Mastic

March 18, 2011  • 

 

I was stunned yesterday; I was at the Middle-Eastern store and I was buying a bunch of mastic bags; the young man at the cash register said: ” Excuse me ma’am, but can you tell me what this is for?”.

So, I spent a  FEW MINUTES explaining what the mastic or miskeh was,  all the while thinking ” I can’t believe he works here, and he does not know what miskeh is.


Anyway, what is mastic?

Mastic aka miskeh is the resin of a special tree found in one place: The island of Chios in Greece.

How is it used?

It is added to certain dishes as a flavor additive and to things like ice-cream to add a rubbery texture as well as flavor. In the Lebanese kitchens it is added to custards, jams and puddings, like muhallabieh or ashtalieh. It is added to breads, like holy breads. It is added in the marinade of shawarma.

Mastic is also used in neighboring countries, like Greece or Turkey. If you are interested in other uses for mastic, check out Peter‘s site, he has a lot of main dishes and pastries with mastic.

Where does one buy it?

I buy it at the Middle-Eastern store; it is available at Greek and Turkish stores or online through these purveyors, here and here. (try different names: gum arabic, mastiha, miskeh)

I would recommend only buying the package with the Greek label. I have tried mastic from other sources and the quality is poor.

What kind of flavor does it impart?

I would describe it as a resinous flavor with a strong scent.

How does one use it?

You take a few pebbles and grind them in a mortar with some sugar or salt in order to get a powder. If you add it to a pudding mixture it needs to be in powder form or it won’t dissolve. You can do what Peter does, which is to freeze it for half an hour and place it between plastic wrap and crush it with a rolling pin.

People either love it or hate it. I Love it. I use it every day. I chew it.

When I was a kid, a couple of ladies taught me how to make gum out of it. Click here for the method.

For more information on mastic, click here.

Apparently, it is supposed to have health benefits as well.




Comments

40 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. deana says:

    I know mastic, Joumana!!! It’s amazing all the new things I’ve tried thanks to you… I am very lucky to have a few great stores around NYC that have everything.

    Mastic is wonderful but very potent… the first time I used it I used way too much and it was all you could taste. Now I am more prudent and it is really magical. Great stuff….I’m trying to imagine a gum?!?!?!

  2. Peter says:

    Joumana, are you trying to corner the Mastiha market with that large purchase? 😉

    It’s a remarkable spice and when I use it in the kitchen, you know I’m having fun! Thanks you for your kind mention.

  3. Mary says:

    You’ve made me curious as to how this tastes. I’ll have to order it online as it would not be locally available here. I hope you have a great weekend. Blessings…Mary

  4. Velva says:

    Very interesting. I have never heard of mastic but, I have tasted greek wines that had a very heady resin flavor-Not quite sure what to think of the strong flavor. However, for the record I am always willing to continue to experiment.

    Hope all is well.
    Velva

  5. Rosa says:

    Strange that this man didn’t know what mastic was considering the fact that he works there…

    A lovely ingredient!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  6. Lentil Breakdown says:

    I didn’t know you could eat it on its own. I thought it was like a gelatin, used as a thickener.

  7. Lyndsey says:

    So interesting, I will have to check it out!

  8. Ellie (Almost Bourdain) says:

    Thanks for such an informative post.

  9. Mo says:

    I had heard of it before, but I didn’t bother finding out what it was until I was looking through a bread book of a UK baker who lived in Greece for a time, and many of his recipes were calling for mastic! I’ll look for it next time I’m in the middle-eastern store. 🙂

  10. samir says:

    assuming this was fairly young guy at the register? as the youth culture of the middle east( and the rest of the “non westernized” world) is becoming so out of touch and downright ignorant of our extraordinary cluinary heritage…opting for fries and fried chicken,chips and soft drinks etc. . over our exquisite dishes ….thanks to people like you and Kamal( souk) n Barbara you are educating and preserving what could easily be lost! a friend of mine came back recently from Amman and the big thing there is to eat at a Fridays..!!! sad

  11. samir says:

    and chef Ramzi too but his recipes need to be scaled down and kitchen tested..

  12. domi says:

    Du mastic???? Mon dieu, mais chez nous on s’ en sert pour les fenêtres ou les joints. En fait c’ est un produit que je ne connais pas….

  13. Diane says:

    Amazing that someone sells a product and has no idea what he is selling!!!! Diane

  14. Kavey says:

    Fascinating! Nice to learn another ingredient!

    But I have to say, given what cashiers are paid, is it really that surprising that a shop would employ someone who doesn’t have the in-depth knowledge of the cuisine to be able to know what every ingredient is for?

    Chances are, a kid with the passion and knowledge for food to know what all the ingredients in the shop are for would be looking for jobs that pay more for the knowledge and skills he/ she has!

    I’m impressed he was sufficiently interested in expanding his knowledge to ask a customer who obviously did know!

  15. Joanne says:

    I’ve heard of mastic before but I’ve never known how to use it! Thanks for the info. Next time I see it, I’ll definitely pick some up!

