For the Love of Shanklish

In writing about the joy extraordinaire of my tummy, Shanklish, I first looked where any modern-day researcher starts off, the Internet. I was mildly surprised when I found out that a few good Samaritans had attempted to explain what Shanklish is and how it is prepared. However, and to my extreme delight, none of them had done it completely right. Can you believe that! Out of the millions of people on the web, I’ll be the first to scientifically and emotionally tell the rest of the world about the most scrumptious ball of cheese in existence on the planet. Even Wikepedia had already stated that the top delectable variety is found in the area of Tartous. That, at least, should get my Damascene friends off my case. But wait, I’m coming back at them in a little while.

There's no point in describing to the uninitiated the taste of Shanklish. It's unlike anything else you've ever eaten in your life. It's simply much tastier yet defies description. From a geohistorical perspective, Shanklish is purely a Syrian invention. It can also be found in the countryside of Akkar (adjacent to Tartous) in the north of Lebanon. Different versions of Shanklish are contrived all the way across the Syrian coast heading east to the Homs area. The rest of Syria only knows how to eat Shanklish, of inferior quality mostly, but nothing about the traditions behind this pungent delicacy. Syria, along with the rest of the Middle East, is known for its white cheeses. The city of Hama and its surrounding countryside produce the best variety of white cheese in the world. The Damascenes eat most of it no doubt and have the tendency, a little like the Lebanese, to claim that the universe actually evolves around them. So once abroad and nostalgic, they start missing the cheese of Damascus, not of Hama, not of Syria, mind you, but of Damascus. We accommodate their vanity because they are older than us, Damascus being the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, you know. Since I broke my silence and spoke of the Damascenes let me continue with the Lebanese. I have found on one of their Phoenician websites Shanklish being referred to as Lebanese Cheese Balls. Oh, my God! I was really ROFL for the last 5 minutes. I just got back on my chair again with tears in my eyes. Where was I?!

OK, I got my revenge back. I might have exposed myself to a whole new wave of attack, but since they don’t have much water in Damascus, let alone a sea, it would be a dry wave anyway. … One moment, I have to get back on my chair and wipe my tears again. I’m laughing so hard at my own ingenious jokes today. I’m so funny (or at least think I am).

Back to the serious topic at hand, Shanklish. I will explain how the basic version and often the best tasting one is made. The process of making great Shanklish involves intensive manual labor, plenty of time and the lowest possible material cost. When you reverse this natural process by using a blender, a refrigerator and fancy ingredients you end up with junk. Unfortunately, most of what is available on the market, even in Tartous, is of the second type. The given reason is that there is no way to meet the high demand except by expediting production. I strongly believe that we, in Syria, have failed to make the transition from great homemade food and beverage processing to mass production while maintaining high quality. We are still unable to make superior wine although we have outstanding grapes. The genuine vineyard in both its traditional and modern sense is absent. Fine wine connoisseurs would not mind buying an expensive imported bottle. There is no local classy alternative because producers are too short-sighted. They have taken the easy way out and stubbornly persist in bringing forth cheap mass produced dull tasting wine.
Fresh cow milk is transformed into yogurt using a basic fermentation process. Milk is heated and brought to boil while continuously (not stopping for an instant) being stirred. As soon as it starts boiling it is removed from the heat source and let to cool at room temperature. Once it reaches the temperature at which you can stick your finger in while counting to ten without burning yourself, half a cup of previously available yogurt is added and stirred. The pot is covered and wrapped with a blanket to insulate it and let it cool down as slowly as possible for a period of twelve hours. We now have delicious fresh yogurt. If you ever wondered how to make your own batch of yogurt this is it. Place it in the fridge and consume it within three to four days. To make Shanklish, however, the process has barely begun. The yogurt is poured into an elongated container (pottery is the best). The old lady (this is the original image I can conjure in my mind) sits on the floor, covers the top of the container and starts shaking it front to back. Every ten minutes or so she stops, uncovers the container and skims the butter which has formed on top (this is how you get real wholesome butter). She would continue for some time until half of the butter is removed and the yogurt has become low in fat (partially skimmed). I need to emphasize here that commercial quality shanklish is skimmed all the way until there is no butter left in it. The skimmed yogurt (called Shenineh) is poured in a cooking pot and is heated until it breaks down into bluish water on top and a residual white substance at the bottom. Once it cools down it’s discharged into a cotton piece of cloth similar to a pillow case and left to hang over the sink. After twelve hours most of the water would have disappeared and we are left with the Arish. Salt is added and the Arish is rolled into tennis-balls-sized individual pieces. To enhance the taste spices and red pepper might be added at this stage, but again if you let nature take its course over time, they are absolutely not needed. Over a piece of cloth the balls are left to dry in the sun, normally on the roof of the house for about ten days. By now they are completely dry and might have some rot on the exterior. They are scraped clean and immersed in a bag of thyme so that it sticks on the surface of the balls. The Shanklish is moved indoors and placed in air-tight containers, or better yet, covered with cloth and wrapped in canvas to let it further ferment slowly in the dark. The period of this stage determines the final outcome. Mild white high-quality Shanklish could be eaten anytime after a week. Diehard, dark, foot smelly, most delicious Shanklish is kept for at least one month. It is served with virgin olive oil, fresh onions and a glass of Arak, or tea for the faint of heart, and eaten with the hand with Tannour bread.

So now you probably know why it’s so difficult to find the connoisseur version of great Shanklish in your local supermarket. The process is a pain in the ass, but believe me, it’s worth every single day in the making. I am a Shanklish gourmet. I don’t mind riding my motorcycle to a distant village nested in the mountains of Tartous and stopping to ask an old bent lady on a narrow cobblestone road. “Do you have some good Shanklish Ya Khalti (my aunt)?” I would ask. “Ya 3ain Khaltak ( You, the eye of your aunt) where are you from?” she would inquire.
-“I’m from Tartous and I heard that you make the best Shanklish here.”
-“Ayleh?! (Exclamation!), you came all the way from Tartous for Shanklish, I would not let you go back empty handed for sure. I have may be 4 or 5 balls, less than a kilo perhaps but Tikram 3aynak (your eye is welcome) come on follow me to my house.”

With my trophy, I head back home. I might make another stop to talk to an old man strolling with a cane in hand and ask him for a liter or two of some homemade Arak he had drawn himself. With my dinner in the bag I ride west. The evening will be perfect, hope you can join me someday.


Anonymous said…
Alright, damn it... I am coming over RIGHT NOW...!!
Abufares said…
somehow I knew you'll be the first to respond.
Don't be late now, just let me know:)
Dubai Jazz said…
Two thumps up for the very elaborate explanation of how the Shanklish is prepared. Very laborious process yet very yummy stuff indeed.
Enjoy your evening!
Anonymous said…
What is this strange land outside of Damascus you talk of?
Abufares said…
Hello Dubai Jazz
Welcome anytime. In Sep Inshallah, we'll get a chance to enjoy Shanklish and so much more.

Ya Ahlan Wa Sahlan. I was writing about a land you can olny grasp in your dreams. A land where there are green trees everywhere, fresh air and running water. There are also nice non-judgmental people who are very easy to get along with who would welcome you anytime, for a glass of tea, or something stronger if so inclined. Just let me know as soon as you wake up.
So nice of you to come here :)
Unknown said…
(i'd be the second commentor if it wasn't the Beiruti bad connection)

As I am about to start preparing for my research paper, I hit the RSS and "Shanklish" hit me in the's amazing how virtual life is more intimate than the streets of Ashrafieh..
Some friends here in Beirut do not know Shanklish, and those who do, it is because of their relatives back in Syria. Some never heard of "Magdous"!!

