Tuesday, February 21, 2006

From Lebanon 007

Ras El Abed

English Translation: Nigger's Head. Yep, that is what kids in Lebanon grow up eating.

It had been 20 years since I last had one of these, I remember always saying "I don't like Nigger's Head," to be met with a "How can you not like Nigger's Head?" So I gave in after 20 years of resistance thinking maybe now my more mature taste buds would better appreciate this Lebanese treasure.

It turns out the most racially insensitive candy on earth is as nasty as it sounds. At first sight it looks like a slightly elongated chocolate ball, or a Nigger's Head. Not bad. Then as you bite through the chocolate shell you start feeling the insides of the Nigger's Head, the Nigger's Brains.
No one is sure what the inside part is made of, but just pray it is not actual brain. It's white, thus the clever naming. It looks, feels, smells, tastes and sounds like a cross between marshmallows and Elmer's Glue. Its adhesive qualities are still under study.

No one claimed all tradition is good. It can be cheap* and nasty.

*250 LL or $0.15


desmond said...

On the subject of cheap an nasty, I remember that during the early 80's there was a really badly made commercial on TV here extolling the whitening properties of a certain local fabric soap (can't remember which). At the end of it, a young African woman (producer's maid p'raps) said, in broken Arabic, "I want to be as white as snow too."

desmond said...

Also, I think she was washing her face with the stuff as she said it....now that's a classy ending.

Lazarus said...

hehe. now that is one thing i don't miss eating!

Freedom said...

Wow, desmond, that's pretty damn racist. That's sad. :(

I like the taste of 'ras el 3abd', despite the nasty name.

Doha said...

The white stuff is meringue. By the way, they changed the name of the candy from ras el-abd to something else which i forgot, because there was a recognition (at last!) that this candy has a racist name. by the way, some Lebanese still call blacks as "abeed" which literally translates to "slaves" in Arabic. Oh Gosh, it's so embarassing.

[ j i m m y ] said...

when i was like 12 y/o, during one summer vacation, my brother and i built a wooden platform on wheels and started selling 'ras el abed' and 'round choco prince' on it.
we used to sell the original ghandour ras el abed for 250 LL.

all our beighbours and friends used to pass in front of our famous stand and continue to the next one where they bought 'fake ras el abed' for 100LL! It was a horrible scene because the other ras el abed had a pink wrapping and it was a disgusting imitation of the original one.

damn neighbours.
(shh! i'll keep it low, i'm blogging from africa. don't want to be killed because of that racist brand name).

Jamal said...

desmond- wasn't that seef el abed?

doha- you're right, Ghandour now calls it Tarboush, but it is still referred to as Ras el Abed.

jimmy- oh i remember my early ventures, buy 2000-3000 LL worth of candy, sell 500 Liras' worth and eat the rest. come to think of it, nothing has changed with my business ventures.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Ras el Abed mean Slave head?

So I'm not sure where you got the nigger part, but it is wrong.


ghassan said...

You have used , I hope unintentionally, one of the most hated words in the English language. Nigger is not connected to slavery but is a putdown for all bleck people and even dark skinned ones, which you might very well have.
I am hopeful that what you really meant to say was black and not nigger. I believe that this insensitivity , especially if intentional, is a statement about the user rather than a denigration of black people.

AbdulKarim said...


On my first post at your blog I disagree with you :) At 26, I still enjoy Ras El Abed as I used to as when I was a kid. In fact, I didn't have to search long after travelling to the UK. They sell them at Sainsburys and they are called Tea Cakes :) I actually consume 2 packs of tea cakes each week.

Yalla cheers and keep up the good work.

Zanzounito said...

How could you not like Ras al 3abed????

They are sooo good, especially when they are cold..mmmmmmmm

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.. I haven't had Ras El Abed in more than 12 years! I can still feel the taste in my mouth though...

It's not my most favoured chocolate delight but I must admit the only reason I would have one now is to make a connection with my childhood in Lebanon and to reminisce.

I think they export the original ones to Australia, not sure how popular they are there. I've never seen a kid walking around the mall eating one..

Despite the racist name, Ras EEl Abed brings good memories to mind so I can't hate it. I guess it's the curse of the migrant...


Jamal said...

CV & Ghassan: While the word Abed literally translates to slave, it is used in Lebanon and some of our neighboring countries as a derrogatory name for dark-skinned people. Ghas- the use of the word was intentional to emphasize the blatant racism in our culture, I think it's pretty clear I don't agree with it.

AK,Zanzoun,and Pamela- Sahtein.

Fouad said...

I thought I was the only one to think they're inedible (not to mention, you know, racist..). Thank you for making me feel a little less of an oddball.

jawahr said...

Bas bil 3alaam, Negro!
Seef il 3aabed, Negro!

Felix said...

In Sweden we have negerbollar, which translates to negro balls. The term was coined back in the days when the term neger did not have the negative tone that it carries today.
Over time, a number of substitutes have come into place. There are names such as etnisk boll (ethnic ball) and chokladboll (chocolate ball... ...although the use of this name often constitutes a breach of advertisement law), kokosboll (coconut ball), 08-boll (08 ball, 08 being the dialing code for Stockholm) and brancoboll (BRANCO ball, after the small firm Bröderna Anderssons Conditori).