Chewing-gum, Lebanese style

Chewing gum was a major treat for me growing up in Beirut. It was exciting as well, because my father forbade it , saying that it made us look like camels.

My aunt Marcelle lived in the same building  two stories up: every few weeks her  seamstresses  would come over and spend the day: Fittings, sewing and alterations for the entire family were  on the agenda. Rounds of Turkish coffee would be distributed, packs of cigarettes opened and smoked, ashtrays filled, and chewing gum would be made.

Start out with some mastic pebbles. Mastic is available in Greek or Middle-Eastern groceries in small jars. It is the  solidified resin of a tree that is located in a Greek island. When we were kids, we would also use the resin of parasol pines to simulate this mastic, but the fragrance was piney.

Apparently, this mastic was used as a medicine, as a breath freshener (used in the harems) and was  used in dental work; It is an  antioxidant.  It is also used in cooking and baking in Lebanon.

Here is how Lorice and Mona would proceed:

Take a few miskeh (mastic) pebbles, about half of a small teaspoon; scrape a bit of white wax (about a gram or two no more) with a knife or the blade of scissors; put the two on a teaspoon or the palm of your hand and flick the mixture into your mouth and start chewing rapidly. If you have the time, it is best to crush the mastic pebbles either in a small mortar or by using a mallet or rolling pin and placing them between two sheets of foil or plastic. Then, add the wax and mix the two in a teaspoon and drop in your mouth and start chewing.

Initially, the gum will feel gritty and stick to your teeth. Dislodge it, and keep chewing, adding a few more pebbles of mastic if it just feels  too soft. After about 3 to 5 minutes, it should gain its perfect chewiness. This gum can be chewed all day without any loss of chewiness.

Actually, you can probably chew it the entire month if you wish.


To read up on mastic, click here.

NOTE: Don’t be surprised if it sticks to your teeth initially. Just dislodge it and chew some more. Add some more pebbles if it is too sticky and gooey.

I recommend getting the mastic in the package with Greek lettering; lately the other type of mastic does seem to be of inferior quality.

The wax is plain candle wax.

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  1. Posted October 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Mastic (mastiha) comes from the Greek island of Chios. It is amazing! I never thought it traveled that far :) I use it in cookies, savory dishes and, as you write here, it is perfect for chewing. It is after all the original chewing gum!

  2. Posted October 20, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    How very interesting to make your own gum and do it communally!

  3. Posted October 20, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Encore une autre découverte.
    merci Joumana.
    A bientôt.

  4. Posted October 20, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    That is so COOL. Can you define this wax? Not wax from a candle stick??

  5. Joumana
    Posted October 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Eve: yep! just wax from a candle ! At least that is what we used! and we are still around and well! Of course, we don’t swallow the gum! :)

  6. Posted October 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    That’s so cool! I never thought of making my own chewing gum, but I love it.

  7. Posted October 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting to have a peek of life in Beirut. Loved your father’s comment about chewing gum.

  8. Posted October 20, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I have always wondered what mastic was used for. This is very interesting. I think I will buy it the next time I am in the city.

  9. Posted October 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    What a great post. Who would have thought – homemade chewing gum and btw your Pa sounds just like my Pa….’like a camel’…that’s just what he’d say :) Hilarious!

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

    BTW – what you call Mastic very much known as ‘gundar’ used in India. Similarities between the old cultures is always astounding.

  10. Posted October 21, 2010 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Hah, that is really interesting! I love it. I never thought you could make gum at home!

  11. Posted October 21, 2010 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Camels chewing gum ! Yes, that’s exactly what they look like. LOL

  12. Posted October 21, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Woww such a beautiful post, home made chewing gum, simply great..

  13. Posted October 21, 2010 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Wow, you can chew it all day? It’s like a mega-chewing gum.

    How funny about the looking like camels comment. I’m sure I’ve made a similar one, but referring to cows!

  14. Posted October 21, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    How fun to make your own chewing gum! I have a tin of mastic in my pantry, so I think I may try this. I can’t believe it stays chewy so long, very nice!

  15. Posted October 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I never would have thought you could make your own chewing gum, how fascinating!
    *kisses* HH

  16. Posted October 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    That’s a hoot! When I was little my mother use to give us parafin (the wax she put on jams and jellies) to chew – yours sounds much nicer!

  17. Posted October 21, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow, you even make your own chewing gum!

  18. Posted October 21, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I am a compulsive gum chewer, digging this homemade version! Love the idea of candle wax in this creative recipe for……GUM!

  19. Posted October 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    We make our own chewing gum in the Prairies by chewing on wheat grain (seeds… kernals… berries… whatever you want to call them) and as you chew, eventually all you have left its the gluten and you have a good gum. Not tasty, not bad. Just chewy. I love how I always learn something new on your site, Joumana.

  20. Posted October 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Tasty indeed. What is in mahleb? I love the little history on chewing gum-I fiond that stuff just fascinating.

  21. Posted October 21, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I have been trying to find mastic for a while. I think I have seen cookie recipes with mastic in them.

    I giggled out loud whne you said your father forbade gum chewing because you looked like camels. Funny that would be something my Mother would say except in relation to cows chewing their cudd.

  22. Posted October 21, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    I remember chewing this mastic gum when I was little. My mom has some mastic pebbles in a kitchen drawer and a plain candle to cut from. It’s so delicious. As I grew older and had a few fillings in my teeth, I also remember that this particular gum stuck to the fillings a lot!! So fun.. thanks for sharing :)

    PS: Just remember everyone, don’t bite off a scented candle!!

  23. Joumana
    Posted October 21, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    mahleb is a spice that is found (apparently) in the kernel of black cherries. It comes in seeds and ground at the middle- eastern stores. I buy the seeds and grind them in the coffee grinder, but the ground spice is just as fine. Gives that undefinable but characteristic fragrance to breads and cookies.

  24. Posted October 22, 2010 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Homemade chewing gum! Who would have thought! Loved this post.

  25. Posted October 23, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    This sounds so fun! I am going to try it with beeswax. Then, I can try show my students, even though gum is not allowed at school. Thanks!

  26. Posted October 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    What an interesting story and I can totally see how mastic would make homemade chewing gum.

  27. Rolfen
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I was looking for how to chew it. Someone showed me how by mixing it with candle wax. But candle wax is not designed to be consumed, and putting wax from cheap candles (made in china?) in my mouth sounds kinda wrong, although I’m sure I’ll be OK most of the time. I was hoping to find another way.

  28. ava
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    MAstic is different than Frankincense or lubaan. Can u find it in the US?
    It helps in digestion.

  29. Joumana
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    @ava: It is available in the US in Arab or Greek or Turkish grocery stores.

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