Great info, Abu Fares, I myself am a beginner addictor of Shanklish..

One think I have to comment on, is your remarks on Damascene and their self-centrism.
You're absolutely right, I think the Damascenes, no offence, are culturally thieves, at least as a reputation. They refer all positivities, crafts, cuisine, habits..ect in Syria to them. Of course, Homs does the same.

Homs, is widely known for its "Halawet el Jobn", but it is a Hama's invention, not Homsi.

Off the topic but within the thief theme, I was wondering why Hama people's dialect is assimilating to Damascenes', and different from Homs and neighboring villages?
Could it be the Damascenes, again, stole the dialect? ;)
It is a serious question, but I might be exaggerating.
Amazing blog, Abu Fares, indeed. Great practice for improving my poor vocab, and English.
Anonymous said…
Damn you... I cannot sleep now because I can just taste your damn picture... under my tongue... in the back of my throat... the smell permeating these back-passages up to my nostrils...just ready to be swallowed, after one more more round over my taste buds... but, alas, it is not is just a mirage... just an allusion to better times gone by, or, hopefully, yet to come..., but ungraspable... unreachable at this moment...! It is just not fair...!!

Even if you attribute all these heavenly delights (waraq eneb, sourkeh, mssabaha, arak, etc...) to Tartous, it is are not too far off... Jableh and its environs (Lattakia, etc.), where all these things originated, is a mere walk up the coast from Tartous, but a whole world away from here...!! In Damascus, little emaciated and plastic shrink-wrapped balls pass for shanklish... Need I say more...?!
The Syrian Brit said…
Well, my friend.. what can I say?.. Us Damascenes are beaten fair and square when it comes to Shanklish...
I had an uncle who lived in Homs (God rest his soul.. he died in 1984 after a lifetime as a Surgeon in Homs.. he was my dad's oldest brother, and the 'patriarch' of the family.. but I digress).. Aaanyway.. he had many patients and friends from the villages around Homs, who provided a invaluable source of highest quality Shanklish.. The Shanklish that he used to send us was nothing like anything we could ever dream of getting in Damascus.. Alas, I have not had Shanklish that good since my uncle died!..
So, my friend, I concede defeat when it comes to Shanklish.. but I will, on behalf of all Damascenes, give you a run for your noney when it comes to Kebbeh, wara3 3enab, various types of fatteh, etc, etc, etc...
(but don't be so harsh on us.. not all of us are THAT self-centred as you make us sound.. at least some of us know when we're beaten!..)
Shannon said…
I'm almost always too hungry to comment after reading these posts. If you keep posting like this, you'll have half the blogosphere on your doorstep looking for a good meal, you know.
Abufares said…
Hello Sham
I was really aiming at Naji and I was lucky (and skillful) to get him (in the leg, no more).
I wouldn't be so harsh on Damascus because in all honesty, on a personal level, I only know great folks there. It's not enough that all my relatives on my mother's side are Damascenes, I have many good friend as well.

The unadvertised part of the post did what it was supposed to do. However, there are a couple of points I need to ask you about.
You keep referring to Jableh. What's the deal? Half of the original Jablawians have moved to Tartous so long ago and there's nothing left there except one shop which makes the co-best Knafeh in the world. I'll post about the other co-best Knafeh (made in Tartous of course). Banias?! Let it be. They have enough problems liking each other. Lattakia? It was a mistake... The Phoenician gods forgot to use contraceptives. We own the sea my friend (with the Arwadis of course) that's it. Pure & Simple.
BTW, am I the only one who doesn't know your blog or you just don't have one? If you do, forgive my ignorance and send me the link please.

Hello Syrian Brit
I was introduced to Shanklish and all the good stuff almost like you. My father, a retired surgeon, was for many years the only doctor in Tartous. Many patients paid for their visits with Shanklish, Baladi Eggs, Keshek, Zaatar, Burghul, olive oil, Chicken, Ducks, ...etc. In terms of monetary value, these gifts today are priceless.

Only if I could send you a package with a ball of Shanklish to the US for you to try. Problem is it'll be on FoxNews that terrorists have sent a biological weapon from Syria to destroy Las Vegas.
GraY FoX said…
quite amusing
no hard feelings for lebanese balls though :P , neither damascne dudes :)
what a small world
wikipedia was fair , shanklish for the world :)
sa7ten and wishing you a good shanklish day :)
Abufares said…
Dear Sham
You've inspired me to write a post about the different accents (dialects) we have. I'll start with the Syrian cost and see if I can "bullshit" my way through the rest of Syria. Coming soon... Hopefully
Anonymous said…
mmm...shanklish... sometimes it has long trip from Tartous: at first cousin of my husband brings big bag of it to Stockholm, then we with my husband bring part of it from Stock to Helsinki, then i bring a little part of shanklish from Hel-ki to St.Petersburg. So the memory of the cheese is left in three capitals)))))) and it found its admirers in my family))))
Torstein said…
Aaah, shanklish... Only last year I carried with me two kilos of shanklish in my hand luggage on the plane to Norway of the supposedly best shanklish in Tartous from my favourite little village halfway to Safita.

One day, inshallah, Syria will be able to export its delicacies as delicatessen as long as the old methods and recipes are preserved. That's the secret of Italians' and Spanish' cuisines and their export of premium cheeses and hams.

I love your recipe's, Abu Fares. I only wish I had the time and energy for Shanklish. I'll stick to fatteh :)

Abufares said…
Gray Fox
Sa7ten 3ala Albak.

I'm really happy to know that Shanklish is traveling well. It's our fault (Syrians) that we are such poor promoters. Others barely have a fraction of what we've been blessed with yet make a big commotion about it.

Glad to see you here. You're right we need to keep the flame of good Syrian food alive and we should let the rest of the world knows about it.
Any recipe you like, just name it.
Anonymous said…
What a wonderful post! I just discovered this blog and was almost moved to tears at the loving, detailed (and delicious)description of "Shanklish." I remember it being described to me in Damascus as "the Syrian Roquefort" but it has a special quality all its own - and is probably been around longer than the French cheese anyway. But Syria is an unaknowledged superpower of food and cuisine: the cherries of Qalamoun, wonderful apricots and watermelon, the apples of Bludan. And all that wonderful food in people's homes: freekeh, kibbe lebaniyah, salata zeitoun, etc., etc.
Anonymous said…
If shanklish is a biological weapon, then your entire blog is a weapon of mass destruction, given the ravages it causes to unsuspecting, innocent, civilian, expat readers! I was thinking about shanklish since we mentioned it a couple of posts ago, and I’m now obsessed with eating it again, thanks to you. What are you doing to us?

I will have you know that since the infamous m'sabbaha affair, my husband is boycotting your blog because he finds it too dangerous. :) Practically every day now, he buys what the British pretend is "humous" (ask Syrian Brit) in a little plastic cup, puts it in a plate, drenches it in loads of Italian olive oil (he who usually doesn’t even like oil … and yes, he’s actually Syrian, go figure) and imagines it’s m’sabbaha. We all have our illusions. I mentioned your shanklish post to him, and he started waxing poetic about the shanklish in the coastal area as well – in fact, I’m even sure he sneaked a peak at your blog.

I will certainly not rise to the bait on your comments about Damascus, ha, but I was hoping Syrian Brit would do his duty. Never mind, he’s way too polite, but let’s face it, at least we Damascenes have a reason to be vain! I mean, name one famous song about Tartous known all over the Arab world: it’s “Ya mal es-SHAM” after all, not ya mal Tartous!
Abufares said…
Hi Ghurab al-Bain
Welcome to my blog. Nothing is like Shanklish that's for sure. I love Roquefort cheese but it's not the same. It's a very subtle difference although it's in fact huge. Let's put it this way. Roquefort goes with Scotch. Shanklish goes with Arak.

