Sachlav Rose Water Pudding

Written by chanie on May 12th, 2013

Sachlav (also pronounced sahlab, salep, or saloop) is a popular warm winter drink in the Middle East. Even though I spent an entire year living in Israel, this light rose water pudding made it past me somehow and my first taste of it was actually in a restaurant in Brooklyn, named Bissale. I was reminiscing about my Bissale experiences in this recent post, and the fragrant rose water drink just came back to me.

I thought a rose water scented pudding would be the perfect way to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, when Jews commemorate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. It is told that Mount Sinai was covered in roses at the time the Torah was received, so many communities have a custom to decorate their homes and synagogues (as well as Torah scrolls) with roses. Persian Jews even refer to this holiday as the Feast of the Roses and in some Sephardic synagogues, it is customary to sprinkle rose water on the congregants.

Rose water, which is made by steeping and distilling fresh rose petals in water, is featured in many Sephardic desserts and pastries. It can be purchased at most Middle Eastern and specialty food stores.

Sachlav was traditionally made with ground orchid tubers called sahlab. The tubers of the orchid were dried and ground up to create a fragrant powder that thickens the milk into a pudding. Nowadays, cornstarch, which is cheaper and easier to find, is used to thicken the drink. Sachlav is usually finished with a touch of orange blossom or rose water, but some prefer to forgo the fragrant waters and garnish it with coconut, cinnamon and/or nuts and raisins.

Sachlav is usually served in the winter, like a Middle Eastern hot chocolate. Personally, I have a weakness for hot pudding (I always eat chocolate pudding boiling hot, right out of the pot) so I’m good eating it all year long. If you prefer a cold pudding, you can set the sachlav in the fridge, and serve it up like traditional malabi.

So what’s malabi? It’s a cold rose-water-scented milk pudding, that is pretty similar to sachlav, except it’s usually garnished with raspberry syrup and pistachios. If you’d like to turn this recipe into malabi, simply pour into serving glasses, let cool and then refrigerate until set. You might want to garnish it with my strawberry rhubarb compote for a seasonal garnish that would compliment the rose water really well.

1 year ago: pesto & goat cheese crostini
2 years ago: sundried tomato olive tapenade

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16 Comments so far ↓

  1. Hindy says:

    I’ve never had sachlav or malabi. This looks delicious! We often use our bottle of rose water as bsamim, but I really want to cook with it. This looks fantastic.

  2. This is just beautiful in how it looks and how it sounds, must give it a try!

  3. Ronnie Fein says:

    Beautiful! And another wonderful excuse to use my rosewater. I’ve never had this.

  4. Dina says:

    this sounds lovely!

  5. Vicky says:

    I love Sahlab, it reminds me of my childhood. Rose water give it a luxurious feel…

  6. Such an elegant take on a drink that I think of as a shuk-classic. You’ve really elevated this one!

  7. they always have this at engagement parties! now i know how to make it myself.

  8. What a beautiful tradition to go with a beautiful recipe.

  9. I had this once when visiting my now husband in Israel when he was there for school and we both talk about it all the time, but still have not made it. I am starting to see more recipes for it abound so I got to get on it.

  10. Such an interesting recipe. I’ve never had anything with rose water before.

  11. As always the pictures are stunning! This drink sounds like the essence of elegance.

  12. I love sachlab- At one time the synagogue served it in the mornings and thats what got my son up to go to shul! Now I make hime dairy free almond milk sahlab- its delicious! Gorgeous picture!!

  13. So lovely! I would love to try this one day!

  14. I’ve never heard of sachlab but I do have a bottle of rose water in my pantry…

  15. E Cohen says:

    This looks beautiful. Do you know how long it keeps in the fridge, when served cold (malabi)?

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