  16. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) says:

    I must buy some the next time I am in the city.

  17. Devaki says:

    What a great post Joumana and it reminds me of ‘gundar’ we use in India – to get that gummy consistency – I gre up with my Nani using it all the time 🙂

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  18. Barbara says:

    It never ceases to amaze me when checkout people ask me either WHAT it is, or HOW I use it. Using it perhaps, but not even knowing what?

  19. Tanvi says:

    I have never heard abt mastic but from your write up it sounds a magical condiment.I m intrigued by how it can be used to flavor sweet n savoury.Looks like an allrounder.Thanks for sharing.

  20. pierre says:

    j’aime les couleurs de ton plat merci !!!pierre

  21. Priya says:

    I tried once nuts balls with mastic, thanks for letting us know more about this interesting mastic..

  22. Silvia says:

    I have just discovered your beautiful blog, I’m italian but I was born in Beirut, I’m so happy to read your recipe, we often eat lebanese at home. Do you know how can I make a chocolat mou like those of my childhood, I dream one from 40 years. Thank you.

    • Joumana says:

      @Silvia: I remember chocolat mou in Beirut; it was like a sundae; hot chocolate sauce swirling over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sprinkles on top. Is that what you remembered?

  23. Silvia says:

    The one that I remember was something between a very soft chocolate ice cream and a frozen mousse au chocolat in high tumbler glass with whipped cream on the top.

    • Joumana says:

      @Silvia: I rmemeber chocolat mou, just I think I am confusing it with chocolate liégois. I will let you know if it is still served and where!

  24. Mark Wisecarver says:

    I don’t have a local source so Amazon is where I get mine. 😉

  25. A Canadian Foodie says:

    OK, I confess, I couldn’t work there either. Never heard of it – and I read a lot of recipes… and am very interested in Mediterranean cooking, so this was an excellent introduction. Can’t say that rubbery ice cream has any appeal to me, but the other ideas have me intrigued and I am definitely into discovering exotic flavours and using them in new ways (after I learn to use them the old ways, first!)
    I will now keep my eye out, and my hear to the ground.
    🙂
    Valerie

  26. Caffettiera says:

    It happened to me as well that the cashier asked me what to do with something, but never at an ethnic grocery store. Supermarkets sell thousands of items and many of them are not that common. I find it cute when it happens, also because it means they care a little and they have an interest somehow in their job.

    Not sure if I would like mastic though: I’m not a fan of resinous flavor. Does it have anything to do with the flavor resinated wine has? Thanks!

  27. Christine @ Fresh says:

    Thank you for enlightening us on mastic! I recently ate Lebanese ice cream, and I was blown away at the wonderful mousse-like cream texture, and I believe this is the ingredient responsible for it – you would know better. One day soon I’ll start experimenting with Lebanese ice cream!

  28. Yasmeen says:

    i love visiting your blog. simple as that. whenever i pop by i find something that i love, make often (but i always like your presentations), and that reminds me of home.

    miskeh! how happy was i to see this — took me back to my favorite pistachio ice cream in Amman. i’ve been trying to explain it to my aussie boyfriend, so i’m definitely going to point him in this direction.

  29. Green Shushi says:

    mmm I love miskeh! My mom and I love to chew on it as well. On another note, do you have a good sahlab ice cream recipe?

  30. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    I have yet to try some…to my knowledge…and I have never heard of it before reading your blog. I came close to buying it. Sounds like an unusual ingredient.

  31. Magic of Spice says:

    Sounds very versatile, will have to give it a try…thank you for the links 🙂

  32. historyofgreekfood says:

    I use mastic in sweet and savoury dishes. No other resin gives out so much aroma, but be careful and never use too much because it will give your food a bitter taste.

  33. Cyndi Ivy says:

    Hey – I bought pickles at the local grocery store and the checker claimed she had never heard of them and thought they were something new. Her jaw dropped when I told her they were made from cucumbers. I still think she had to be kidding……..

  34. Brownie Box says:

    Hello!
    Thanks for the info about Mastic. I used one of your images in one of my baking posts, and I linked it back to your website.
    You can read about it here:
    http://brownieboxblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/bohsalino/

  35. Audie Gamra says:

    I have been looking for many years for the recipe of Chocolate mou ! Not to be confused with mousse. I used to order it in Beirut when I was a child at the ABC. Do you know the recipe ?

    • Joumana says:

      @Audie Gamra: I remember it as well from my childhood, it was the only dessert I would order on our weekly outings with our dad. I think it is the equivalent of what here in the US is called a sundae. Basically ice-cream, then warm chocolate ganache sauce on top, then whipped cream on top. To make chocolate ganache, take the best chocolate bar (bittersweet) about 3 ounces or 100 g. and chop it and place in a saucepan with one cup of liquid whipping cream. Bring to a slow simmer to scald the cream, stir gently and as soon as the chocolate is starting to melt and the cream is getting hot, remove and continue stirring till dissolved. That’s it.

Add a Comment