The Saudi dates in the picture above are Ajwa (I think) and Barhi. Both are less soft and medium sweet, with Ajwa a prune-like chewy and Barhi a cookie-like crispy/chewy. Ajwa has prune-like notes to me, so that could be why I associated it with prune texture. Maybe sticky is a better description. When Barhi is at it’s best, it taste like caramel. The Khalasa is a favorite of many Arabs I know. It’s a medium sweet date with a soft texture (blanking on describing the sweetness notes at the moment.) Zahidi has low sweetness and a dry texture similar dry to Barhi; in my experience it’s preferred by those who find Barhi too toffee-like. Those are all the ones I know the names of.
When I want to taste all the notes in coffee or chocolate, I consume it first thing in the morning. My palate is never as keen later. I feel this is what makes dates so perfect to break a fast. You can really taste all the notes.
Most of the time these dates will be artificially hard because people won’t stop storing them in the refrigerator! (Yes, huge pet peeve of mine.)
Although dates are grown in Pakistan, they’re not as important a part of the culture as with Arab countries. I now say Deglet, not Deglet Noor, because I was once yelled at. I don’t remember what country this person was from (not Tunisia obviously), but it was about something like labeling a tomato grown in Spain as “San Marzano”. There’s also various grading systems.
Many varieties are now grown in California. As dates continue to grow in popularity, I expect to see more of these available across the US. Could dates possibly be the next big fruit trend, following in the footsteps of mango and avocado? One can only dream.
With Medjools, we will often pit the dates, trying to keep it intact as possible, and fill with nut/filling combos. Almond (sliver) and unsweetened whip cream is a crowd favorite: chewy, crunchy, and creamy. My personal preference is almond and unsweetened shredded coconut. Pistachio is good, too.
My favorite dates are the two Saudi dates shown in the picture above, with a slight edge to Barhi.
Sadly for us food lovers, as Saudi Arabia grants more and more visas, the varieties with less general appeal are harder to find. I haven’t seen many varieties in over a decade. I’m sure those must still be available somewhere for locals. I used to see a lot more dates that were golden/brown in color.