Ashta bil Asal – a lebanese sweet – the piece de resistance

We were at a lebanese restaurant (Vine Valley Lebanese Cuisine)  last weekend at “The Street” in Paterson, NJ – the “oaktree road” or “devon street” of the arabs in NJ. As we finished the lunch, we inquired about desserts (one of the brothers that own the restaurant was our waiter) and we asked specifically if there is some atypical sweet on the menu. Our man immediately jumped and pointed to the dish called “Ashta bil Asal”  as if he was waiting for us to ask such a question. He told us further that this recipe was really rare and you could not get it anywhere else in NJ or for that matter in the US – mind you, we were in the arab bastion, so this lofty claim got our interests really piqued.  He also mentioned that his brother was manning the kitchen and the recipe was his special one. You could easily tell the pride of workmanship from his gestures as well.  He also listed the ingredients for us to which we tentatively responded “we think we make something similar in India”.  He violently objected saying this sweet was not made by anybody else in the world. So it was becoming clear that we were on to something. In a few minutes, the dessert was served. It was a delectable mix of clotted cream (Ashta), semolina, strawberries, bananas, honey(asal) and other secret ingredients.  We had never eaten anything like this before.  The quality was so good we almost got goosebumps. There is something magical about the quality of the experience,  when you can sort of experience the joy, and pride of workmanship almost as much as the creator experienced. More on this magical aspect of quality later. I am sure all of us experience this from time  to  time. As a matter of curiosity, i did a google search for the dish and came up with one  potential place to get this sweet in LA.  That was the only link in the whole wide world of  Google. So probably it is rare indeed.


  1. You can also get ashta at this beautiful family owned restaurant in Monrovia called Mediterranean Garden Grill on Foothill Blvd. Theirs has rosewater in it, and it was wonderful.

  2. Anonymous said February 6, 2005, 12:45 pm:

    I know of two lebanese restaurants that serve ashta. The first is Sunin on Westwood Blvd in Westwood. The second is Gabby’s which has locations in Venice and Marina Del Ray. Gabby’s only serves ashta on certain days though.