1,000-year-old Middle Eastern recipe book

1,000-year-old Middle Eastern recipe book claims to have the ultimate hangover cure

(Read the article on one page)

Written nearly a thousand years ago, the Kitab al-tabikh (book of cookery) written by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, is the most comprehensive work of its kind. It includes more than 600 recipes for culinary and medicinal dishes, including a well-known ancient Middle Eastern hangover cure, ingredients for enhancing sexual performance, and dishes for curing a range of health problems. The ancient text has been translated by Nawal Nasrallah, a former professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Baghdad, into the ‘Annals of the Caliph’s Kitchen’, making these fascinating recipes accessible to the English-speaking world for the first time.

Very little is known about Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, the author of the text, except that he died in 961 AD, and that he was commissioned to write a cookbook on the dishes of Caliphs, Lords and dignitaries of the time. Many of the recipes are thought to have been acquired from much earlier writers and may be much older than 1,000 years.

Nawal Nasrallah’s translation of the Kitab al-tabikh

Nawal Nasrallah’s translation of the Kitab al-tabikh. Image source .

Al-Warraq’s comprehensive recipe book consists of five chapters about kitchen utensils, spices, the eight type of tastes, the causes of spoiled food, and remedies for burned food; seventy-nine chapters of culinary recipes, twenty chapters about cooking and dining etiquette, and twenty-five chapters on the medicinal properties of food, including what Nasrallah describes as ‘the ultimate hangover cure’.

Al-Warraq’s hangover cure, called ‘Kkishkiyya’, is a meat, chickpea, and vegetable stew with the addition of a special ingredient known as khask, a fermented yoghurt, milk, and whey product, which is thought to be the key to alleviating what Nasrallah describes as excess heat in the head and stomach.  The book also advises to eat cabbage prior to drinking alcohol, eating snacks between drinks to slow down its effects, and sipping on water the following day before consuming the stew. Today, Kkishkiyya is still cooked in the same way, mostly in northern Iraq and the Levant.

The ingredients and steps for making Kkishkiyya are available here.

Illustrations from an Arab manuscript

Illustrations from an Arab manuscript (1199 AD) showing typical ingredients used in Middle Eastern cuisine, with ‘rue’ on the left’ and ‘cassia’ on the right. Image source .

In addition to the hangover cure, Al-Warraq includes a recipe to “invigorate coitus”, which is just for men. It is made up of 15g each of sweet Ceylon cinnamon, spikehard/nard, cloves, sea costus, and ginger, as well as 3 ounces each of long pepper, sea-musk, seeds of watercress, seeds of Persian leeks and carrot seeds. The reader is instructed to mix them all together with honey to bind them into a paste, and eat one lump the size of an almond twice a day on an empty stomach. The text writes that the recipe will be effective “God willing”.

Al-Warraq’s ancient cookbook serves to unfold the role of food in the culture of Islam’s golden era, and provides a fascinating insight into Middle Eastern agriculture, health, and food trends of the 10 th century.

Featured image:  The Kitab al-tabikh written by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq. Credit: The National Library of Finland

By April Holloway


angieblackmon's picture

The link doesn't appear to work anymore! :( I'd love to get some ancient reciepes and try them out, assuming i can get my hands on the ingredients!

love, light and blessings


ancient-origins's picture

Thanks Angie for noticing that! We have fixed the link.

I look forward to the kindle Addition of this book maybe I am the only one who hopes for that no?

I would like to read a copy of it too. Is there anyone out there who has it, or maybe a odd, or us it too soon?

"Al-Warraq includes a recipe to “invigorate coitus”, which is just for men." Yep, that's a Middle Eastern book all right!

I thought the Middle Eastern hangover cure was banning alcohol completely. The recipe sounds like good, old fashioned stick-to-your ribs kind of stuff, the universal hangover cure. Certainly better for you than anything from Waffle House.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

A Greek amphora showing athletes, 4th century BC. ©Trustees of the British Museum.
Every two years, when the Winter or Summer Olympics comes around, we hear about how the games staged at Olympia in Greece since 776 BC came to a sudden end in the late fourth century AD. The finger is pointed at the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I (AD 379-395)

Myths & Legends

An illustration of Vasilisa the Beautiful, by Ivan Bilibin.
[…] In the evening the girl laid the table and began waiting for Baba-Yaga. It grew dark. The black horseman swept by and it was night. The skulls’ eyes began to shine. The trees creaked, the dead leaves crunched, the earth trembled, and there was Baba-Yaga…

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

Mammoth in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair.
In Sivershchina, close to the village of Mizyn in Ukraine is one of the oldest and most unique settlements of humans – and it was discovered in a parking lot. The now well-known archaeological site, known plainly as the Mizyn parking lot, dates back 18-20 thousand years.

Ancient Places

The highly-decorated tomb is built in a distinctive ‘L’ shape
A mysterious ancient tomb with “unusual and rare” wall paintings has been discovered in Egypt. Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told BBC reporters the discovery of a 4,400-year-old tomb found during excavation work in Giza’s western cemetery “likely belonged to Hetpet, a priestess to Hathor, the goddess of fertility, who assisted women in childbirth.”

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article