Seasonal Sweets: Krembo and Sahlab

Seasonal sweets are usually tied to the holidays in Israel. We only see sugfaniyot in Hanukkah time, Hamentaschen in Purim time. So what are these two sweet and delicious desserts that only peek out during the colder months?

Sahlab (or sachlab or sachlav or salep)

As winter approaches in Israel, vendors start selling a thick, sweet concoction of Turkish origin that’s somewhere between a pudding and a drink.

It’s called sahlab (“orchid”), and it gets its name from the ground up flowers that were originally used to thicken it. Today, with orchids at a premium, cornflour is used instead.

Sweet and comforting, sahlab is typically cooked with rose water and sprinkled with cinnamon, coconut and cinnamon, but you can add the toppings of your choice if you make it homemade. Just like we see with malabi, there is room for creativity with sahlab. 

Krembo (or Crembo)

If your sweet tooth still needs attention, go into the nearest market and ask for Krembo.

These treats used to be individually foil-wrapped (check out the video below, in Hebrew to see them in action) but have recently been refurbished with more environmentally-friendly packaging. Krembo are thin chocolate-coated marshmallow concoctions originally intended as a substitute for ice cream, and are sold in the winter months of October through February. Vanilla is the most popular flavor, though some opt for the chocolate on chocolate variety. In the summer these treats disappear like the thin chocolate layer would in the hot summer weather.

Israelis eat 50 million Krembo (about nine per person) each year. Every year, Krembo’s manufacturer struggles to keep up with increasing demand, churning out the treats as fast as Israelis can eat them--and often coming up short.

Gourmet restaurants and pastry chefs have taken it on themselves to upgrade the snack (necessary?), and last year we saw a krembo pop-up in Sarona with about 10 different flavors of artisanal krembo. 

So if you’re here during the winter, take a cue from the locals and get your sugar fix from at least one of these seasonal treats.