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Manna from heaven


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#1 Behemoth

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 02:54 PM

Yet another entry in the category of weird middle eastern foods you've never heard of, most people are unaware that the Manna mentioned in the bible is an actual food. My husband, for example, thought it was bread. Manna is in fact a resinous substance gathered along the Iraq-Iran border. Lest you think I am going batty, here is one of many links that talk about this stuff.

link

LUMPY, dirt-caked, leaf-encrusted, a raw block of Iraqi Kurdistan's much-prized gazo looks more like contraband than divine gift. But this rarest of sweet essences, made from a concentrate of honeydew, is the manna of the Bible and Koran - God's own food.

In these fallen times, though, gazo can no longer be harvested in the Sinai desert, where it was first showered from heaven as sustenance for the starving Israelites.

In fact, it only forms on the leaves and surface roots of young mountain oaks in the high ranges along the Iran-Iraq border, after spring rains.


I had it about fifteen years ago, when I was lucky enough to visit Iraq, and again recently, sent to me by some friends of the family. (I will try to get a picture.)

It is often imitated -- weirdly scented eggwhite nougats and little clumps that taste like circus peanuts. But the real deal is good stuff, and doesn't taste like anything else.

Has anyone tried or heard of the stuff?

#2 zeitoun

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 03:22 PM

I have never seen or heard of it, is it like Lebanese Halawah / Halva? Am I completely off the mark? :blink:
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#3 Ore

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 03:53 PM

From HERE [Moderator's note: Mushrooms From Heaven by Steve Kubby from "The Politics of Consciousness" at bluehoney.org]

There are a great many people who would never consider the use of visionary plants to be a spiritual experience. These people believe that spiritual experiences must come directly from God and that the use of visionary plants goes against the teachings of the Bible. Contrary to this notion, the Bible never explicitly prohibits the use of visionary plants or potions. What you will find however, is many curious references to a spiritual food sent down from heaven by God, called manna.
. . .


That's what I think Manna is... :raz: :wacko: :raz:

#4 chefzadi

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 04:40 PM

Behemoth-

Is it available online? :biggrin: I'm aching with curiosity to try the stuff. I've never heard of it untill now.
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#5 M. Lucia

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 04:54 PM

I'm very curious. I don't quite understand how it is served or what it tastes like?

#6 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 05:42 PM

There is a most wonderful self-published cookbook by Nawal Nasrallah entitled "Delights from the Garden of Eden, A cookbook and a history of the Iraqi cuisine." I purchased it last year via amazon.

An oversized paperback of more than 600 pages of history, recipes, photos, and everything you would ever want to know about their cuisine including a long description and recipe for mann al-sama (heavenly sent manna) .
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#7 chefzadi

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 05:46 PM

Ms Wolfert-

I'll ask the school to order this book. In the interim there is demand for you to discuss this, at least from me. :smile:
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#8 Behemoth

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 05:54 PM

Here is a photo:

Posted Image

The paper says "Mosul sweets and pastries company." I assume my parents cut it from the box because they thought I wouldn't believe they'd gotten some. :rolleyes: (Yes, those are pistachios embedded in there...)

The texture is a bit like nougat I guess but the flavor is hard to describe. I would put it sort of in the same flavor category as cardamom or mastic?

I was happy to find that article bacause it is one of the few mentions I've seen in the western press. Maybe with Iraq in the news there will be more western interest in the product, though I assume quantities are limited by nature.

As for a recipe, do they say how to get hold of the resin?

#9 Behemoth

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:00 PM

Oh, so it is packed in cardboard boxes in flour usually, to avoid sticking. You eat it like you would eat regular sweets. They are popular at weddings in Iraq, though I have never been to an iraqi wedding.


I think I need to buy that book. I would also love to learn how to make masgouf, the great grilled fish dish.

#10 chefzadi

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:22 PM

Here is a photo:

Posted Image

The paper says "Mosul sweets and pastries company." I assume my parents cut it from the box because they thought I wouldn't believe they'd gotten some.  :rolleyes:  (Yes, those are pistachios embedded in there...)

The texture is a bit like nougat I guess but the flavor is hard to describe. I would put it sort of in the same flavor category as cardamom or mastic?

I was happy to find that article bacause it is one of the few mentions I've seen in the western press. Maybe with Iraq in the news there will be more western interest in the product, though I assume quantities are limited by nature.

As for a recipe, do they say how to get hold of the resin?

View Post


Behemoth-

It looks like nougat to me. Please try to describe the taste. I know what cardomom tastes like. As for mastic, the resin of the tree? The scent of asphalt?
Somthing resinous and tar like?
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#11 chefzadi

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:28 PM

Behemoth-

masgouf carp?
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#12 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 06:32 PM

There are 6 pages devoted to masgouf. I think you should get the book.