Rime Ya Rime

Wa2fli Khallini Bous Shbabik El-7elweh b Tartous
Ya Bayta el Medwi 3al Ba7r b Albi w 3inayeh Ma7rous.
Nasri Shamseldine

It's not even a generic song. Nasri was singing for one particular Tartoussi lady. Ahel Al-Balad all know her in fact. Allah Ytawell 3emra.

I promise to make it up to you and your husband once you grace us with your presence (here in Tartous).
Anonymous said…
TAG you're it!
Abufares said…
Hi Arima

oh oh... what shall i do? can i bring someone? is it safe? is it dark in there? are there any scary voices???
alright, alright, i'll do it.
well i have to really thank u since u kind of saved me from thinking about my next post. it'll be it, i promise.
Unknown said…
When I picked up my dad from the airport this summer, one of the first things he said to me was "when you go to Syria, go to Homs, and pick up the shanklish (that he had ordered especially from assalimyeh)"
When my mom's suitcase didn't make it to Canada, our first concern was "I hope the shanklish makes it back"
My mom has been trying to prefect the art of making shanklish for a few years now, with considerable success. I'm surely going to refer her to this post for more info..
The Syrian Brit said…
Well, well, well, Abu Fares.. ONE song about Tartous??? ONE, teeny weeny puny little song??!!!.. How does that compare to HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of songs and poems about the incomparable, glorious Damascus??!!!... And who was it that wrote that song??.. Do you know??.. Well, do you?!.. It was none other than the late Najat Qassab Hassan, A TRUE Damascene, if there ever was one!!.. (well.. ok, he co-wrote it..).. So, if I gave in on Shanklish earlier, it was only because, as a true food lover, I know the 'Real McCoy' when I taste it.. but as Rime said, we have a lot to be vain about, us Damascenes...
And Rime.. Funny you should mention M'sabaha.. I mentioned in an earlier comment that we were having some Iraqi friends over the weekend for a meal.. Well, there was the usual spread of amazing dishes, from freekeh bil-jaj, to yabra2, fattet maqdous, ma2loobeh, souberak, kebbeh me2liyyeh, kebbeh bil-sainiyyeh etc, etc.. as well as all the delicious salads and dips.. My contribution (apart from the overall supervision and 'quality control'.. (not an easy job, you know.. At a great risk to my personal safety and waist-line, I had to taste every dish at several stages.. and being a conscientious, dedicated person, a little bit on the tip of the spoon is never enough to give a resposible opinion.. a decent amount is essential.. Anyway.. I digress..).. ).. yes.. where was I??.. oh, yes.. my contribution, apart from the above, was to make M'sabaha.. and I did it from scratch.. real chickpeas (NOT out of a can..), with real tahineh, garlic and fresh lemon juice... and it was devine.. even if I say so myself.. none of that make-believe stuff out of little plastic cups!!.. I am so, so proud of myself!!.. So, if I, who cannot cook to save my life, can do it, then so can your husband!..
The Syrian Brit said…
p.s. Apologies for the extra-long comment!.. I did get a bit carried away!!.. Sorry!..
Anonymous said…
Finally, Syrian Brit came to the rescue. About time too! I totally second what you said, and dear Abu Fares, that song doesn't really count. Yani it wasn't even sung by Sabah Fakhri. (SB, I thought I'd get our Aleppo friends on our side for once.) Is it known from the Atlantic to the Gulf? I rest my case.

So now not only we have to hear Abu Fares tempt us with his amazing food descriptions, now you've started too Syrian Brit. That does it, I'm moving back home, given that Abu Fares has promised to make it up to us. In the absence of SB, we will be handling quality control. :)
The Syrian Brit said…
p.p.s. Rime, boiled chickpeas freezes very nicely.. so boil a decent amount, use some, and freeze the rest!.. but keep it in its juices.. Top tip from my beautiful, long-suffering wife!..
Omar said…
hey.. family reputation is in stake in here.. I should step up to the defense ;-)

About Fares.. everything is already said.. so I can't add anymore.. a big white flashy Damascene flag of surrender.. and a big hat tip to you.. and the Tartousian food industry.

but it was the "Ayleh" part that almost dropped the laptop on the floor from the burst of laughter... damn it.. I laughed so hard my chest hurts..
however, I have to say something (being an avid tartous lover myself).. the shankleesh I used to buy from Bmalkeh was a piece of heaven, and I was sure that I could get even better kinds if I dig more into the villages..
so sorry homeboys.. Damascus doesn't know how to import the real deal.. take it from someone who used to go to villages and ask people if they can sleep in their places.. just to try life outside of the city.. people there know how to eat..
Unknown said…
It's not that common nor desriable in Aleppo.

I tired it once, it wasn't my thing to eat, I still prefer the normal Labneh with Kamun and Na3na3... lol.. heading to the kitchen..

Thanks abu fares for taking us back to Syria over the web..

Abufares said…
OK, now I have a whole list of issues to address, but this is the fun part isn't it.

Omar (2 Cents)
If your mom is already making Shanklish in Canada she's already way ahead of most people (from Damascus & otherwise). Please let me know how close the process she's following is to the traditional one.

Syrian Brit
It was a talented and an open-minded Damascene who co-wrote the song about Tartous. His grandson is on the comment sheet and he shows every sign of being as receptive and accute as the late Najat Kassab Hassan (rest his soul).

Your unexpected benovelence to the Aleppines was a low blow. BTW what was the name of that very famous Damascene Superstar, Mouwafak Bahjat??? Ummmh, Na3eem Hamdi :))) I'm surprised you didn't claim that Sabah Fakhri is originally from Damascus.

Omar (deconstructed)
Like Grandfather like Grandson. It should be now obvious (to others) why you love Tartous. BTW I have a summer home in Bmalke. And you're right about their Shanklish, except that it's made in a little village (4 km from Bmalke) called 3waynieh. All Bmalkenians get their Shanklish from there mostly. As for "Ayleh", you have to be the Real McCoy to truly appreciate it.

And Finally Restless in Dubai
You might have just exposed yourself to an Aleppine attack. I know that some of the best Tartoussi Shanklish finds its way to true food lovers in Aleppo. The true Kodoud Sammi3a don't want to eat in the usual sense. They want to appreciate the music, the voice, the poetry. Behind closed doors, they often have a secret weapon, a glass of Arak to sip and a ball of Shanklish to nibble.
Torstein said…
Aah, bliss, recipes on demand from Tartous!

My biggest problem since first being exposed to Syrian food many years ago has been to get the hommus right. You guys don't have to make it yourself as you can just take your plate down to the corner and get it filled to the brim by people who do it for a living. Us living abroad, on the other hand, only get the ready-made or canned stuff that tastes like cardboard.

