Once considered an aphrodisiac drink, true sahlab is now becoming rarer.
Sahlab, based on an increasingly rare orchid, is a popular winter drink all over the Levant, like hot almond milk. The tubers of Orchis macula are boiled, dried, then ground to a gray powder that, cooked in milk, makes a creamy drink something like a thin, hot malabi pudding (see our recipe for delicious malabi here).
Sahlab has been known since ancient times as a nutritious food for invalids and as medicine for gastric irritation. As the tubers are said to resemble fox testicles, it was considered an aphrodisiac. Easily made at home with powdered root sold in packages at open-air markets, we yet have to consider that Orchis macula is in danger of extinction. Is it ethical to buy real sahlab – even when you can get it? We think not. Although the nutritious – and who knows, maybe aphrodisiac – properties of the root won’t be present, you can make a drink that tastes just like the real thing out of cornstarch and flavorings. The secret’s in the rosewater.
“Sahlab” Winter Drink
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons rose water
2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, chopped fine
Cinnamon to sprinkle
Mix the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of the milk.
Bring the remaining milk and sugar to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the cornstarch mixture (stir to loosen up any starch that settled on the bottom).
Cook for 10 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly to keep lumps from forming.
Add the rose water, stir again, and serve in individual cups.
Scatter chopped pistachios over the surface of each cup; sprinkle with cinnamon.
Sip and enjoy!
More on natural aphrodisiacs on Green Prophet:
Photo of sahlab from Ginger and Tomato blog
Miriam Kresh also writes a food blog.