Rice paste with rosewater and ashta(shmayseh)

December 10, 2010  •  Category:


Most Lebanese people do not bother with making intricate Arabic-style pastries at home. I mean,  would you compete with someone who has been doing it 250 years?

I was spurred to try my hand at this by a reader from Athens; the gentleman in question must visit Beirut frequently since he mentioned getting it at  Goodie’s, a well-known upscale grocer in the city. It is however considered a specialty from Tripoli.

Here, the sweet is made with rice flour and syrup and flavored with mastic and rosewater. It is filled with clotted cream or ashta.

It is very gooey-sweet. Good if you are lounging in a harem, with a cup of hot tea.


  • 1 cup of rice flour
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch, diluted in 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of rosewater (can add orange blossom too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground mastic (grind it in a mortar with a pinch of sugar, till powdery otherwise it will not mix with the liquid mixture) (it can be omitted, some people don’t like the taste of mastic)
  • 1/2 cup of ground pistachios
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 cup of granulated white sugar

METHOD: Make the syrup first:

  1. Place the sugar and 3/4 cup of water on the stove over medium heat; stir to dissolve the sugar and let the syrup boil for 12 minutes. While the syrup is simmering, mix the rice flour with one cup of water in a bowl. Add to the simmering syrup a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and simmer for an extra 2 minutes. (The syrup should be a bit thick by now).
  2. Add the rice flour mixture (as well as the cornstarch mixture)  to the simmering syrup little by little, stirring continuously. Lower the heat and continue to simmer the mixture at reduced heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.
  3. When the mixture turns lumpy, add the rosewater and the mastic. Continue the stirring until the mixture turns heavy and somewhat translucent.
  4. Place the saucepan on a work surface; transfer the content to a greased bowl, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Let the rice dough rest for a few hours or overnight, covering the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap.
  5. When ready to serve, scoop out a ball of rice dough, dip in a bowl of powdered sugar, and with the tip of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the middle. Place the clotted cream or ashta in the indentation. Sprinkle some ground pistachios on top and serve immediately.

For the ashta recipe, click here.

Level of difficulty: hard

Quantity will serve 12 people  (2 per person)

Sources for the recipe:

Chef Ramzi’s The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon

Anahid’s Anahid’s Gourmet Cookbook

Leena Shbaro Beydoun ‘s Al-Helwayate al-arabiya  wal-gharbiya.


39 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Bo says:

    I actually love the flavor of rose…so while this seems totally foreign to me…I still think I would enjoy it.

  2. Rosa says:

    Mmmhhh, that dessert looks divine!



  3. Diane says:

    You come up with such interesting dishes. My problem is getting some of the ingredients. I have never heard of mastic before reading your blog, I must make some enquires. Diane

  4. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    I really enjoy such desserts and watching you make them is demystifying. It reminds me of Persian desserts too. Any way to cut down on the sugar?

  5. Anita says:

    Don’t think I’ve ever had this dessert, love all the ingredients though, so I’m sure it’s a keeper.

  6. Barbara says:

    This looks like comfort food to me, Joumana! Is it? I’ve been using rosewater in quite a few recipes lately. Such a lovely touch…and you have to be so careful not to use too much.

  7. Astra Libris says:

    Oh my, this is so exquisite and impressive! I’m awed by the beauty of your results in making these intricate sweets! Dreamy…

  8. Nadji says:

    Rien qu’à le voir, on se sent transporter dans les mille et une nuits.
    Je note. j’adore ce genre de douceurs.
    Bon weekend et à bientôt.

  9. Sweet Artichoke says:

    Count me in for lounging in the harem, if they serve these sweets 🙂
    It looks like lots of work, but sounds like a delicious sweet!! I love rosewater!!

  10. Priya says:

    Yummy dessert, soo tempting..

  11. Adelina says:

    This looks so interesting… I think I would love the gelatin feel of this dessert.

  12. SYLVIA says:

    Sweet with personality.
    Heavenly decadent. Stunning winter white Christmas dessert with lushes layer of ashta, creaminess in the center stage, crowned with chopped pistachios that add a delicious nutty crunch. This is a 5 star fancy looking dessert that tastes every bit as good as it looks. Although it looks a bit difficult to make but really rewarding.
    What a glamorous holiday dessert Joumana, very impressive.

  13. Sarah says:

    very interesting recipe, reminds me a bit of Malabi (milk pudding) with the flavor combinations I have used ground rice only to make gluten free kibbeh. The ground rice wasn’t smooth like white flour, but gritty, do you think I can use it to make this? or do I need something finer?