But no helpe from my Syrian friends who only know the basic ingredients.
Ah, the hommus... If I cook the chickpeas myself, it doesn't get creamy enough. But the biggest problem is the taste. I bought bahar ('mix spice') last time I was in Syria and learned some tricks for the tahiniyeh, which helped. But it's still not perfect. Maybe I need to import Syrian chickpeas...
Abufares said…
You're right Torstein
Each Hummus maker keeps his own dark secret. Competition is very tough in every Syrian city for the reputation of best Hummus in the neighborhood. However, I can give you this piece of advise.
The small Hummus is the best. It doesn't really matter where its from. You need to bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to the lowest possible. Add some baking soda (bicarbonate sodium) I would say for 1 kilo of Hummus you would need a 1/2 teaspoon. Over this very low heat the Hummus should be cooked for at least 4 to 5 hours. Then, as a professional had told me, when you can snap an individual chickpea between your middle finger and thumb 2 feet of a wall and make it stick to the vertical surface, the Hummus is done. For the Tehina, prepare small quantities. Dilute it with lemon juice and some water until it thins out.
To save the Hummus or to make some Fatteh, the original water of the Hummus is essential, as our good Dr. the Syrian Brit had earlier suggested.
I hope one day, if you try the above, you let me know about the outcome.
Good Luck.
Dubai Jazz said…
Cool… different Syrian accents and dialects is my all-time favorite subject… you are in for a tough ride Abu Fares, specially with Naji on the lookout for any chance to take a swoop, and with the newly antagonized Damascenes…but I would still encourage you to get ahead with it .. it’s going to be lots of fun!
Rime; as an Aleppine, I was about to rush to the rescue of my Damscene friends, (specially after you’ve made that reference to Saba7 Fakhery; some chivalry inside of me was awakened) but all that was undermined when, Abu Fares with his hilarious style, has managed yet again to get me laughing my eyeballs out at his reference to Mowafa’ Bahjat and Na3eem Hamdy!
Abu Fares, in fairness to RiD, Shanklish is not very popular in Aleppo, the Surkeh (and there is another variation of it made in Idleb called Kasnek) are far more popular….. ( I hope I didn’t disappoint you!)…
I don't know about the Arak bit, but you are absolutely right my friend... all Aleppine pleasures and TREASURES are well-hidden behind closed doors….
Abufares said…
Hi Duabi Jazz
Rime remembered "Ya Mal Al-Sham" but forgot "Ya Sabha Hati El-Senniah".
We don't use the word Sourkeh in Tartous although we all know that it means Shanklish to the Lattakians. May be it sounds more eloquent (in their mind of course). I need to remind all that Shanklish is enjoyed in a salad of tomatos, onions and cucumbers cut to small pieces and mixed with smashed Shankilsh and olive oil. We call it in Tartous "J3aifira". In nearby villages it's called "Ja3foura". In Lattakia they call it "Bazerkan". No wonder most Damascenes are fonder of Lattakians more than Tartoussis. Bazerkan and the tea of Sabha on the Saynieh go together beautifully.
Dubai Jazz said…
Dubai Jazz <== (Confused)
Abu Fares, are you saying that Shanklish and Sorkeh are the same thing?!!!
Abufares said…
Dubai Jazz
in banias & lattakia shanklish is referred to as sourkeh. it might mean something else in interior syria, but i'm unfamiliar with it.
Unknown said…
Dubai Jazz, I salute you my fellow Aleppian.. lol..

Abufares, when I first came to Dubai, I've me with Syrians from all over Syria, one thing they all agreed on and approved was, Aleppo's Cuisine is the best in Syria. I will be being an ass if I say that I do not enjoy all the fish recipes in Lattakia or Tartous, Sayadeyh is my favorite … But still when talking about Yabra2 or Mloukhyeh.. I can’t think of any other recipe but Aleppo’s… am I being a bigot?
*Baby Face*
Anonymous said…
[We call it in Tartous "J3aifira". In nearby villages it's called "Ja3foura"]...What...???!!! Haahaaahaaahhaaaa (wild hysterical laughter).... I rest my case...!!!

[By the way, no I do not have a blogg yet...and frankly, after exploring around a bit, yours is almost the only one I still check out... This is what things have come to, I am afraid, ...a Jableh literati reading a Tartoussie...!!!! However, if you keep up your outragous "incursions", I just may have to start a set/keep the record straight...!]:)
Torstein said…
Thanks for the tips. I don't know what this will do to my kitchen walls in the long term, but will definitely let you know the next time I give it a try :)
Abufares said…
Hi Naji

J3aifira, Keddabat,Bou Ammounniat & Msayli2at are some of the funny names we have. I, too, laugh at J3aifira... but Bazerkan??? :)))
I look forward reading your blog when you decide to launch it.
Ummh, a Jeblawi in Damascus, no wonder ;)
Abufares said…
You're welcome. Point is the cickpeas have to be really, really cooked.
Keep us informed.
Abufares said…
Restless in Dubai
You see I can start a war so easily now. Damascenes & Aleppines are waiting for one stupid reason to start at it.
In wrapping up this srurprisingly popular post about Shanklish, I need to make a confession or two. I have grown up in a house where Damascene home cooking was a blessing. My late mother, rest her soul, was an excellent cook and she herself had introduced new varieties to the Tartoussi "primitive" cuisine. I also enjoy the great food of Aleppo although I'm afraid I never had any Aleppine home cooking.
In Tartous, things are simpler. We do make better Mezza than anyone this side of the border. I have to admit that the best Mezza in the world is served in the village of Ehden, Lebanon (not anywhere else no matter what they might say to that). If I'm lucky, and more importantly when Lebanon finds its way back to reality and to being part of a neighborhood, I'll head to Al-Ferdos Restaurant in Ehden and post about the greatest restaurant on the planet.
Anonymous said…
"Msayli2at" ... Well, you got one out of four right... OK for a Tartoussie (half a Tartoussie as it turns out...!!) I suppose.

Msayli2at, if we are talking about the same thing, given the language difficulties that apparently challenge Tartoussies, is basically the best dish, hands down, in the whole universe...and deserve no less that a full post from you to introduce the thing (Msaylouqat) to the un-initiated...!!?
Anonymous said…
What do you mean wrap up??? I still have to respond, you guys are too quick for me these days.

Syrian Brit, thanks for the recipe, I'll pass it on ... even though it has one major flaw: it requires actual work and cooking, versus just showing up and eating it. :)

Abu Fares, LOL at Mouwaffak Bahjat! How sneaky of you.

Dubai Jazz, I appreciate your chivalry and your desire to help. I assure you both, nobody can take Tarab away from Halab! With regards to cuisine, however, while my Damascene palate bows to Aleppo, it also demands the same respect from its compatriots. :) (Let's face it, most Syrian food is awesome.)

And finally, dear Abu Fares, to put this debate to rest, to relieve you from having to find dubious artists to prove your point (noting, by the way, that you couldn't come up with a Tartoussi one), I leave you with the ultimate, world-famous, Damascene: Nizar Qabbani.

The defense rests its case.
Dubai Jazz said…
Abu Fares, please allow me to have my final(?) say on this…
RnD, 3rasy ya Abu 7alab :)
Rime, Nizar is a legendary poet, not only for Syrians but for the whole Arab world.
It will be very rude and tasteless of me not to reciprocate your palate…. so Mam’s my bow back :).. after all you Damascenes are known for your amiability and thoughtfulness, and your recognition for our Tarab is enough evidence! :)
The Syrian Brit said…
I said it before, and I say it again.. Lancashire is but a few hours away from London.. and I promise you, you would not have to do a thing.. You let us know, and a feast worthy of your presence would be awaiting.. just show up and eat it, to heart's content..
Anonymous said…
Teslam ya Dubai Jazz for being such a gentleman and for appreciating our Nizar.

Teslam ya Syrian Brit for your kind and very tempting invitation. It would be worth the drive just to meet you and Mrs. SB ... inshallah we can make it happen one day, here or back home where we will all congregate and descend on Abu Fares's shanklish without abandon. :)
Abufares said…
Rime & Co.
We all appreciate Everybody's Nizar, not only yours.
Anyway, I am really waiting for the right opportunity to have you all here one day (this summer for instance). The big get-together would be ideal then. After all the comments and counter-comments we should do the same, face to face.
I look forward to it.
Anonymous said…
This is the first time I learnt about shanklish. The picture looks very nice and from the descriptions and comments, I gather that it must taste as good as it looks. Hope I would have the chance to try it.
Abufares said…
Hi Ammoontie
Welcome to my blog.
You might've noticed the passion these little balls have evoked in us all. I, too, hope that you'll get a chance to eat a good piece of Shanklish in the right setting and with the right people. That is here in Tartous with me!
Karin said…
That sounds SOOO YUMMY - and the way you describe it, makes me want to try to find it somewhere around here to try ... I am rather sure though I'd pitifully fail!

