Mastic or as it’s also called Arabic gum is a resin obtained from the Mastic tree and its use goes back thousands of years.
these magical pearls are widely used in Middle Eastern cuisine – especially in the medieval Arabic recipes where its use in flavoring stews, broths is more exessive than today’s everyday cooking,
these pearls are grown mainly on the island of Chios, Greece thanks to its microclimate.
“The penalty for stealing Mastic was execution by order of the sultan.”
the Ottomans Empire cuisine was founded on Arabic Cuisine (Abbasid Empire) thous following the use of Mastic in their recipes, and as it was a sign of wealth and royalty Mastic was worth its weight in Gold! therefore The penalty for stealing Mastic was execution by order of the Sultan.
so what makes Mastic so special?
without going too deep in explanation I’ll address my own experience using it, First mastic should be cooked to give its flavor so low & slow cooking is ideal and when you’re looking to buy some try look for the whitest ones as it is a sign of the best Mastic, its hard to explain the special note it has but saying piney taste will be the closest.
mastic also has elastic properties and that’s why its the main ingredient in making Gum where you can still find mastic flavored chewing gum in the middle east and also in the making of Booza (Arabic ice-cream), for the same properties it’s amazing how mastic can purify and clean a stock – reminded me of making a consomme!
it’s advised to add mastic to fatty meat after its cooked – as Mastic will stick to the fat and prevent it to get cooked.
it’s used in sweet & savory foods alike drinks, spice blends, bread cookies, and more, I’ll list recipes using Mastic at the bottom.
Ancient Medicine and Health Benefits
in old Arabic books and manuscripts, a lot is being said on Mastic, it is described as a dry, hot, and a contracting material – therefore a counter for humid, wet and cold illnesses and foods.
todays Medical research is still on the go and not much is being said, nevertheless here is what medieval Arab scholars have to say:
- It strengthens the weak stomach
- appetizing, Lust for food
- removes phlegm & mucus – by chewing the whole Mastic
- cleans and polishes the intestine
- if Consumed first thing in the morning – reliefs and gets rid of Gases
- removes belching
- gets rid of freckles on face
- stomach inflammation remedy
- refreshes breath
( The Curing of Buddies and the Book of Mercy, Abū Bakr al-Azraq, 15th Century تسهيل المنافع في الطب والحكمة )
as you see its mostly a remedy for the whole Digestive system therefor a better immune system.
although mastic is being forgotten and rarely people use it or they just don’t know it, either way, the Tears of Chios will still amaze any Sultan.