    • Joumana says:

      @Sarah: the recipe calls for rice flour, which is going to be a little gritty. I have tried another dessert, moubattaneh, which cooks rice and then grinds it in the food processor and that makes it a lot more velvety.

  14. Sushma Mallya says:

    interesting one, pics are nice as usual

  15. Rita says:

    This recipe is simply superb. How I wish I had ready to eat right now!! (it’s almost lunch time and I’m hungry!). I’m sorry I have little time to cook (I have a broken leg…). Anyway, I have both rice flour and rosewater but I’m afraid I can’t find mastic… What a pity….

  16. Joanne says:

    Haha well the next time I find myself in a harem….

    Although I’m such a sticky ooey gooey fan that I’d probably love this.

  17. Katerina says:

    I love rose water and mastic. Having these two ingredients I am sure this cream would taste heavenly.

  18. Helene says:

    I have never seen that dessert. The colors are so nice.

  19. Vagabonde says:

    I know when I come to your blog I need to have my “recipes” document open as there is sure to be something delicious I’d like to try, so I copy it. Your soup with cilantro pesto sounds very easy. I have never heard of cilantro pesto but it sounds appealing. Your soup of lamb shank and turnip greens surprised me too. I have only eaten lamb shanks the Armenian way.

    Tu sais, on va à Nashville chez ma fille, pour les fêtes. Elle a un “au pair” pour garder les 2 petits. C’est un jeune de 20 ans de Toulouse qui est venu d’Algerie quand il avait 10 ans, et il ne sait pas cuisiner. Elle m’a demandé de lui apprendre quelques plats simples pendant la semaine ou je serai avec eux. As-tu des idées? Bien sûr des plats sans porc et alcool car il est musulman.

  20. Vagabonde says:

    I forgot to tell you that I made your loobyeh with tomatoes and olive oil for Thanksgiving. That was one of dishes I brought to my daughters’ in law. Everyone loved it (the in-laws and their friends are from India.) I’ll make it again at Christmas – maybe I could teach Youcef how to do it.

  21. zaatar says:

    Fantastic! It is served as street food in Tripoli. So Lush!

  22. Angie's Recipes says:

    I love rice snacks and desserts! This is totally my type of sweets.

  23. senga50 says:

    Quel raffinement, beaucoup de délicatesse dans cette recette divinement parfumée… un plaisir pour les yeux… Merci de tes compliments, ils m’ont réconfortée… Mille bises

  24. LimeCake says:

    We use a lot of rice flour in Asian cooking as well, like in rice flour buns. This looks so delicious!

  25. Lentil Breakdown says:

    How exotic! You didn’t give the recipe for the harem, though. Can you substitute men for the women?

  26. Krista says:

    Every time I visit your blog I smile, Joumana. 🙂 Your recipes are so unique and delightful, full of wonderful ingredients – some I’ve never even heard of. Thank you for opening my eyes to so many new ways of cooking and baking. I love it!

  27. Conor @ HoldtheBeef says:

    This sounds lovely, but I have no harem to lounge in. I might ask Santa for one for Christmas.

  28. Cherine says:

    mmm a fabulous dessert!

  29. pierre says:

    les photos donnent tres envie merci joumana

  30. deana says:

    The harem remark caught my attention (of course!). The texture is a bit daunting but I am betting that it is spectacular! Thanks for another fresh recipe idea!

  31. Chiara says:

    It looks so delicious Joumana ! A hug…

  32. OysterCulture says:

    This looks and sounds amazing. I desperately want to try making it but would love to have tried some first to know what final product I am aiming for. I’ll have to see if I can find any around here. Does your brother have any recommendations for getting this in San Francisco?

    • Joumana says:

      @OysterCulture: I don’t think it could be found in San Fransisco easily, but I will inquire. It is a specialty even in Lebanon and is seen most often during Ramadan.

  33. Ivy says:

    Mmmm sounds delicious and have lots of rosewater to use. I’ve never bought rice flour before so I’ll see if I can get some at the supermarket later on when I go shopping.

  34. Zara says:

    Omg, what an exquisite treat, looks extremely delightful! You know, I’ve just stopped bookmarking your recipes because I realized that I would love to try each and every one you’re sharing here, one by one:)) ❤Thank you, Joumana! ❤

  35. Myrna Beard says:

    The harem remark caught my attention (of course!). The texture is a bit daunting but I am betting that it is spectacular! Thanks for another fresh recipe idea!

Add a Comment