Decades-long Quest for Levantine Pudding

Mouhalabieh (pic by Patricia latelierdescouleurs on Pinterest)

The summer after my high school graduation I went to Israel to do unskilled labour on an archaeological excavation. Reading a guide book I found mention of a Near Eastern dessert pudding called mouhalabieh, “delicacy”. I asked for it at a couple of restaurants, but no luck. One Jerusalem café owner laughed and pointed to the ads in a newspaper for porn movie theatres in Tel Aviv, “There’s your mouhalabieh!”.

The memory floated up from deep storage the other day, and I googled for recipes. Turns out that I have kind of made mouhalabieh / muhallebi / malabi many times already. It’s simply sweetened milk thickened with starch: blancmangé or maizenapudding in Swedish. What mainly differentiates the Near Eastern version from the Northern European one is that it’s flavoured with rosewater and / or orange blossom, and topped with chopped nuts.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

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