Arts & Culture

The Arab Answer To Hot Chocolate Hits New York

The Arab Answer To Hot Chocolate Hits New York


It has been revealed that Arabs across the Middle East have been drinking a warm, thick drink with Israeli roots. At least that is what one journalist claimed in his review of sahlab.

Social media users have reacted angrily after claims by a website that sahlab is ‘Israel’s answer to hot chocolate’.

The poorly researched article claims that sahlab is “a hot drink that is to Israel what hot chocolate is” in New York City.

The article reviews one Israeli restauranteur’s introduction of “sachlav” in New York and consistently refers to the popular Arab drink’s ‘Israeli’ roots.

What the writer, Michael Kaminer, failed to recognize was that sahlab’s roots date back to before Israel was created as a state.

The hot drink, normally consumed in winter, was first introduced across the Middle East by the Ottoman Empire. In fact, a popular myth states that the name ‘sahlab’ is derived from the Arabic expression ‘hasyou al-thaalab’, which in English translates to ‘fox testicles’.

Despite this expression, sahlab is actually derived from the tubers of orchids which are dried and grounded up into flour. The drink was first popular in the Levantine region and Egypt, particularly during winter. The sweet, thick and delicious drink’s popularity spread to the extent that it was introduced in England and Germany before tea and coffee became everyday drinks.

It appears however some people are willing to ignore the drink’s deep-rooted Ottoman and Arab history. Because, in the end, would Americans read an article titled ‘The Arab Answer to Hot Chocolate Hits New York’?

A recipe for all those sahlab lovers!


Today, as it is difficult to find sahlab powder outside the Middle East, cornstarch is used as an alternative. Here is a recipe for all you sahlab lovers hoping to make it at home!

The Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of milk
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of rose water
  • 1 tablespoons of sahlab powder or 2.5 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped pistachios
  • Ground cinnamon on the top

The steps:

  1. Mix the powder with a few table spoons of milk.
  2. Place milk in saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Pour in the powder mixture and stir in with the milk, ensure heat is on low.
  4. Stir continuously until milk thickens (7-10 minutes normally)
  5. Stir in the sugar and rose water.
  6. Transfer to a cup, place pistachios, cinnamon on top.

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  • Daniel P

    Yes, it is the hot chocolate of Israel. Israelis never “claimed” this drink, but of course there is an Israeli style, just like Gyros vs. Shawarmas. Half of Israelis have parents from Arab countries, so it’s natural that Israeli cuisine would be influenced by this fact.

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  • MWnyc

    “Because, in the end, would Americans read an article titled ‘The Arab Answer to Hot Chocolate Hits New York’?”

    We most certainly would.

    The readers of The Forward (where the article being complained about here was published) probably wouldn’t read it, since that is explicitly a Jewish and pro-Israeli publication.

    But the readers of, for instance, New York magazine and its website? No question they’d check such an article out.

    In fact, if I saw a link to the headline ‘The Arab Answer to Hot Chocolate Hits New York’, my first guess would be that it came from New York magazine’s food blog, Grub Street.

    • MWnyc

      P.S. – Can one make sahlab with some flavoring other than rose water? I’ve never much liked that flavor.

  • Siro

    It’s just shallow reporters doing shallow reporting, on stuff that happen to be common in Israel (due to 25% Arabs, and another 40% Jews who descended from Arab countries).

    No Jewish Israeli that I know considers this to be an original invention (same goes for Hummus, Fool, Shawarma, Falafel, Shakshuka, Tahini, Arab Salad etc). All Israeli cookbooks correctly identify those as originally Arab/Turkish/Egyptian/Palestinian.

    So allegations of ‘appropriation’ on some of the comments are based on animosity, with little basis.

    • kefrin

      Thank you Siro….a voice of reason.

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  • Hnseatic

    Sahlab is a tasty dish and I like it no matter where it comes from. Italian pasta is yummy too and nobody cares that it originated in China – less of all the Chinese who have no reason to be afraid of “theft of culture” by other cultures. Using the term “theft of culture” indicates first of all fear which is the root of hate. Whoever has a sound self esteem is not afraid but rather proud to share his culture with others. Think about it when you listen next time to an Italian opera performed by the Cairo opera orchestra and enjoy a glass of tea (origin: China) afterwards

  • neni

    Actually, in Turkish it is Sahlep, and you can buy it in boxes in Turkish markets.

  • Stephen James Richard Rodda

    Grounded up?