Here is the first paragraph:

"Today mann al-sama (heavenly-sent manna) is an exclusively Iraqi candy the main ingredient of which is the manna, mentioned in the Bible and the Qu'ran, as God-sent food to the people of Israel during their wandering in Sinai Desert. We know from the Assyrian Herbal, a monograph on the Assyrian vegetable drugs, that oak-like trees growing in northern Mesopotamia, near Mosul and Suleimaniya of modern day, provided manna, which they made into a paste, ate for food and used for medicinal purposes. The allusions to manna in the Assyrian cuneform medicinal texts match the Bibilical references in exodus, chapter 16."

The next paragraph deals with tamarisk and oak like trees and is quite a bit longer in length.

The following paragraph deals with gathering techniques.

Finally there isa recipe explaining how to make the candy called natif, a nougat using 12 pounds of manna and 100 eggs, 3 pounds almonds and flour with detailed description on how to make it.

And then we get a modern recipe that you, too, can make without manna, but with sugar, corn syrup, egg whites, cardamon, butter and toasted unskinned almonds

Edited by Bux, 19 February 2005 - 07:23 PM.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#13 Behemoth

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 07:19 PM

Thanks Paula, I think I will need to get the book too.

I have imitation manna too, it came in a fancy inlaid box but I told my folks I didn't think it was the real stuff, so they requested the next batch direct from the source. I didn't mean to put them through any trouble, but my dad tends to get excited when I express interest in my heritage :wink:

Chefzadi, you should be able to find descriptions of masgouf on the web -- actually there was a thread about iraqi food on eG a while back, where we discussed it. I will try to look for it a little later. Basically it is a fish dish, where the fish is dry-rubbed with spices, and then impaled on upright spikes in the path of a smoky fire. It is really, really good.

#14 Behemoth

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 07:20 PM

I think "Mann" means gift in Arabic, BTW.

#15 Wolfert

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Posted 18 February 2005 - 07:21 PM

http://www.iraqicook...ts/buybook.html
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#16 Smithy

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Posted 20 February 2005 - 12:49 PM

A friend gave me a copy of this cookbook last year and I've been thoroughly enjoying it. It's huge, it's engagingly written, and it has as many stories as it does recipes. I'm glad to see it recommended, complete with links.

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#17 Daniel Rogov

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Posted 20 February 2005 - 03:06 PM

As to "the truth" about mannah, following is a piece I wrote some years ago:

Of all the events described in the Bible, there are few that inspire more awe than the miracle of manna. The Sinai Dessert is an especially harsh environment, but for forty years as the Hebrews wandered through the dessert in search of the Promised Land, they had no problem in finding their daily food. Every morning, shortly after dawn, the Hebrews were graced with as much of this wafer-like delicacy as they could consume during the day. Delivered directly from the heavens, one had to do no more than gather his or her share, eat as much as they liked and then look forward to the next day's crop.

There is of course, another, somewhat more caustic view about manna. Even though the Old Testament and tradition concur that manna contained the ingredients of every delicious food and suited the taste of all who partook of it, some speculate that forty years of manna made for a fairly monotonous diet. So unhappy were the Israelites that at one point they actually complained to Moses that "...we have naught save this manna to look to". With neither a bowl of chicken soup or a good pate de foie gras in sight, life might have been fairly difficult.

While the fine flavor of manna remains unquestioned, many have devoted their thoughts to the issues of just what it was and from whence it came. Rashi and other Jewish commentators observe that while manna was not a true bread, it settled to the ground shortly after the first dew had fallen and then was covered again with a second coating of dew. In Exodus we learn that it was "white and sweet, looked like coriander seed but tasted like wafers made with honey". Later, in the Book of Numbers, we find that it could be "ground, pounded like meal, boiled and made into cakes". From other Biblical writings we also know that it had the appearance of bedellium (a gum resin similar to myrrh obtained from various trees) and then when cooked it had the taste of cake baked with oil.

Some etymologists suggest that the Israelites, puzzled over the mysterious substance, called it man, the name of a sweet with which they had become familiar when in Egypt. Even today this sticky, honey-like juice exudes in heavy drops in May and June from certain shrubs found in Sinai. In the Rashbam commentaries, however, it is noted that while this may account for the naming of the miraculous provender, it cannot account for the feeding of so many people, for man is found only in minuscule quantities.

Others suggest that the name simply reflects the confusion of the people who could not identify the substance and comes from ma-nah, a word combining a Hebrew root with an Egyptian stem and meaning "what is this?"

