June 02, 2011

Mint Cucumber Sekanjabin Ice Pops - Ancient Persian Drink Meets the New World

Summer is almost here, with its typical hot and humid weather and the all too familiar music of the ice cream truck driving through the neighborhood followed by the excited screams of the neighbor's kids. So, I thought what better way to welcome the summer than with a mint and cucumber سکنجبین sekanjabin - but not the usual ancient cool beverage or the syrup dip served with fresh lettuce, but as ice pops! These are not your average frozen pops. They have the sweet and sour combination flavor that is typical of Iranian cuisine with vinegar and honey/sugar. Ice pops are a wonderful treat any time of the year but having a tasty ice pop on a hot summer day is just a delightful experience. I still remember the taste of the orange popsicles that I used to buy from the corner grocery store of my grandmother's house in Tehran. When my children were little they enjoyed their ice pops from the ice cream truck after swimming in the pool in the summer. Now, I usually get a box or two of multi-colored ice pops and that lasts us the entire summer.

سکنجبین - Sekanjabin syrup is usually served in a small bowl and eaten with fresh lettuce leaves. Sekanjabin drink is made with 2-3 tablespoons of sekanjabin, ice, water and grated cucumbers. Even though I absolutely love the taste of sekanjabin now, I didn't appreciate its strong flavor and aroma as a kid. Now, by trying to turn this delicious drink into a بستنی یخی bastani yakhi popsicle I'm hoping it will appeal to the younger generation and those of us kids at heart. This is a simple recipe and a fun one to do with the kids over the summer. I have made few changes in my sekanjabin recipe to make these pops more palatable.

Long before the discovery of electricity and the invention of the refrigerator, having an ice cold drink in hot summer days required some planning, hard work and patience. Yakhchal (ice pits) were built in hot and dry areas to make ice during the winter and to preserve it for use in the summer. As a child, I visited one of these yakhchals in the south of Tehran with my mother. The image of that man-made ancient refrigerator which was made out of mud and clay is still etched in my mind and makes me appreciate making ice-pops in a much more convenient freezer.

Mint Cucumber Sekanjabin Ice Pops - Ancient Persian Drink Meets the New World

Makes 8 pops

1/2 cup honey *(I used orange blossom honey for its delicate scent and mild flavor but any other fruit flavored honey will do)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar *(I chose apple cider vinegar over white vinegar for its milder taste and for a bit of a fruity flavor)
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest *(to add a hint of citrus taste)
1 small bunch of fresh mint, washed
3 Persian cucumbers, shredded or thinly sliced
1 teaspoon rosewater

  1. In a heavy-bottom pot combine honey, sugar and water, place on medium heat, bring the water to a boil, stir until honey and sugar are dissolved, lower the heat, simmer for about 10-12 minutes or until it thickens a little bit. 
  2. Add vinegar, lemon zest and mint leaves, stir and simmer for another 7-8 minutes.
  3.  Remove foams with a wooden spoon. Taste and adjust the flavors.
  4. Add a teaspoon of rosewater, remove from heat and let cool completely and then strain it through a fine-mesh sieve. 
  5. Place a teaspoon of shredded cucumber and a couple of mint leaves in each mold. Pour the mixture into Popsicle molds. I used this ice pop mold. Insert the ice pop sticks and place in the freezer until firm about 3-4 hours.


  1. How brilliant! Know some folks who would love this!!

  2. Brilliant!...Thanks for adding more nice recipe & history.This reminded me my childhood that my sister & I used to make Ice-pop with fizzy drinks in freezer.we used to put a stick into the jug filled with Coke or Peppsy or CocaCola.When it was frozen,we licked it all to end :))


  3. What a fantastic idea. I love sekanjebeen but never thought how great it could be as an ice-pop. Thanks for sharing your great idea and the magnificent history about ice pits.:-)

  4. Growing up in New England, we had a summer drink that was made of cider vinegar mixed with water. The old-timers swore that it made the humidity more tolerable. I wish we'd had something as delicious as this, with the mint, lemon and cucumber. Turning sekanjabin into popsicles is such a clever, inventive idea. I'll try it!

  5. Heavenly cool popsicle and brilliant recipe!!

  6. This post has confirmed my resolve to visit Iran and learn about all these wonderful traditions.

  7. I love learning about cuisines with which I am not familiar. This sounds delicious! Thank you for posting.

  8. After having made and enjoyed sekanjabin when I was a college student in hot, inland Southern California I forgot about it for many years. I resurrected it in my home this summer, for my wife, who wasn't sure the first time she tasted it, but has come to think of it as her favorite, refreshing cold drink. She also loves popsicles, so I'm sure she'll love these! Thanks!


  9. Steven, sekanjabin is truly refreshing. It's a great drink to beat the scorching heat during the summer. I am so glad that your wife enjoys it too. I hope you give the Popsicle recipe a try and let me know how it turns out! Thanks so much for visiting.

    Best wishes,

  10. Love this but, how do you get the Popsicle out? That is the biggest problem I have with making Popsicle.

    thanks for this and other wonderful recipes you have posted.

    1. Black Chador, run the bottom of the mold under hot water for a few seconds to release the popsicle. Thank you so much!

  11. I love this recipe, and I imagine making it less sweet when making it for myself (blood sugar issues). But I've not seen any cucumbers marketed as "Persian cucumbers". I assume I can substitute, but even so, I'm curious--what are they like?

    Thanks again!

    1. Deirdre, Persian cucumbers are small, slender and thin skinned. Thank you!