjoy that tart Bulgarian cheese middle if it’s given to me for free, but only the most idiotic individuals will put this basic bourekah in their paper bag at the bakery. Their triangular shape might be considered the platonic form of the boureka, but its time has come and gone, crushed by the pressure of the new flavours in town. Also, what has always irritated me about the 3-sided cheese boureka is that I have never laid witness to one that has a right angle.
Placing above cheese is the mushroom boureka. When a mushroom boureka hits the mark, it can compete with any of its opponents, but I take issue with the consistency with which they pack that punch. I have had far more disappointing ones than I have good ones, but those which are memorable stand out to such an extent that I am always searching for that next great mushroom boureka. The issue I take with most that I’ve had is the poor quality of mushrooms, coming drained out of a can, chewy and bland; I find this frankly insulting. Though if all of them were like the ones that hold a part of my heart, then surely mushroom would be pushing for the top spot as the best filling.
Potato used to be at the dead bottom of my list, but over time I’ve come to appreciate the intricacies of a hearty brick-like potato boureka. The smooth paste inside the pastry has to be properly seasoned, but the reason why I rate the potato boureka as highly as I do is because of its purity. If you want to investigate the quality of the baker’s pastry, then potato is definitely the way to go. The potato is the blank canvas that highlights its oft overlooked robes of dough, and for that I have the utmost respect.
Spinach gets my silver medal. The texture of wilted bitter greens juxtapose its crispy crust, but what is most crucial to the spinach’s success is its liquid. The juices which are naturally created from this filling compliment the eating experience of an otherwise dry boureka, making it easily the best pareve choice. I get that this might be a rogue pick, but to those of you who still cower in fear at the mere scent of a cruciferous vegetable, I say ho hum. It’s the connoisseur’s favourite and the reason why your elderly family members pick spinach isn’t only because its easier on their denchers, its because the hidden beauty of these bitter bourekas is a taste that only comes with wisdom. While I consider myself rather wise, my final pick unabashedly barges into spinach’s canapé party with a keg full of Budweiser and a beer bong in tow…
Pizza bourekas have my whole heart. Punchy tomato purée, melted yellow cheese – I refer to it as yellow because as far as I can tell this mozzarella-cheddar hybrid is of unknown origins – and maybe some black olives too if you’re up for it. In all the pizza inspired imitations: pizza bagels, pizza crisps, pizza knots, pizza chips, pizza matzah, pizza pita’s etc, there are none which embody the renowned flavour of this legendary food item, without you wishing that you were eating an actual pizza; other than a pizza boureka that is. Exhibit A: pizza bagels have a bread dough bottom the same as a pizza, delicious yes, but unique it is not. Exhibit B: pizza crisps (i.e. Pringles and Bisli) are so intrinsically different to a pizza that their flavour is inspired by the pizza, instead of intending to make the crisps taste like an actual pizza. Exhibit C: pizza bourekas have the same naturally stunning flavour as a pizza would, except the pastry crust mixes up the recipe just enough to make them good in their own right. I must also herald the architecture of the pizza boureka before I finish my tirade. The dough’s laid flat, ingredients placed atop it, and then rolled into a log and sliced into swirls. This mastermind technique exposes the cheese and tomato inner, forcing it to bubble and brown into the intense bark that solidifies atop the pastry as it cools. This is the epicentre of the pizza roll’s unabashed intensity. I’ve known people who physically unwind these bourekas into their mouth like a yo yo, but I prefer to take 3 equal bites to the middle of the swirl so that I receive an essence of every layer’s character. The outside is the most crisp and rendered, the middle layer delicate and light, and then there’s the naughty core of dough that serves its role as the sponge for all fats produced in the birth of this baking beauty. A pizza boureka is no less than a concentric symphony.
Disagree with my opinions? Head over to to this one question poll to tell me what the best boureka flavour truly is...