What looks like small, snowed in cubes of colored glass is actually a traditional oriental sweet. In Turkey, you can find it under the name of Lokum at any bazaar but also industrially made in supermarkets. While it looks like solid blocks at first glance, it is rather soft and chewy – and keeps sticking to your teeth. Lokum is an aromatic candy like no other with floral flavors and oriental condiments right from 1001 nights. And for everybody out there who refrains from animal products, good news is that Lokum is not only vegetarian but also vegan!
Does that all sound familiar to you? Well, you might have heard of or even tried Lokum already. In English it usually goes by the name of “Turkish Delight”! The original name stems from the Turkish expression “rahat-lokma” which means “convenient morsel”. This, in turn, originated from “rahat al-hulqum” in Arabic meaning “comfort of the throat”. Two cute and appropriate terms to describe this sweet deliciousness.
How to make Lokum
The principal base of the traditional candy is a gel of starch and sugar. Occasionally, mastic finds use in its preparation as well. The sweet gets its typical oriental flavors by adding aromatic fruits and condiments like pomegranate, rose water, orange blossom water or bergamot. While the dusty, semi-transparent cubes might be known beyond Turkey’s borders, Turkish Delight actually comes in many more, less known shapes and variations. Premium versions, for instance, often don’t just consist of the plain gel but also contain chopped dates, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts or pureed apricots bound by the sticky matter.
To create the delicious sweet, confectioners boil the syrup over several hours. After the viscous liquid has cooled down and hardened, it is cut into pieces. In order to prevent it from sticking to the fingers, the Lokum is rolled in icing sugar, coconut flakes or powdered cream of tartar. This also gives the candy its typical dusty coating.
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Who came up with the gel candy?
Many sources give credit to Hacı Bekir for inventing Lokum as people know it today. In 1777, the confectioner had opened his own store in the Bahçekapı district of what was then Constantinopel. Supposedly, he later added the new and distinct kind of Lokum to his existing range of candies. While lokums had been around for centuries already in Turkey, Arabia and Persia, they had a very different, crumbly consistency. These reminded more of the sweet that we now know by the name of “Halva”.
If you’d like to try the original Lokum, you are lucky that Bekir’s familiy still operates confectionery stores under the same name in Istanbul. But Turkey isn’t the only place to find this delicious candy. Nowadays, Lokum is a common sweet across the complete terrain of the former Ottoman Empire. And even beyond these bygone borders, it can be found in different variations often under other names.
So, if you like to try the Turkish gel candy but don’t want to resort to industrial Lokum, check out our authentic recipe and easily make it yourself:
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