Istanbul Diary: Turkish Delight
It's soft, gooey and bursting with the goodness of sugar and nuts. One bite and you'll be craving more and more until your body screams "STOP."
Turkish Delight, or lokum, is nothing but a candy made from sugar, starch and a flavouring like rosewater that makes it pink. It is cut up into little cubes that are dusted with sugar to prevent sticking. Like all sweets, Turkish delight comes in many varieties with ingredients like hazelnut, almonds, pistachio, dates, coconut etc.
The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul has hundreds of shops selling Turkish Delight. Walking through this market is a real feast for the eyes. There's candy everywhere and you can even sample the different flavours before settling on your selection. It was too difficult for me to choose which shop to buy from. But the persistence, charm and humour of one of the shopkeepers won me over - he kept insisting I was Pakistani and literally dragged me into his store to show me pictures of his trip to Pakistan, apparently my homeland! After a lot of chit chat, I bought a big box of assorted flavours. I let the shopkeeper make the selections for me as each flavour tasted unbelievable delicious and I just couldn't make up my mind.
Lokum is one of the oldest sweets in the world - it was created in Turkey about 500 years ago but it was not until the early 1800s under the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid 1 did the candy really become popular thanks to his appointment of a confectioner in his court. Lokum then made its way to Britain in the 19th century thanks to an unknown traveler who bought cases in Istanbul and shipped them to Britain under the name Turkish Delight.
The long name for the sweet is rahat lokum. It is a corruption of the Turanian word meaning morsel. Rahat is a Turkish word, meaning peace or contentment, therefore the correct translation is a morsel of contentment. What a delightful story!