There’s no doubt about it, the Turks definitely have a sweet tooth (as do their Arabic neighbours but that’s the subject of another post). But is Turkish Delight the number one sweet in Turkey? I’d say ‘no’. It was everywhere in Istanbul but hardly to be seen anywhere else.
Amazingly, whilst Turkish Delight or Lokum has been part of Ottoman cuisine for many centuries, it was an immigrant who came to Istanbul to sell his home made sweets and opened the first Turkish Delight shop in 1777. This shop was a contributing factor to the craze in the West for Turkish Delight. Even more amazing is the fact that the same shop is still being operated by the 5th generation of the Haci Bekir family and you can still buy from them. Now that’s a claim to fame.
The Misir Carsisi (Spice Bazaar) is a temple to the sugary high of Lokum (which by the way, means ‘morsel’….hmmm…..very similar to Tiffin). As you walk through the market, piles of Turkish Delight glisten on either side as the sellers offer you samples. The samples are often the cheaper pistachio and flavoured jelly combos, designed to lure you in to the shop so the stall holder can then upsell you to the better quality Lokums, made of various grades of honey. I am happy to say that whilst I sampled many, many pieces on offer, I didn’t buy a piece despite Turkish Delight being a personal fave.
Something to lure in the tourists? Probably – but who cares. The best use of Turkish Delight? – on the breakfast table at our hotel of course. Nothing like a nice sugary, rosewater hit at 8am!