What is jallab?
Jallab is a refreshing drink that is very popular in Middle Eastern countries. It is made from molasses or date syrup to which water is added, rose water and sometimes pine nuts and raisins.
Jallab is both the name of the drink and the manufactured syrup with which it is prepared. With a bottle of store-bought jallab usually containing molasses of dates, rose water, sugar and food coloring, you can prepare a large amount of jallab (this time the drink) by just adding water.
How to make jallab
In the past, jallab was prepared from the dibis (also called halek). To make this syrup, you should clean dates and soak them for several hours before boiling them. The cooking juice is then filtered through a cheesecloth and left in trays that were once placed on the roofs of houses.
Exposed to the sun, the juice can become concentrated and a dense and golden syrup. This process can be replaced by reducing the juice while cooking it, until it has the right consistency. Today, these syrups are made industrially in large quantities.
Jallab is prepared very easily by mixing water with jallab syrup. It is usually taken with six or seven doses of water for one syrup dose. You can add crushed ice, rose syrup and garnish the drink with raisins or pine nuts.
If you want to smoke the jallab, you have to place a teaspoon of powdered musk on a piece of incense, light it and pass the glasses over the smoke so that they are perfectly immersed in the fragrance of the incense. The drink will then be served directly in these glasses in front of the guests.
In stores, a lot of jallab are ready to use and already contain rose syrup, in this case it is not necessary to add any.
Jallab is served with a small spoon to easily eat dried fruits and a straw to not be bothered by ice or suspended pine nuts.
What is the origin of jallab?
The Bene Israel Jews (the Jews of India) as well as those of Baghdad used it formerly as haroset (or charoset) for Passover. It also replaced the sugar, too expensive and difficult to obtain.
Date palms have been cultivated since the Mesopotamian era in the Middle East, their consumption is regular and if the dates are generally consumed as they are, they are also found in many pastries, in stuffings for poultry as described by Ibn al-Adim (1192-1260) in his work al Wusla. Its consumption in the form of syrup is however not attested as early in history.
What are the other versions and variants of jallab?
If jallab is traditionally made from date molasses, there are also preparations based on grape or carob molasses.
In some countries in the Middle East, jallab is smoked with Arabic incense just before serving.
It is usually garnished with pine nuts and grapes, but pistachios, cashews, almonds and nuts are often added. Generally small ramekins are made available to guests who can garnish their jallab as they please.
Among the Jews of Iraq, jallab or dibis (its raw form) is used to prepare a specialty called shalgham helu. It is a turnip confit directly into the syrup which then take a beautiful amber tint. Formerly in Baghdad, these turnips were easily found at street vendors.
In India, halek (or date honey) is often scented with star anise.
Jallab can also be used to flavor natural yoghurt or ice cream, it can also be used in pastry as any syrup.
You can also replace the water with fresh milk and even use it to make an ice cream with date syrup.
It can also be used to marinate meat, or vinaigrette to flavor a salad.
- 3 tablespoons Jallab syrup (date, grape or carob molasses)
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 1 teaspoon golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- Crushed ice
- Pour the jalab syrup into a large glass, cover with cold water and mix.
- Add crushed ice.
- Garnish the drink with raisins and pine nuts.
- Serve immediately.