Ingredient: Pomegranate Molasses (dibs roman)

I never paid much attention to pomegranate molasses, probably because my own mama and most in our clan never cook with it, even though it is a common Middle Eastern flavoring. But over the last year or two, this dark, tangy, semi-sweet molasses-style syrup has been showing up and begging for me to take notice.

When we were in Lebanon in the spring, on more than one occasion a little bowl was placed on the table after dinner. It looked like a bowl of tahini, which it was, but it was a layer of tahini over pomegranate molasses. The pomegranate in Arabic is called “dibs” and the molasses “roman.” My darling cousins just called the bowl dibs, and they were so excited to show us this. It was beautiful, the whole thing, the way the syrup and tahini were stirred together and the way pieces of the best flat bread you’ve eaten since Sitto died were torn off the loaf, then folded up as we do to make a little scoop. My cousin made a little scoop of dibs and tahini for everyone at the table, and I enjoyed mine enormously. My sister, on the other hand, said it was all she could do to chew, then swallow the stuff.

During my culinary school externship at Boulette’s Larder in San Francisco, I noticed the pomegranate molasses was always in the pantry, used for a particular larder item that we’re going to make this week: muhammara, roasted red bell pepper dip. I was on muhammara duty there one day when we ran out of the pomegranate molasses. It was a big deal, a very big deal, because they sell a LOT of muhammara and it has to, HAS to taste the same every time. There just aren’t good flavor substitutes for pomegranate molasses—it has a flavor all its own, so when it’s called for, you really don’t want to leave it out or have to compensate with a lemon-honey or some other inferior substitute.

Here we were in the heart of San Francisco, one of the world’s culinary epicenters, and when the restaurant runs out of pomegranate molasses, you can’t do as you would in Lansing, Michigan and just run out and get a bottle. It’s not often you get to brag about a Lansing culinary opportunity over a San Francisco one, so there you go.

You can in fact make pomegranate molasses from a combination of 4 cups pomegranate juice, ½ cup sugar, and ¼ cup lemon juice. Bring to a boil and cook it down to a very thick molasses-like syrup, which can take a couple of hours. I like to buy mine imported from Lebanon, either the Cortas brand you can buy around the corner here or as a special treat (go ahead) from Mymoune, where the products are so perfect and gorgeous and made by two sisters on their family farm in Lebanon. Use it as we will this week in our red pepper dip, as well as in marinades for all kinds of meats. I doubt you’ll run out of a bottle very quickly, so you shouldn’t find yourself needing to figure out a substitute unless you become addicted to the dibs-tahini dessert. Which I also doubt.

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12 Responses to Ingredient: Pomegranate Molasses (dibs roman)

  1. Ginny says:

    I mix some in my meat stuffing for sfeeha. Got the suggestion from Aladdin Bakery in Cleveland.

  2. margaret says:

    it’s also great mixed into seltzer water or iced tea.

  3. Jerry Wakeen says:

    Very informative article, I had never heard of Pomegranate Molasses, let alone dibs roman.
    I think it is great not to have to peel one of those buggers, on the other hand if your sister could hardly chew or swallow it….what kind of recommendation is that?

    I will have to look for it and try it out, I do see the juice is getting common to see on the shelf.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Maureen, I have just discovered your blog and I look forward to new posts everyday.My maiden name is Aboud ( could we be related) and I love to cook Lebanese food.I don’t think I have ever seen Pomegranate Molasses but I will certainly look for it next time I am in Montreal. I would love to hear about your trip to Lebanon. Maybe with a few pictures?

  5. I confess I ‘d never tried pom molasses with tahini, even in Lebanon; it is always mixed with dibs el-kharroub (carob molasses); must be a new trend! I am all for it, love to get the pom molasses from a special lady at the Souk el Tayeb (Rima) who makes it with pom from her garden in the Shouf.

  6. Cynthia says:

    Thank you so much for you experiences and I have enjoyed reading them! I am a newby to Muhamara. Although I must say, I was surprised at how good it turned out. I was given a HUGE amount of walnuts and needed to look up some recipes for them. My sister’s husband was Arabic and she requested me to look up some recipes for her and her family. Needles to say it was consumed that night and is now a special weekly treat for them. Again, thank you for your website.
    Cyn

  7. Geraldine says:

    Hello Maureen. I am all Lebanese and do not have a Lebanese first name for the same reason you do not. My mom liked the name Geraldine. Anyway, I attempted to make Dibs Ruman. Well…..I can stand the spoon up in it. It has the consistency of taffy. Don’t have time to remake. Can you give me some idea how to thin it. Or can I still use it as is for Mouhamarra. Maybe not use as much or reheat to loosen, or add some other liquid? I don’t know. Help!
    Need an answer asap please and thank you.

    Gerri

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Gerri–not to worry. Loosen the reduction with a little water and taste it. Add more if needed, but add a tablespoon at a time. If it’s not intense enough, reduce again just a bit, but the water should do the trick.

  8. Heather AbuSneineh says:

    My husband (of 23 yrs.) is Palestinian from Jerusalem. We have been to visit his family 8 times with our three daughters. The fruit pomegranate is called “roman” after the Romans, and the molasses is called “dibs”. They make it out of grape juice. I recently picked my grapes and juiced them. My husband’s mom suggested that I make “dibs” but I haven’t found a recipe yet.

  9. jed says:

    You write that ‘pomegranate in Arabic is called “dibs” and the molasses “roman.”’ In fact, it is the other way around! Roman is pomegranate, and dibs is molasses. Date dibs is also popular in the Middle East, and is very good mixed 50/50 with tahini (in Arabic tahina) as a dip with flat bread.
    Jed

 

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