Last week I had this year's first taste of jallab - probably my favourite Middle Eastern drink - at a pre-Ramadan Iftar at The Address Dubai Marina. And perhaps like all things seasonal, the wait was definitely worth it.
Some consider this luscious drink a little sickly sweet. They could be forgiven as the drink does have its fair share of diabetes-inducing ingredients - grape mollases (sugar), dates (more sugar), golden raisins (still more sugar), laced with the cloyingly sweet taste of rose water. However, if watered down to the right level of lightness, topped with ice and a sprinkling of buttery pine nuts, the drink comes into its own and is the perfect accompaniment to the rich spread that characterises the Iftar meal in this part of the world.
For some reason the other Ramadan beverage staple Qamardeen, made from apricot puree, has always paled in comparison to the more exotic charms of jallab. And I expect this Ramadan will be no different.
The origin of jallab is believed to be quite ancient, predating the creation of sugar in crystallised form, when dates and grapes were often cooked down to create a mollases-like syrup that was used as a sweetening agent.
Today, commercially prepared jallab syrup is widely available within the Middle East and anywhere that's home to large populations originating from the Levant.
The drink - in the form it's most commonly encountered in this part of the world - is extremely simple to make, basically involving pouring the syrup over ice, diluting with water to taste and adding a spoonful of pine nuts (and sometimes golden raisins) before sipping the quenching result.
If you haven't yet tried it, this Ramadan may be a good time to start. Look out for the rosy, deep caramel-coloured drink at Iftar buffets and drink up!
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