  • Arthur C. Hurwitz

    I have heard about Sahlab in Israel before but I had assumed, obviously, that it was initially an Egyptian thing
    . I associate Sahlab with Egypt primarily…

  • jillian1959

    All of the problems in the world and you are fighting over who started this drink? First of all, though Israel is a modern state, Jews have had roots there for over 3,000 years. Regardless….who really can “prove” where this drink originated? I believe we can share the origins of this….by doing so, we can look at our commonalities. We come from the same place, share many of the same rituals, similar language, and yes, food!

    • Selma Salih Al Maria

      Oh please Zionists have taken food from Eastern Europe, Russia, South America, Middle East appropriated it to Israel and now everything has Israeli roots except Jews themselves ….I am so funny I crack myself up but this is a good one 🙂 hahahahah

      • jillian1959

        I don’t deny the roots of others…why do you feel the need to deny mine?

        • Kareem Gamal

          Because most Israelis have nothing to do with the middle east as most of them immigrated from Europe and other parts of the world, Any cultural claim by Jews in the middle east is originating from the MIDDLE EAST not the religion and certainly not from Israel..

          • jillian1959

            Actually, we migrated to both Europe and other areas in the Middle East, including Spain, when we were expelled from ancient Israel. But that takes an open mind to learn our history. I wish you some enlightenment. Shalom/Salam.

          • PentosSun

            We all also migrated from Africa. So let’s all move back there.

          • Kareem Gamal

            You’re talking about something that happened in BC. I hardly believe that you can relate yourself to such deep roots, there’s no shame in that. I can’t claim that I originate from the ancient egyptians, our history is full of invasions from the Ottoman empire to the brits and french. There’s no way I’m an original Egyptian.

            I still believe that something as simple as a drink that originated in the middle east, it makes it middle eastern and not specifically Israel, if you believe that your people were the ones that made it (or anything from the middle east in that matter) then please show me how Jews spread their culture in Europe when they immigrated, were they the ones that shared music, science, food or art in Europe?!

            What books that was translated from Israeli figures/philosophers during that time that I could refer to? I’d love to learn more about different cultures, but for everything middle eastern I never found an Israeli mark.

          • Ikhwanii Extincticus

            and you won’t find an Israeli mark. That’s why they employ millions to spread their lies. That’s why they own the worlds media.

        • Selma Salih Al Maria

          I did not deny anything but I am a history professor so if you want to talk history with me you better be well equipped. No one is denying Jewish heritage and presence throughout the Middle East for centuries but you are unable to properly answer my comment so you accuse me of denial.

          • jillian1959

            Israel is the birthplace of us as a people and as a nation. If you are a history professor, surely you know this. As for our mark on the world, open your eyes. We are Jews, the nation of Israel. That’s our lineage, period. As for owning the world’s media…sheesh. This shows your complete ignorance. Kareen Gamal, I invite you to read the work of the 12th century sage. Thank you for even asking. Maimonides.

          • nyishtar

            Actually, Judaism was created in Iraq, not in Israel.

          • Minymina

            I’m sorry but Judaism is a religion. You cannot say Israel is your lineage. That would be like the Christians in Europe claiming they are descendants of ancient Christians in the Middle East.

          • Siro

            This is absolutely factually incorrect.
            Just like the Druze are a unique people with a unique religion, so are Jews.

            They also have clear genetic ties to the middle east:

            “”Ashkenazi Jews share more common paternal lineages with other Jewish and Middle Eastern groups than with non-Jewish populations in areas where Jews lived in Eastern Europe, Germany and the French Rhine Valley. This is consistent with Jewish traditions in placing most Jewish paternal origins in the region of the Middle East.””


          • Minymina

            Its a mainstream religion which many convert too.

          • Adam

            Your a khazar, do your research!

          • Selma Salih Al Maria

            Actually, Israel is not your birthplace but Caanan region is according to Torah. Israel was a promised land to people that is to Abraham as he was asked to believe and he left with his wife Sarai and his cousin who believed in One God. What does your lineage have to do with impact on the world… unless of course you are talking about genocide Zionists NOT Jewish people are committing against Palestinians.

      • Egyptian1922

        Exactly. Those Slavic/Germanic zionist imposters are everything but Israeli. They have nothing to do with the Middle East or its culture.

    • Olterigo

      Arabs haven’t invented anything in the last few hundred years. I think the Jews can leave them sahlab.

    • kefrin

      Bravo…hear her!

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Mohamed Khairat is the Founder of Egyptian Streets.

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