Shanklish, Blue Cheese of The Levant


Shanklish is the only "blue" cheese of Syria and Lebanon. I say blue because the cheese is left to age and develop mould layer on the surface. I used quotation marks because the mould is then rinsed away then the cheese balls are dried and rolled in a herb crust.

Proper Shanklish making is a complicated lengthy process. It starts by turning milk into yoghurt. The yoghurt is placed in a large container and shaken continuously for a good period of time to separate the butter that is then skimmed away. This creates a thin skimmed yoghurt called Shenineh. The next step is to slow heat shenineh until it curdles. These curds are then drained in a cheese cloth for few hours to create Arisheh, a delicately flavoured crumbly white cheese. Arisheh is then salted generously and rolled into tennis-ball sized cheese balls. These are then dried in the sun for a week. Once dried shanklish balls are placed in airtight jars and left in the dark to mature. They will develop a mouldy layer on the surface. Once the desired aging time is reached the cheese balls are rinsed and dried to remove the mould. Shanklish balls are finished by rolling them in dried zaatar or thyme layer.

Each of these by-products mentioned above is an ingredient in its own right. Shenineh makes a light refreshing drink similar but lighter than Ayran (yoghurt drink for those of you who haven't tried it). Arisheh makes a wonderful breakfast dish drizzled with honey or cherry jam and served with warm bread.


Shanklish varies a lot in taste, texture and flavour depending on the length of the aging process. Fresh white shanklish needs only a week of aging. The longer shanklish is matured the darker and smellier it gets. Eating properly aged shanklish is a hard core sport for an elite group of hard core fans.


A common variation of the original is made by adding paprika and Aleppo peppers to Arisheh before it get rolled this will give shanklish orange pink colour. Flavoured shanklish is commonly rolled in Aleppo peppers rather than thyme.


Shanklish is not a native cheese to Damascus. It is very popular in coastal and mountainous areas especially around
Tartous and Homs. Up til recent year, and by recent I mean when I was a child, it was not eaten in Damascus at all. The strong smell and the idea of aged mouldy cheese was off putting to most people. I vaguely remember as a child somebody giving us home made shanklish as a gift. It stayed in the fridge for a week or so before my mum chucked it in the bin untouched. Now getting older and wiser I grew to love shanklish. It has a wonderful unique flavour that I absolutely love.


Like I did people of Damascus grew to like shanklish. You can find it in most grocery shops around the city. It is not uncommon to see a man pushing a cart full of the stuff around the city narrow lanes or even farmer women selling their home made shanklish in the city streets.


Shanklish could be eaten as it is with nice piece of bread and some olive oil with tomato, cucumber and mint leaves on the side. I like to make it into a sandwich with some soft boiled eggs. I heard of some people frying it with eggs to make a flavoursome omelet, I never tried it this way. Finally the most common and best way to eat shanklish is to make it into a salad. This will be my next post.


In London you can buy shanklish from Green Valley on Edgware road or Damas Gate in Shepherds Bush.


If you want to read an excellent article on Shanklish go to
Abu Fares blog. Abu Fares is a great writer, thinker, humanist and a champion of Tartous and everything related to Tartous including Shanklish.

15 comments:

Fiona Beckett said...

Fascinating post - I'll definitely try and track that down.

Kano said...

@Finoa Beckett

Welcome to my blog!

This is just right up your street. Please try it. It is worth the trip to Edgware road.

Sarah said...

interesting, I have a relative who originally comes from Homs, I wonder if her family made Shanklish.

Joy said...

Thankyou! I knew nothing of this fascinating cheese! What a great name: Shanklish! It is wonderful to say it!

Zora said...

Fascinating--thank you! I'd always wondered exactly how shanklish was made. I had no idea it was so complex.

(And for some reason, I never thought of the word 'curdled' as meaning turning into curds. Though of course that's all it is. 'Curdled' just has such a negative connotation.)

Abu Kareem said...

Ahhh! what I would give for plate of diced shanklish(also called sourkeh in Lattakia)mixed with chipped onions and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, with a loaf of fresh pita on the side.

Smelly? of course, tasty? absolutely!

Kano said...

@Sarah
If they are from the city then it is unlikely they make shanklish. Mainly made in the surrounding villages.

@Joy
You welcome!

@Zora
So you tried Shanklish before. You are officially a true Syrian Foodie!

@Abu Kareem
It should not be difficult getting decent Shanklish in NY, is it?

Anonymous said...

dear friend, shenklish is more italian dry ricotta than blue cheese,
i make spagetti with chenklish

le, brasil

Kano said...

@Le

Welcome to my blog!

I haven't tried dry ricotta so I can't really comment.

I use shinklish with pasta as well. Works great. I should post a recipe.

tasteofbeirut said...

I love shanklish and even made some this past summer using a family recipe from a darling Armenian lady.

Kano said...

@tasteofbeirut

How did it work?

I thought about making my own but I thought the damp cold weather of London will not help.

May be I should give it a go and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

Kano, thanks for your great blog and all the recipes! My husband's grandparents were from Homs area. My father-in-law talks about his family going to Belle Isle which is a park in Detroit (Michigan, US) to camp out for 4 days and make cheese. Would have been in the mid 20th century probably. This must have been what they were making?
Margaret

Kano said...

@Margaret

It might, You never know!

I am glad my blog brought back such lovely memories even if it turned out to be a different cheese .

Madame Fromage said...

Hey, thanks for the comment. I've heard of Shanklish, but I've never seen a picture or read such a thorough description of it. Thanks!

Molly said...

I live in Sarasota Florida. Where can I find this cheese?

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