Thanks so much for the YUMMY idea ... you certainly triggered my burning curiosity ... and that's always dangerous .. ha-ha!
Abufares said…
Hi Karin
You should give Shanklish a try as soon as you can.
Haven't you noticed how much emotions this unique piece of "cheese" stirred?
Angel said…
That is it!!! Am coming to Tartous.... Shanklish is my favourite kind of food, I simply adore it...Seaside Shanklish has proved to be the best..
Abufares! I can eat your lovely "food" posts any time, anywhere, any way ;-)
Abufares said…
I don't know how I'm going to say this. But Shanklish, on the seaside, with you... Unforgetable
KJ said…
Ayleh wlek Abu Fares! Betzoor Safita w abit2elleh!

3ayni shu kayseh hal shankleeshat.. betkoon haykeh rmadiyyeh w 7addeh. 3ayni makyasa!
Abufares said…
3ayneh rabbak ya safatly.
t3a la 2llak. bas teji 3assayfieh, 7akini ta neshrabelna shi kass 3ara2 sghayyar.
Noora said…
Ahlan wa salan. Assalamu alaikum rwb. I need recipes from Haleb. Sito is miskeena getting old so can't remember too much besides kibee, yabra, cousa mashi, and a few others. Yalla good cooks plz share your secrets. Oh who ever said God rested has made a mistake. God never rests because he feels no fatigue and is not in need of rest. :)
Anonymous said…
Hey - thanks for this post about Shankleesh (and the blog!). My grandfather and an uncle by marriage came from Tartous and settled in Trinidad and Tobago, where of course all these things had to be made at home if people want to enjoy them. I have chldhood memories of my mother always hunting down a Shankleesh supplier in T&T, although it has taken me a while to truly appreciate it myself.
Abufares said…
Hi Chennette
So nice of you to drop by.
I gather that you haven't been to Syria but have spent your entire life in beautiful Trinidad & Tobago.
If you ever (one of these days) make it over here, let me know so that I'll get you the best shanklish in the world.
Thank you for your comment and you are always welcome on my blog.
Anonymous said…
I have sent your blog link to my mother so she can reminisce. She has actually visited there. And of course for the food posts I know she will appreciate!
Eid Mubarak and thanks for visiting.
Anonymous said…
Eid Mubarak
I feel the need to join in with Chennette's (my sister) sentiments. It's nice reading the authentic tartoussi food...and being reassured that my mom's memories aren't crazy.

Also, I *love* shanklish.
Abufares said…
I'm so happy that Chennette an you visted my blog.
Your mom's memories must be so dear to her as she still not only remember Shanklish but managed to pass her affection for Tartous to both of you.
I look forward your visiting my blog often and commenting and/or requesting whatever comes to your mind.
Anonymous said…
Dear Abufares, yeslam temak, first I would like to ask a question? i´ve heard another name for the shanklish, (SURKE) is that a memory falt, do this name exist ?,, in fact if you have quality shanklish you just need some (khebez tanur) and (ers banadoura ) and ( dameet zet) it is done it is a (walime),. ,,I have an eternal but non-mortal duel with my Italian friend Antonio,who insists that past is Italian invention, I say it is Syrian ,it is just like discussing which came first the chiken or the egg ? for me eggs and chiken both came first ,both from Syria,
last month he ivited mo to a special dinner, he said we will have macaroon with nuts,parmesan cheese, tomatos and manjerona, I had that fantastic diner with him, with the backround of barroc miusic,,,,,,,,, as it came to my turne to invte him to a dinner that the recipe should be similar, what could I do ? ,,,eureka, i got it,
past, fuzzili
butter ,,,fat
fat white cheese( jebne khadra)
nuts (joz)chupped (not fine)
mangerona (habaakh)
tomate ,skined .
the backround couldent be better than( LAMA BADA YATATHANA) we both are still alive and the duel goes on,,,,
Abufares said…
@ lê
Indeed Surke is another name used for Shanklish. It's called so in Banias and Lattakia. When you make a Shanklish Salad (mixed with finely chopped tomatoes, onions and possibly cucumbers) it's called in Tartous Ja3foura or J3ayfira. In Lattakia it's called Bazerkan.
However the more important aspect in your comment is that you have taken Shanklish to a new level (a level it certainly deserves).
I wonder in case you do not have a blog of your own, how come?! You should write and let us read. You and I belong to a "setting" generation (as in the setting of the sun). I would love to learn more from your living memory.
Robert said…
I can't believe I found this wonderful page.
My name is Robert Bahna I was born in Chile, now I live in Miami, My parents both were from Homs, Syria.
I was brought up on Syrian food I was never thought to cook but because I miss the food I eat when I was a child I thought my self to cook
After many many tries and failiours I consider my self a very good cook today
The other day I missed and remember shanklish
So I tried to make it my self.
I remember my mother making laban, placing it in a bag and drain the water out of it, add salt and make it in to balls that she dried in the sun , after drying them she will place them in a jar with lettuce leafs and wait till they went rotten
Wash them and serve it to us, THEY WERE DELICIOUS
I have done all this, I have now to balls of salted labny drying in the sun
Wish me luck , I will let you know if it worked
Abufares said…
Hello Robert
Well if you can really make Shanklish on your own then you're not only a good cook but a great chef.
Indeed I'm very interested in learning the result of your experimentation.
Thank you for dropping by.
i somehow came to stumble across your blog only to leave with a frustrated stomach. i love your in-depth description of shanklish! my mum makes it nearly all the time, i'm going to try to learn this summer when the weather's better... or when i go back to syria in july :) can't live without it...
Angie Nader said…
i loooove shanklish! i found your blog by googling shanklish...haha. i havent had it for about 2 1/2 years..and i miss it teribly. here in the states i have tried every cheese...and none tastes quite like my favorite.
i know i sound crazy...but honestly..its my favorite cheesee.loool
Gabriela said…
In spite of the distance, I really hope some day I may join you.
This shanklish HAS to be delicious: it's the only option for something that requires that much love in its making!
Ziggy said…
Hello AbuFares, I am new to your blog and have read a few posts so far... you are insightful and hilarious at the same time! I hope to one day meet you, I dont know why, but you seem like such a nice guy that I feel like I already know you, or at the very least that we could be friends...

