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A Hot Winter Drink From The Middle East


The first time I encountered saklep (also known as sachlav, sahlab, sachlab, salep and several more) was about 15 years ago visiting Israel during my school break.  My boyfriend was studying abroad in Jerusalem at Hebrew University and I was visiting for a week.  We spent the entire week eating our way through Israel (not much has changed, I was a foodie even then).  I remember my first kosher Kentucky Fried Chicken and kosher McDonald’s plus hidden gems like The Waffle Lady, who would hand out hot Belgian waffles from a storefront in Jerusalem that was the size of a walk-in closet.  But one of my most interesting food experiences that trip was discovering a hole in the wall in the Old City on a cold February afternoon where I ordered a hot Saklep.  It was a memory I will never forget.  Aromatic and soothing and filling with texture and a rich creaminess that I can still picture 15 years later.


I’m not sure why now, perhaps it was the cold temperatures that plunged New York City into a deep freeze a couple of weeks ago, but I finally decided to try and recreate the memory at home after seeing it appear in Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, and in addition to a delicious recipe I also learned that a chilled version is actually Malabi (which we already have on this site), so now I have a treat for the summertime.

Saklep is a popular winter drink throughout the Middle East with endless regional variations.  The main thickening agent should come from an orchid tuber and you can generally find it in the shuk, but for those of us in the diaspora, corn starch can be a pretty good substitute.

To make saklep, thicken your milk of choice. I use almond milk, mix in some rose water (some people also like orange blossom water), a little sugar and top with cinnamon, nuts and raisins to taste.  I even made a version with a tablespoon of pumpkin puree mixed in -- not so authentic, but delicious!

Here is my Saklep recipe, give it a try.