Photograph by Michael Kaminer.
Cultural appropriation is a white hot topic in today’s internet-rage culture. Sometimes, the rage is really important and other times it sort of misses the point.
Israel has gotten a lot of that beef from those who say it’s unfairly staked claims to foods that are really the cultural property of Arabs.
“Hummus is not Israeli! Falafel is not Israeli!” some say. That’s usually followed by some variation of: “Well, it figures. When Israel isn’t appropriating land, it’s appropriating food.”
I’ll leave the politics for another column. But when it comes to hummus, falafel and yes, even possibly sachlav, I will say they are Israeli.
They’re also Lebanese. And Syrian. And Palestinian.
They’re all of the above — and there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that.
Sachlav, a hot drink that is to Israel what hot chocolate is here. Photograph courtesy of Mighty Pie.
Israel’s most popular winter drink has become a hit with New Yorkers — thanks to an Ecuadorian chef and a little love from The New York Times.
Mighty Pie, a tiny stall in Union Square Park that specializes in the filled pastries called boreks, is the latest place in the Big Apple where you can savor sachlav, the thick milk-based drink that is to Israel what hot chocolate is stateside.
Not surprisingly, Mighty Pie is owned by an Israeli, restaurateur Simon Oren, who floated the idea of serving sachlav to his team. But it’s chef Mario Urgiles who adapted a traditional sachlav recipe, sourced out kosher ingredients, and designed Mighty Pie’s realer-than-real presentation of the creamy drink, which is traditionally made with orchid tubers, called sahlab in Arabic.
“We get kosher sachlav powder straight from Israel,” Urgiles told the Forward. “The powder’s cornstarch with dried orchid root. We prepare it in-house with hot milk and hot water, then finish it with orange blossom. I add just a little vanilla. Then we serve it with coconut flakes, cinnamon powder, chopped pistachios and raisins.”
A mug of warm apple cider, a glass of mulled wine, or a cup of hot chocolate is the perfect thing to take off the chill as the air gets nippy and sometimes coming in from the cold isn’t quite enough to warm us up. But what do Israelis – in a country that historically doesn’t grow cocoa beans and doesn’t cook much with apples or wine – drink when the weather turns (albeit later in the season)?
Sachlav, sahlab, salep, or saloop (depending upon where you are) is the quintessential warm winter drink of the region and is particularly popular in Israel. A thick milk-based drink traditionally made with orchid tubers called sahlab in Arabic, its preparation varies from country to country. Some recipes call for orange blossom or rose water, while others add coconut and cinnamon or nuts and raisins. In Israel it is usually made into a thick but drinkable substance, while in other countries like Turkey, where it is called salep, it can be thickened into a sweet pudding that must be eaten with a spoon.