Your post about shanklish reminds me of the homemade shanklish my best friends grandmother used to make in Bmalkeh. That and the homemade labneh - some of the best food Ive ever tasted in my life :)

Its kind of a weird thing to say, but thanks for your blog :)
Abufares said…
Sorry to be late in replying to this comment of yours.
I, too, hope that one day we can sit together and have a great time drinking and eating in Tartous and Lima.
Abufares said…
What a pleasure to see you here, on one of my personal favorite posts.
I, too, would love to meet you one day for sure. So anytime you are in our neck of the wood just let me know.
I love Shanklish and Labneh (in particular). I can live off Labneh for the rest of my life:-)
Again, I'm so glad to see you here, please come again.
Ayman said…
Ye7rouk Rafak shahaytneh wou bi hal gherbeh ma fee shanklish and the best thing I found is the Blue Cheese, I know, I know, it's not even close but it can do the trick from time to time, and according to the arak and shanklish I will join you right now if it is home made, BTW I still have my father's arak reserve at home (here bel ghorbeh) hihihihi Alef Sa7a zkerna bi kil lokmeh btokoula ya Abu Fares.
Unknown said…
Any ideas how I can import shanklish to the UK? I've just come back from a trip to explore my late Mum's Damascene roots, and shanklish is my one abiding food memeory of the whole trip. The stuff is to DIE for! My sister and I are now planning to open a Syrian diner here in the UK and I want to be able to serve up shanklish. Any tips for how to get hold of it would be most welcome! xx
Salloum said…
Abufares, see this:
Patrick Chadd said…
Want to make Shanklish at home?
Carina said…
Most of the food and sweets that the lebanese refer to as "lebanese" and market as "lebanese" is Syrian such as kibbeh, tabbouli, muhammarah, shanklish etc etc (the list is very long). You will find that all of the blad el sham foods are referred to as "lebanese" by the lebanese. I even saw a youtube video where some lebanese referred to the Knafeh (which originates from Nablus) as lebanese. Its quite surprising how they made a market of syrian/shami food and called it lebanese.
Abufares said…

I'm sorry to reply so late to your comment.
Homemade is the Syrian way and I'm glad you have some Arak in your Ghorbeh.
Kassak :-)
Abufares said…
I'm so sorry Jenny to be late in replying to your comment. I just found about it by chance today.
The problem is with the commercial availability of good shanklish. I'm sure you can find a supplier of supermarket quality shanklish. For the real thing you need to agree with a local producer from the Tartous area.
Abufares said…
Thank you for pointing out this interesting article. Ahhh, the Lebanese :-) !
Abufares said…
Very interesting read. I hope those commentators interested in making their own shanklish find their way to your book.
Abufares said…
Well we have to give it to them (the Lebanese) they are very good promoters;-)
Levantine cuisine covers all the subtle local varieties. Of course it's absurd to claim that any one particular entree is Lebanese per say. I have yet to find out a Lebanese dish that is not available in coastal Syria. Now... That good Lebanese restaurants don't serve a better Mezza than their Syrian counterparts would be an unfair claim. They really know how to put together an eye pleasing table. Besides their embrace of Arak limits their competition to the Syrian coast only where we are just as proud of our national drink as they are.
As long as Arak is not a part of the Damascene culture as it is of ours (Syrian Coast) they cannot compete with Lebanese restaurants at all. However, in home cooking, interior Syria is matchless. Neither us nor the Lebanese stand a chance. We have such a beautiful nature here and in Lebanon that outdoor eating is part of our life. When the Damascene want to eat out they drink tea for God's sake! Meat, soggy salad then TEA :-)
Thank you for reading this post.
Dave said…
We always had shanklish scraped on top of fried eggs. The eggs are supposed to be fried in olive oil of course. My grandparents emigrated from the Tartous area 100 years ago. We never had shanklish any other way. Of course there is no cheese quite like homemade shanklish. I had commercial products twice and they were very poor. Abufares comes close to describing how good shanklish really is.

There is a dish - we call it hiloo - that my family makes. It has a top and bottom layer of cream of wheat mixed with butter. The filling is a sugar/walnut mixture. After baking, the hiloo is immediately covered with boiling sugar water. It is a simple dish, and in my opinion better than baklava. However, except for my family, I have never seen it anywhere. Does anyone recognize this recipe?
Kirill said…
I just had some shanklish for the first time last week (in Santa Marta Colombia of all places) and it was delicious!

Now I have to try to make it myself, and this is by far the best description of the process that I could find, thank you for taking the time to write this article.

I have one question though. When you sun dry the thing on the roof, I assume it has to be covered somehow, to protect from weather, dust, insects, birds, ... What is the best way to do it? Do you cover it with the same cloth it sits on? Or do you leave it uncovered? Or maybe put some kind of mesh on top of it?

Thanks again, this is a great article and discussion!
Abufares said…
You can cover it with gauze or any type of suitable mesh. Remember that the weather here in the Levant is much more predictable than in South America and we have a long no-rain season so we are more or less immune to surprises.
When I was a kid our neighbors used to make Shanklish to sell and I never saw any kind of protection when they left it to dry on the roof. But I see no reason why we can't be more concerned with hygiene.
Many thanks for your late visit and for leaving this comment.
Abufares said…
I'm sorry for being so late in replying to your comment. Shanklish and eggs... what you're basically describing is a piece of heaven :-)

One of my all-time favorite sandwiches is made of pita bread spread with butter, a smashed boiled egg with shanklish. OMG!!! This stuff is so delicious it might be illegal in some countries in the world.
Thank you for dropping by and again I'm sorry for the unintentional delay in reading and replying to your comment.
Kirill said…
Man how do I wish I was still in South America! If somebody tells you there's a place with spring weather year round, gorgeous women everywhere, natural foods in abundance, know that it's not a dream.

Here in the US on the other hand, the government is very very concerned that people may just choose to do something that they, the government, don't agree with. And so in the state we live in selling fresh cow milk for human consumption is in fact illegal. And the state where it is still legal is a two hour drive away. So for now I'm going to have to rehearse with store bought stuff.

Drying shanklish on the roof uncovered is not a problem as long as my wife doesn't see it. :)) My yogurt is ready! I'll probably be back soon with more questions...
Katia said…
Old post, I know, I know... But, since I have just received some really hard, really old, well-rotten homemade shanklish from relatives in "the valley", I remembered it. It was the only thing I pleaded for, my only wish as a holiday gift, and mom wholeheartedly obliged. I'm having shanklish and arak for dinner tomorrow evening. Too bad I don't have any handsome Tartoussis around here to share it with. I might have to settle for Latakians, or just be selfish and keep it all to myself ;-)
Have a nice evening, dear Abufares! Long time...
Abufares said…
Sahha wa Hana
As long as the Lattakians don't talk you'll be alright, lollll, what with their terrible accent :-)
Anonymous said…
I am in the process of following your recipe for Shanklish. but couldn't get the yogurt to make the butter! I have waited many years to taste this again. The last time I got to have it was 17 years ago, at a family brunch (father's side). not sure who made it, and if that person is still alive, but no one recently could remember exactly how it is made! I want to be able to bring back our family ancestry! thanks for the post. :)
Abufares said…
Well let me know what is particularly causing you the problem and I'd try to help.
But in any case, the yogurt needs to be shaken back and forth for a considerable time for the butter to start forming on the surface. It might take as long as 25 to 30 minutes before the process takes off but once it does it's an almost continuous one where you stop every few minutes and skim more butter. Additionally, I don't think it makes sense to work with less than at least 10 liters per batch.
Thank you for coming here after all this time.
Anonymous said…
Thank you. well, I gave up and just put the entire thing in the pot to cook. my liquid didn' turn blue but it did cook up into curds and liquid. I drained and the balls are in the sun (day 2 now). question. if the balls are hard and dry, how is the Thyme going to stick to them? I started out with a quart of milk (not sure what that is in liters.) I want to do this all the right way! but my luck is not at all going well with it. all your further help with making the most authentic and delicious Shanklish is greatly appreciated! :)
Anonymous said…
p.s. Ever think of writing a book!?
Abufares said…

The balls won't be as dry as you think and thyme will stick to them. The easiest way is to put the thyme in paper bag and drop the balls inside and roll them softly inside. An American quart is a little less than one liter. May be it's a good idea to start with this little quantity and work with more when you perfect the procedure. What I meant was that the work (the shaking mostly) is the same for a large or small quantity.
And YES! I already wrote a book :-)

