Malabi: Middle East in a Cup

Malabi is one of those desserts that tastes like the Middle East. Originating from Turkey, and spreading throughout the region, you can find variations on this now throughout the globe. And let’s be honest--while we love this layered, nuanced, rich part of the world, it can be a bit much if you overdo it.

Take that as a cue when you first eat malabi. Savor each bite of its flan-like texture by getting a balanced bite between the top sweet layers and the less sweet bottom custard layer.

The aptly named HaMalabiya is our fave for a place to try the dish. The four branches (and expanding) friendly, laid-back malabi experts offer both vegan and dairy options. Pour some candy-pink rosewater over the malabi and then choose from toppings like coconut or cookie crumbs. You’ll be offered thimbles of Turkish coffee--an excellent contrast to the dessert’s sweetness.

(HaMalabiya, multiple locations in TLV including the Jaffa Flea Market and Allenby 61)

Here’s how to create some of that delicious Middle Eastern flavor yourself:

Coconut Cream Malabi (Vegan Version of the Traditional Dish) 

2 cups coconut milk

½ cup sugar

2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon rose or orange blossom water

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

2 ounces crushed or chopped nuts, to taste

Desiccated coconut

Pomegranate molasses, thinned with a little water

In a small saucepan combine the coconut milk, ground cardamom and sugar. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the cornstarch and water until well combined. While continuously stirring, add the cornstarch slowly to the saucepan. Over medium heat continue stirring until the pudding thickens. May take 3 to 5 minutes. Mix in the rose water and then pour or ladle into 4 small bowls. Allow to cool before refrigerating. When ready to serve, top with layer of pomegranate molasses (or silan), desiccated coconut, and ground nuts.