Sübye, melon seeds drink is of Izmir cuisine. It has a very long historical journey. Although it is not known exactly where this journey starts and where it goes, the few written sources at hand allow us to make an estimation.
History of the Sübye
Sübye was brought to Izmir by Sephardic emigrants from Spain. It is still known as horchata in Spain. Although it is mostly made with the seeds of the chufa plant in Spain, it is also made with melon and watermelon seeds and rice. In İzmir, although it is mostly made from melon seeds, it is also made with rice. The beverage was also carried to South America by Spaniards. There, it is known as pepitada.
So how did sübye come to Spain? Although the information on this subject is not certain, it is said that it was brought to Spain by the Umayyads who conquered Spain. In Arab sources, there is a recipe for sübye made with flour, called subiyya yamaniyya.
It is one of the best recipes that shows that in the past every part of a food was used to be used and nothing was wasted. In this aspect, it makes you feel good while making it. But on the other hand, making and drinking a sugary drink in order not to waste melon seeds that you wouldn’t normally do can also be considered a waste nowadays. In the past, when sugar was very precious, sherbets were really important for the people in Eastern countries. But in this age where we try to stay away from sugar as much as possible and where even if not directly, we consume too much sugar every day, the saving of the past is like the waste of the present.
My aim in sharing this recipe is to try to prevent the disappearance of an important cultural value. As a matter of fact, our palate has changed a lot in history and even just reading the recipes of the most popular dishes of the past cause many people to have a sour face today. I am sure that many people will not like sübye either. But that doesn’t mean we’ll let it fade away. I owe to my culture to support its existence. In this case the best thing I can do is to create a written resource including that kind of recipes that are about to be forgotten.
If you don’t want to bother with making it at home but wonder about its taste, you can taste it in Kemeraltı during the summer months when you go to Izmir. I have read in several sources that the sübye in some of the places here smells like melon. It is worth underlining that sübye does not smell of melon. If the sübye you drink outside smells of melon, it is not a sübye but an aroma added drink. Sübye smells of seeds. It has a scent close to pumpkin seeds and a velvety consistency.
Let’s talk a little about the preparation of the sübye. In ancient sources, it is stated that melon seeds, which are pounded in a mortar to make sübye, have a consistency like a paste. I pulsed the melon seeds in food processor, pounded them in a mortar, made them two in a row, added sugar, but still could not achieve a paste consistency. Either the melon seeds used to be different in the past, or I could not manage it. One possibility is that a step such as soaking the seeds in water was skipped in the recipes I found. If the seeds were wet and soft, it will be easier for them to form a paste. In short, your beans may or may not be in a pasty consistency . I reasonably conclude that it will have no effect on the consistency of the sübye.
It is stated in some sources that the melon seeds are boiled with water and sugar, but in the sources I consider reliable, it is written that they are prepared in this way without boiling. Horchata is made just like this, without boiling. This increases the likelihood that the original recipe is made without boiling.
It is easy to prepare sübye. There is only one small downside. It spoils very quickly and therefore needs to be consumed in a short time. The best timing is to prepare the sübye in the morning or at noon and consume it in the evening.
Enjoy the recipe…
- 1.5 cups of dried melon seeds,
- 3/4 cup sugar,
- 2 liters of water.
- Take the melon seeds into a food processor and pulse until the seeds are finely ground,
- Take the ground seeds, sugar and water in a deep bowl and mix until the sugar dissolves,
- Cover it airtight, put it in the refrigerator and rest for 2 hours,
- At the end of the time, strain the mixture with a thin cheesecloth and take it into a jug, keep it in the refrigerator and consume it within the same day.
Enjoy your drink…