Thank you again for your visit.
Patrick Chadd said…
I roll my finished shanklish in clarified butter then in's how I was taught and how the family has made it for generations - I also outline the process to make shanklish beginning to end with pictures...
Anonymous said…
thank you again! I appreciate it all!
@ Patrick- where can I read and view your process?
Patrick Chadd said…
I will post it online, I wrote a book and published it on but almost done converting to online format for anyone to reference...
Abufares said…
Glad to see you here.
One way to eat Shanklish, if you don't mind the extra calories, is with butter. Instead of olive oil, you place half a ball of shanklish in a small bowl with an equal piece of fresh butter. With the Pita or (Mashrouh) bread you squeeze a little bit of both in one scoop.
A joy with a glass of Arak.
Zoubida said…
Dear Abufares,
I'm sorry to leave a comment on a 2007 article, but good ones are never too old are they? And I couldn't resist. I know nothing about Shanklish. I love cheese, it's usually what I have at breakfast every morning, with good homemade bread of course. We don't have the right sun rays and the right humidity rate here in Quebec, I'm pretty sure of that, for the drying phase. We don't have good fresh, raw milk neither and farmers here are too worried about loosing their license to sell their milk production to industrials and wouldn't sell any to private citizen (next time we move, it'll be in a place where I can keep a milking cow!) I don't have any taste reference to compare with and decide if succeeded or not, but I'm determined to follow your description of the process and make some Shanklish.
Our home basement is pretty dry, so I assume it'll be better than the terribly humid summer weather we have here.
May be it's a good thing that my palate is Shanklish-virgin. I know for a fact it's difficult, anyway, to reproduce with true success a regional fare out its region of origin. So I can't be realy disapointed by the result of my efforts.
My sister dated a man from Damas for almost 2 years. It was back in the mid 80s'. It was the only time in my life I got to taste Syrian cuisine. I remember his cooking very fondly. I also remember him for his very... diplomatic manners. He'd come to pick-up my sister to go out and would always bring an elaborate, sophisticated flower bouquet for my mother, and a single red rose for my sister.
Abufares said…
Thank you for your late comment indeed. I'm sorry I made it take even longer to get published.
I hope you get your chance to make and taste good Shanklish. Yet if you happen to make it here to Tartous all the way from Canada you won't have to worry about it at all.
ASM said…
hi im from puerto rico and im trying to make shanklish using Abufares Recipe, i already did a first batch with 1qt of a gallon of milk and the balls are getting 2 types of molds 1 blue 1 black is this normal i think the black one is because i covered the balls with coffee filters because i dont want flyes on my cheese

anny advise or idea of a detailed video or pictures please

i already did a second one with a gallon and get out 1.62 pound of cheese : ) they have 2 days drying but wen theres no more sun i move the balls inside and how can i deal with the fyes problem ?

i also need help with a good recipe of the zaatar or for the shanklish is just thyme ?

thanks !!!
Abufares said…
Hola Alexis
The blue/black mold is normal but could be minimized/avoided if you dipped the fresh balls in thyme beforehand. The best thing to keep the flies away is some sort of medical gauze which will permit the shanklish to breathe while keeping insects away.
Once the Shanklish is ready to eat you can scrape the bluish mold with a knife as it should be surface deep only.
Dry thyme will work perfectly. Sorry I don't have detailed photos/video. Please write and let us know how they came out :-)
ASM said…
Hola Abufares :)!!
ok if the diferent types of molds are normal and completly safe i have no problem !! im gona taske some pictures and trye to upload to a new blog so you can say if what we see in the pictures is wrong or completly Yummyyy y!! thanks
Robert said…
This is not a comment but a question
My Mother used to make a dessert for Easter and she called it Hariri
It was made of water, rise, flower and on top toasted walnuts and Atr (sugar syrup)
it had some spices among the fennel and and something else
If you have the recipe could you please send it to me
My Mom is gone and I would love to make it this year
Robert Bahna
Abufares said…
Glad to see you here.
I sent you a private email in reply.
Anonymous said…
Greetings from the USA
Born in South America from Syrian parents which fed me " shanklish con huevos" for bre
akfast which translate as "eggs & shanklish". Reading your website took me back 43 years (the time without eating shanklish). These are precious memories and I still miss that flavor.
Fernando Fares (perhaps one of your distant cousins)
Abufares said…
I'm so glad you commented on this old post of mine. Evidently, this is one of my best posts if not the very best. At least, it's my favorite.
I'm glad I was able to stir some of your dormant memories. Once you eat Shanklish it's guaranteed that you'll never forget it.
We are related being Syrians :-) of course. As for my Pen Name it simply means the "Father of Fares", who happens to be my son.
Thank you for dropping by. It was my pleasure to read then reply to your comment.
Unknown said…
Hello chef! amazing article! I have a question though.
What is the condition of yogurt before being put in the container for shaking? I mean, Do we use a yogurt that is refrigerated or we use the yogurt that is freshly made and just set from the night before (without refrigeration yet)? please help

Merciktir :)
Abufares said…
@Tumbling Pots
Although it is traditionally made with fresh yogurt, I don't see any reason why refrigerated yogurt wouldn't work.
So if you're up to it, go ahead, give it a try and enjoy it.
Mary said…
Well, it looks like I'm very late to this subject, but I have a lot to say!
My grandmother emigrated to the US from Homs in the early 1900's, and had 4 children. My mother's family came from Jezzin, Lebanon.
My Syrian grandmother taught the girls in our family who were willing, how to make all of the foods from our country, including shanklish. Many of us in our community make it, and because we live in such a hot and humid area, sometimes it's a real challenge.
When it turns out right, it's heavenly, but sometimes, it just doesn't "work".
I want you to know that there are kids as young as 10 and 11 who are learning our traditions and whom we are teaching all that our Sittu taught us.
I love your blog and many of us keep up with your news!
Abufares said…
Thank you so much for this heartwarming comment. You put a huge smile on my face and filled my heart with joy.
I'm honored that you read my blog although I haven't been very active lately. I hope I can get back to posting regularly here. Where do you live now? I would really like to know about your Levantine, Syrian and Lebanese, community wherever you are.
Mary said…
Well, let's see what might be of interest to you!
I live in Jacksonville, which has a huge Arabic community. Until recently, I believe we had the second largest amount of Arabic people in the US, next to Detroit, but I believe Los Angeles has overtaken us.
Most of our Syrians and Lebanese families came to the US around the same time as my grandparents, though most of them started their lives in the Northeast; NY, Boston and Detroit mostly. Many of them were merchants, and mine were no exception. Both sets of grandparents sold fruits and vegetables in street carts until they could afford to bring their families to the US to join them. They eventually moved to the south to the better weather, and opened grocery stores.
My father's father bought property locally as well as throughout the state of Florida, and I believe my mother's father did a bit of the same. Since I grew up with my dad's family, I'm more familiar with his history than Mom's family.
We all had a lot of cousins, and every Sunday we all gathered at one of the family's homes for lunch, which was a huge event. Dad would play the mandolin (is it spelled oud?), others would play the darbake, and all of us children were made to dance one at a time through the living room in front of the adults! It was so funny because we would all hide and hope the adults wouldn't find us!
We loved to dabke though, and Jacksonville always was known for very good dancers. Life was wonderful, being part of such a huge Arabic community.
We also have a very large group of Arabic speaking people from Ramallah, who are part of the fabric of our Arabic life here as well. Although we do have separate social clubs, and for many years, we did not intermarry, that has certainly changed. They came to the US in the later 1900's and quickly became productive members of our city; many of them doctors, lawyers, and even politicians. It's interesting to note the differences between our cultures and talents, though we all came from the same general area.
I could go on and on, telling stories, but I'll save more for later.
Thank you for your warm and inviting response!
Abufares said…
Thank you again Mary for sharing this information. I didn't know that Jacksonville had such a thriving Syrian and Arab communities.
What you're all doing as expats is commendable to say the least. Over the last few years, I have come to believe that Syrians in diaspora are doing a better job at preserving our culture and heritage than those who stayed behind. I attribute it to more nurturing socio-econo-political environment.
I hope we, as a people, can shine again, the way we did until the early sixties of the 20th century.
You're always welcome on my blog, please drop by as often as you like.
Anonymous said…
Was having shanklish while in the Ivory Coast. Very happy to have found your recipe and just making a batch. Hope it turns out well. Thank you!
Abufares said…
Sahha wa Hana
I hope it turns out well too :-)
Maïa said…
Dear Abufares,

I know this is an old post but I still wanted to thank you !

