If our friends Joy and Shimon didn’t already know about Zalatimo, we probably wouldn’t be able to find it in the labyrinth of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Zalatimo only serves one dish: a savory/sweet pastry called mutabak, which is handmade-to-order from a 150-year-old family recipe.
Zalatimo’s history is a family one. Mohammad Zalatimo opened the first mutabak pastry shop in the old city of Jerusalem in 1860, and the following generations have carried on the tradition, all the way down to his great-grandson who can be seen in the images accompanying this blog.
As we learned, mutabak’s surprisingly simple ingredients—tracing-paper-thin dough (almost filo like), white cheese curds, sugar syrup, and a dusting of powdered sugar make for an interesting snack/dessert. Chef Zalatimo flipped the pastry dough like a pizza, except he turned it over completely with each toss. The dough lands flat on the marble countertop, thinner with each turn until it’s stretched to capacity.
He followed this with a heaping of white cheese curds (sheep’s milk, we were told, soaked in water to release some of the salt), and folded it all together.
Then into the oven for a few minutes, after which it emerged hot and crispy and ready for a final drizzle of sugar syrup and powdered sugar. Served with a cup of sweet Turkish coffee, it was a delicious experience, the perfect snack.
The BBC video below, which I happened to find while doing research, shows you exactly what the little shop looks like, as well as the technique in action!