Since the 4th century, scholars and monks at Saint Catherine's monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai have held that manna originated from the secretions of the scale insects that made their homes on the tamarisk shrubs that are common to the Sinai. Modern scientists concur with this as a possibility and speculate that a massive swarm of Trabutina mannipara had invaded the Sinai during this time, thus allowing for large quantities of their secretions to be "harvested" each morning.

Although gathering manna was not a difficult task for the Israelites, modern men are sometimes confused by the fact that each member of the family was expected to harvest and consume an omer of manna each day. Those interested will be pleased to know that an omer is "the tenth part of an ephah". In more modern terms that comes to about 2 liters.


For better or worse, the original recipe for manna has been misplaced. To capture at least the basic flavors of manna, one might care to try the following pancakes.


225 gr. cake quality matzo flour, sifted
2 tsp. dried coriander leaves (gad in Hebrew, cusbara in Arabic), ground extremely finely
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
about 2 Tbs. honey

Resift the flour together with the ground coriander. Place the flour in a bowl and in the center make a well. Into this pour 1/2 cup of boiling water and the oil. Mix into a dough and then knead on a well floured board until smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.

Roll out a portion of the dough into a 10 cm. circle and brush with the sesame oil. Roll a second portion and with this cover the first. Roll the combined circles to make a 15 cm. pancake sandwich. Continue the process until all of the dough has been used and 6 pancakes sandwiches are ready.

Heat a heavy skillet, without oil, and in this one at a time fry the sandwiched pancakes, turning once so that both sides are cooked. The skillet should be kept moving constantly to prevent the pancakes from sticking, and cooking should be done over a moderate flame.

When all of the pancakes have been cooked, separate the sandwiched pancakes. Spread one side of each pancake lightly with honey and fold each single pancake in half and then in half again. Serve at once or cover with a lightly dampened cloth and set aside to keep warm until ready to serve. Yields 12 pancakes.

#18 Wolfert

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Posted 20 February 2005 - 03:11 PM

Daniel, thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I am going to try it asap.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#19 divina

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 12:58 AM

I have a bag of MANNA that I bought at Slow Food in Torino.. will get you foto of it.
not sure if I threw it away since I didn't use it!


Yes it is a resin from plants.
and looks like a crystalized syrup.

#20 divina

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 02:10 AM

I found my MANNA.. tasted it.. like the leftovers from my mom's sugared walnuts,
sort of a honeyflavor, more that sugar.

I bought this at the Slow food show in Torino, 4 years ago..and will look for the info on who I got it from!

Was from a national park in Sicily, Manna delle Madonie



.Posted Image



here is the link to Slow Food Presidi

If you click on the MANNA, you will get a great foto and explaination ( in Italian)

They slice the bark of trees ( Frassina...Ash ) and the leave the incision open and gather the resin that has not touched the bark, sometimes using a cactus leaf to gather the resin.
There are only 150 people still gathering the Manna , all old, and only 2 that actually make a living doing it.
It was called Mannite, and in the 60's was an actual occupation.
Interesting that it was sold to be used as a laxative.. or for sweetener in pastries!

A large site in Italian

and a definition..

Edited by divina, 21 February 2005 - 03:13 AM.


#21 Behemoth

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 07:02 AM

I found my MANNA.. tasted it.. like  the leftovers from my mom's sugared walnuts,
sort of a honeyflavor, more that sugar.

I bought this at the Slow food show in Torino, 4 years ago..and will look for the info on who I got it from!

Was from a national park in Sicily, Manna delle Madonie



Neat, divina! I've never seen it in its natural form. (Gotta love eGullet.)
Given that it can be gathered in Italy, I am really surprised it is not more popular, at least for the religious reasons.

#22 divina

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 08:05 AM

I believe it is a very small production, and sold for pharmeceurical uses ( money)
Did not make it to Slow Food this year so don't know of they were present.
On the Site there are lots of recipes, for food, cosmetics and cures!

#23 Pam R

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 09:07 AM

Daniel - thanks so much for sharing this with us. I enjoyed reading it (though it did give me some terrible tanach class flashbacks!)

...Even though the Old Testament and tradition concur that manna contained the ingredients of every delicious food and suited the taste of all who partook of it, ...

so it might taste like a rootbeer float? :wink:

For better or worse, the original recipe for manna has been misplaced. To capture at least the basic flavors of manna, one might care to try the following pancakes.

225 gr. cake quality matzo flour, sifted
2 tsp. dried coriander leaves (gad in Hebrew, cusbara in Arabic), ground extremely finely
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
about 2 Tbs. honey

View Post

As I am now in the prep. stage for Passover this year, it's hard to imagine anything made from matzo flour tasting like 'manna from heaven" :raz:

#24 Ore

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 12:50 PM

I was in Torino this year for the Slow Food Salone del Gusto - and yes, I visited the Manna lady - thanks for reminding me.