I saw it a few years ago but it was only this summer that I had the right conditions to try it out - I had access to a big quantity of raw, organic and delicious whole milk, a big "tanjara", not earthenware though, and a dehydrator. So I made 16 liters of yogurt, got lazy and didn't skim it at all. It didn't curdle as much as it might have if I had had the right ferment for laban instead of french-style yogurt which is less acidic. Not trusting the weather here in northern France, I dried it in a dehydrator (40°C) for 30 hours, I would do it for no more than 24h another time. I then left it to rot in our cave (too humid for wine but just perfect for cheese !). After one month, it turned out delicious, I don't know if it would rival with one from Tartous ;) but it is at least as good as the ones from my lebanese summers memories ! It is slightly yellowish due to being full fat but it doesn't change the taste much. The only major change I will try next time is rolling the balls in thyme only after I've retrieved them from the cave and scraped the mold.

So really thank you for sharing !
Abufares said…
Thank you for your visit and comment after all this time :-) I'm so glad you were able to reproduce such a delicacy in the North of France. FYI, a yellowish (high with butter) shanklish is quite a prize. The only problem with it is that it may rot from the inside if not consumed more or less quickly, especially in the Levantine warmer weather.
Sahha Wa Hana! Glad to have been of service, even if in an indirect kind of way.
Mary said…
@Maïa and Abufares,

I'm glad to hear about the yellowish result because I often have the same thing happen. At first, I scraped it off and thought it was a mistake, but when I told one of the older Syrian women at our club, she fussed at me and explained that it was a delicacy. The problem I had with the yellowish ones was that the more yellow, the less 'hard cheese' there was in the middle. I didn't notice any accelerated rotting from the inside at all.

Making shanklish in Florida is really difficult, and as my friend says, "Shanklish goes to Florida to die." I don't know if it's the high humidity that is the reason, but I'm definitely going to try a dehydrator and see if that helps.

One of our imported food stores, owned by a Syrian man from Zaidal, offers homemade shanklish, but they don't dry it enough, so it's more of a spread. I usually rinse off the Zaatar, dry it for a couple more days, then place it in a crock for about a month or so. I don't like it as much as my grandmother's, who made hers out of cottage (or farmer's) cheese. I don't ever remember her making it from laban, but I could be wrong about that. A lot of people use Dry Curd Cottage Cheese, and it's really my favorite, probably more due to texture than taste. Both taste alike.

Ayway, many thanks in advance, @Maïa. I am going to assume that this will work out well, and I will let you know the results. I probably won't even start until after my son's wedding in early November, but I'll definitely post the results.
Abufares said…
Sorry I'm a couple of days late in replying to your comment. First of all, a big thank you for your feedback :-) I'm so impressed by Maïa and you, for taking the time and putting in the effort to make shanklish so far from home.
I'd like to add in my two cents regarding the yellowish hue. If the shanklish were to be eaten fresh, the high butter content would be a welcome aspect. However, shanklish with high butter content doesn't age well unless kept at low temperatures (ie refrigerated). I don't want to sound disgusting, but I've seen yellow shanklish not just infested with mold and rot but also teaming with worms because it was kept out for long.
I think of the evolution of food and beverage, among other facets of culture and civilization, is a reaction to physics and chemistry, well to nature in general. Shanklish was invented through an evolutionary process. The main catalyst being how to make use of every drop of milk without letting it go to waste. After the butter was extracted, our ancestors wondered what to do with the bluish liquid left. At first, and up till now in Bedouin societies, they made their most prized rams drink it, for it is high in protein and nutrients. Eventually, they came up with Shanklish and Arisheh. It's low in fat, tastes great and has a relatively long "shelf" life(up to a few months if properly stored.
Again, many thanks for your late visit.
Mary said…
Thanks for the info, as usual. When I get one ball of cheese that is ready, I clean all of them at once, coat them with Zaatar, and then refrigerate. That means the yellow ones never had a chance to rot beyond the stage where I noticed the rind. I also have a commercial grade sealer, so I do seal them if I make enough that, after giving some away, I'll have plenty left over.

I have decided to visit a local farm and use raw milk the next time I make it. I'm determined to figure out which milk or laban or cottage cheese, and which time of year is foolproof so I don't continue to waste the cheese. The older women here have absolutely no problem year-round, and I've gone to their homes and watched them at each step, so obviously I'm doing something wrong. Personally, I think it's that stage of drying before placing the balls into the crock jar. It has to be that they either too wet or too dry. Regardless, I'm either stubborn or determined, but I am NOT leaving this earth until I get it like my Sittu's. :)

Anonymous said…
Ok guy, I will (for the sake of the mutual love we share for Jebjoub) forget your needling about Lebanese (and yes, the world evolves around us), and point you to the only scientific examination I found relating to Jebjoub (u call it "shanklish")

Does anyone has detailed information about the microorganisms that cause the Jebjoub to mature? (Penicillium commune and Geothrichum Candidium are the only non toxic mentioned in this examination, and are well used in cheese fabrication)

You said "air tight" jars. An old man of Akaar said "clay jug" and clay is not air tight. Any details on this?

Abufares said…
Thank you for your comment on this 9-years old post. For the Love of Shanklish remains the undisputed top post I've written in terms of popularity.
Yeah, yeah, the Lebanese are indeed one of a kind and the world does revolve around them. Most Tartoussis believe the same thing and I've been told that New Yorkers and Moratuwans share a similar philosophy.
I'm glad to learn the word Jebjoub. I've never heard it before.
Unfortunately, I don't know much about microbiology to be of real help. I understand the process of fermentation in general as it applies to cheese making and alcoholic beverages. But this is as far as I go, I'm afraid. I hope some reader with the proper knowledge chances upon your comment and replies to your satisfaction.
Finally, the clay jug is certainly better than an air tight jar when used by the traditional experts of Shanklish making. It's all about timing and the porous composition of clay (also used in the olden times to store wine) helps the aging and maturing process, needed to achieve the optimal state, flow along more natural lines. You can't go wrong with glass and it has to a large extent replaced pottery in storing all kinds of food stuff, but there's an unidentifiable something about storing food in clay (olives, oil, wine, ...etc.) that lends the final product a very hard to match "baladi" quality that has been all but gone over the last 50 years. Sadly, even glass is on the way out with the advent of plastic :-(
Thank you again for your visit.
Unknown said…
Salam AbuFares
And to this joyous community of shangleesh lovers.
Everyone in my family loves this delightful stuff and all the ladies of the family make it some successfully and some not so
My wife makes it with mostly good results and sells a little to people
Another lady in our suburb also sells it and there is a quiet war raging between the 2 lol
So i am going to make shangleesh using your method and put the fighting to a stop.
I live in Australia but from tartous and the best shangleesh I have ever had was there at a cousins house with arak and side dishes of cucumbers tomatoes onions and carrots. the villagers know how to make it and how to make arak unlike anybody
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and comments and feel somehow connected to you through the love of fine shangleesh
Took me a very long time searching the web to find quality like this and by a syrian and a tartousian ..finally found 1 of many talented countryman..
Thank you
Unknown said…
Great it

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