When the weather starts getting a bit chilly, I start craving a hot Sahlab drink. It reminds me of my childhood when my mum used to warm us up with some of this deliciously fragrant hot milky drink. My siblings and I would all sit next to each other, cover ourselves with a blanket and wait for “Sahlab” to be served . Emm !! good old days.
This drink takes its name from the ground orchid roots used to thicken it. Those roots are dried then ground to a fine powder and could be easily found in middle eastern stores some times called mixed business stores. By the way , these type of stores sell anything and everything inside. like it’s not a joke, and they are not necessarily very organised. You could spend so much time in there if you don’t exactly know what you want. So I advice you to walk to the guy behind the counter first and ask him for some directions. I warned you!
Anyway, this Sahlab powder was also used as a thickening agent to make a traditional ice-cream which has this unique texture and unusual elasticity. It’s more popular in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. I remember trying one of these on a street in the heart of Istanbul, a couple of years ago, and the guy selling the ice-cream was putting up a show for the tourists while scooping it, it stretched so much that it looked like he was playing with melted mozzarella! lol
Sahlab could be found as pure ground orchid root powder like the one I am using in this recipe, or sometimes found as instant Sahlab sachets mixed with other ingredients such as vanilla, cinnamon or sugar. The latter are usually ready ones that you just dissolve in milk and drink. So make sure you are using the pure Sahlab before you follow this recipe, otherwise you might end up with doubling up on ingredients. You don’t want that!
There are only 2 tablespoons of sugar in the recipe which is not much for a 2 and a half cups of milk, but I personally prefer it “not too sweet”, only because I think the sweetness masks a bit of the “Sahlab” taste which I love. I could even have it with no sugar at all but that’s just me. Anyhow, when you serve it with dates, you don’t really need it to be too sweet.
Also the number of tablespoons of ground “Sahlab” can vary according to the type you are buying, so if there are instructions on the packet on how much to add to milk, then follow them, if not then the recipe below should work perfectly for you.
Sahlab is best served while it is ‘piping’ hot with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, which adds this instant fragrance and warmth to this drink! I like to serve it with dried dates, some pistachios and shredded coconut on the side so that people can add some more flavours and texture to their drink if they wish. These are the traditional additions, but I can’t see anything wrong with replacing pistachios with some roasted hazelnuts, or dates with sultanas or dried figs, for example.
Here’s the recipe.
Enjoy and stay warm in winter with this delicious drink/dessert.
- 600 mls (2 and 1/2 cups of full cream milk) plus 1/4 a cup extra.
- 1/2 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract liquid or alternatively half a teaspoon of vanilla powder.
- 3 tablespoons pure finely ground orchid root "sahlab"
- 1 tablespoon corn flour (corn starch).
- 2 tablespoons of a granulated raw form of sugar (I used coconut sugar).
- 1 table spoon of shredded coconut.
- Cinnamon powder for dusting.
- Pistachio and extra shredded coconut.
- Prepare your serving plate with cups, dates.
- To a saucepan add the milk and stir on low heat till sugar dissolve completely.
- Add vanilla and leave for a min on low heat.
- In a small bowl, mix the Sahlab powder with 1/4 cup of milk and stir until dissolved then add the corn flour and stir again to form a smooth paste making sure there are no lumps.
- Add a little bit of the hot milk to the paste and stir, then pour the paste mixture into the saucepan and whisk vigorously on low heat to avoid any lumps, keep whisking until the milk reaches boiling point keep whisking for a couple of seconds.
- The mixture should start to thicken, now turn heat off, then add the shredded coconut.
- Stir again gently, and immediately pour into prepared cups, dust each cup with cinnamon on top and drink while hot.