I have a photo - but can't post anymore photos on the gullet - so if someone can, let me email it to you so you can post it for us...

The lady who harvests this for a living seemed very sweet and caring - and extremely well informed about her product. At the same time though, she seemed sad that no one has much of an interest in the Manna.

It looks much more like those things that hang from the ceilings of caves (stalagmites maybe - forgot the word) with the drop of water at the end. The ones on demo at her booth were about one meter in length.

She said that it can be used as a sweetener for people who are unable to eat sugar - diabetics can enjoy this sweet natural product without worries - strange how there really isn't more of a market for this - maybe the big business artificial sweeteners have something to do with that...maybe not.

Ciao,

Ore

#25 FoodMan

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 02:14 PM

here is Ore's picture of the Manna lady:

Posted Image

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#26 FoodMan

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 02:47 PM

This whole Manna thread is pretty amazing. I have heard of manna as a kid told to me as a bible story. I never saw or tasted it, however, a friend once told me that in Iraq they do eat manna in the form of a sweet they make. So, I was under the impression that today's manna is nothing more than a concoction named manna and not THE manna of the bible.
Reading through this thread I think we can divide manna into at least four categories:

1- The bible's manna, the one provided for the Israelis by God when they were lost in the dessert for 40 years.
2- A form of secretion/resin from a tree that is sweet and crystalizes (think Maple syrup)
3- A man-made concotion that has nothing to do with trees, bugs or the bible.
4- A hybrid Manna, made using the resin of the tree AND used with other additives to make some sort of candy or cake.

I do have several thoughts about each one of these and I will post them soon. In the meantime, does this sound accurate to you? Am I missing anything?

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#27 Behemoth

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Posted 21 February 2005 - 03:12 PM

The Italian and Iraqi products certainly seem to be related...but I am interested in knowing whether they are identical. The descriptions differ a little.

The Iraqi one is supposedly gathered off the trees after a rainfall, and are the secretions of aphids living on the trees (if I read that first article correctly), whereas the Italian kind is obtained directly from the tree, more like maple syrup. Interesting. Does eGullet want to sponsor a research fellowship? :wink:

Edited to add, I am talking about the actual raw substance, not the candy that is produced from it, obviously.

Edited by Behemoth, 21 February 2005 - 07:06 PM.


#28 lalala

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 06:11 PM

Hmm, it looks suspiciously like Esfahani Gaz or a nice Iranian nougat. :biggrin:

Good stuff and packaged in a flour to keep it from sticking together.

I have a box in my fridge I should open. If I do, I will post picture and box.

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#29 Hassouni

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 06:21 PM

Hmm, it looks suspiciously like Esfahani Gaz or a nice Iranian nougat. :biggrin:

Good stuff and packaged in a flour to keep it from sticking together.

I have a box in my fridge I should open. If I do, I will post picture and box.

lalala


The concept is similar to gaz but it's a LOT chewier and the taste is very different (better!)

Here is a photo:

Posted Image

The paper says "Mosul sweets and pastries company." I assume my parents cut it from the box because they thought I wouldn't believe they'd gotten some. :rolleyes: (Yes, those are pistachios embedded in there...)

The texture is a bit like nougat I guess but the flavor is hard to describe. I would put it sort of in the same flavor category as cardamom or mastic?

I was happy to find that article bacause it is one of the few mentions I've seen in the western press. Maybe with Iraq in the news there will be more western interest in the product, though I assume quantities are limited by nature.

As for a recipe, do they say how to get hold of the resin?


This looks like all the minn al-sima I've seen, though I've usually seen it in the big box full of flour (or is it powdered sugar? it's been a while...) You traditionally are presented with the box and take a little piece out of it.

The taste is indescribable and amazing. Behemoth is sort of right, imagine cardamom and mastic had a child that was more than the sum of its parts. There's nothing like it.

#30 thenanoeg

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 08:53 AM

The issue here is the name gaz is way diffrent from Kurdish name Gazzo , please be aware these are two entierly diffrent things, The italian manna and the Gazzo are much mor erelated but I agree with @Behemoth on the difference. I've asked a friend that travels to kurdistan sson to bring me some.

just for teh taste if you can get some pollen collected by honeybees that usually is mixed a little bit with honey and east it you almost get the same tatse as gazzo, of course not the same thing.  

Hmm, it looks suspiciously like Esfahani Gaz or a nice Iranian nougat. biggrin.gif

Good stuff and packaged in a flour to keep it from sticking together.

I have a box in my fridge I should open. If I do, I will post picture and box.

lalala