Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sahlab in a Snowy City

A cold, quiet weekend with nothing much on TV but reruns, I was reminded of one of my all-time favourite quotables: "It's frickin' freezing in here, Mr. Bigglesworth!"

Indeed, it is mid-January and this is Canada, but sub-zero temperatures are rare for Vancouver, where snow is for the mountains and rain is for the city.  Nevertheless, a cold night such as it is gives me the perfect chance to have one of my favourite cold-night drinks: sahlab.

First, it's pronounced sahhh-lab. It's not a French word, so the 'h' is not silent, so really aspirate that letter. Go on, try it.......not bad, but you'll get the hang of it.

Second, sahlab is a sweet-spiced, milky Middle-Eastern beverage that is the hot chocolate in any given souq or khan. It may not replace a Timmy's double-double any day soon, but I think it is well worth a try.

Third, sahlab is relatively easy to make. I'm sure any Middle-East specialist store would carry pre-mix sahlab, but that's just as silly as pre-mix pancakes; it's not that hard to blend a starch with a liquid. In the case of sahlab, start by heating 1 cup of milk over medium-heat.  Separately, combine 1 tsp of cornstarch and 2tsp sugar in a small cup. To this, add about 1 - 2 tbsp of milk, stirring the milk into the powder to form a smooth liquid paste. To this,  add 1/2 tsp of cardamom, 1 tsp cinamon,  and 2 tbsp ground pistaschios, and some more milk if needed. Just as the milk starts to bubble, stir in the starchy milk mixture and continue to stir until the milk thickens. Serve warm, and feel free to add raisins. Better yet, a touch of kahlua makes any warm drink even warmer; the coffee notes are a great pair with the powerful flavour of cardamom.

Come to think of it, that earlier sentence comparing pre-mix sahlab and pancake mixes is rather ironic; the first time I had sahlab was with pancakes in Cairo's Khan al-Khalili, but that's another story...

1 comment:

  1. I know this is a year old post, but if I can find it, someone else might. So.. I tried the above and it came close, but it s not te same. The flavor of Sahlab comes from the tubers of the orchid genus Orchis These tubers contain a nutritious starch-like polysaccharide called glucomannan, which gives it it's flavor. ( I am not that smart, I looked it up). So untill I find that starch on the shelves, I will continue to use the mix.I also want to try to make a sahlab pancake.