The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious.
– from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Turkish delight – known in its native Turkey as lokoum or loukoumi – is another of those sweets that is virtually unknown to many Filipinos.
If you like gummi bears or most sweets of that ilk, it may appeal to you. Wikipedia defines it as:
…is a family of confections based on a gel of starch and sugar. Premium varieties consist largely of chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel; the cheapest are mostly gel, generally flavored with rosewater, mastic, or lemon. The confection is often packaged and eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar, copra, or powdered cream of Tartar, to prevent clinging. Other common types include such flavors as cinnamon and mint.
The first time I tried the stuff was when it came as a small surprise in a Cadbury Milk Tray – a tiny, milk-chocolate-covered square of what appeared to be orange-flavored jelly. It was a bit firmer than the gelatin desserts I knew at the time, but not as chewy as, say, English toffee (mostly of the Quality Street sort), those fruity Sugus sweets that were popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s, or even chewing gum. I confess that I didn’t like it at all that much; it was a touch too sweet for me – considering that I was a four-year-old with a raging sweet tooth. Later on in life, when I read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia novels, I wondered why Edmund Pevensie sold out his siblings for something so horrible. It was a maddening notion!
It was only many years later, around the time I was in college, when a Muslim schoolmate whose mother was Egyptian, came home from making the Hajj with her family and offered the contents of a mammoth box of Middle Eastern sweets to me and a number of other girls. The box contained what appeared to be tiny logs rolled in crushed nuts and there was an appetizing mix of aromas: lemon, almond, rose, and cinnamon – an exotic, heady confluence that confounded most of the other girls but made my mouth water in anticipation.
“What are these?” I asked our newly-arrived-from-Mecca schoolmate.
“Turkish delights,” she said, grinning. “Well, everyone calls them that. But I got these from my uncle’s shop in Cairo; he sells homemade sweets – it’s been the family business for ages. Have one; they’re really good.”
And they were: gummy as they were to the bite, each lokoum virtually melted in my mouth with a creamy, rich texture and tasted deliciously of either lemon or rose – both flavors going beautifully with the toasted and crushed almonds and pistachios each had been rolled around in. It was a totally different experience from the vile little chocolate-coated bit I ate as a child.
As the years passed I’ve not had much of an opportunity to have Turkish delight, since it so obviously isn’t that widely available in this part of the world. And then, about a month ago, I found small packets of chocolate-coated Turkish delight in the refrigerated cases over at Marks and Spencer.
I sort of balked at first when I saw these because of another nasty little experience I had with chocolate-coated Turkish delight. Fry’s Turkish Delight was a bit of a nightmare for my tonsils; horrendously sweet and throat-catching as it was. But, thank goodness, I took the chance and was blissfully rewarded for it.
These particular loukoumi come two to a packet. The chocolate they’re encased in is crackly-crisp; not surprising as these are refrigerated whilst on sale. But the chocolate doesn’t seem to be the cheap sort as it is less sweet than most commercial milk chocolates. Plus, there is a rich, deep cocoa flavor – rather intense, as a matter of fact.
The Turkish delight within is soft to the bite and melts rather voluptuously, quite richly in one’s mouth. The flavors are strongly those of damask rose – intensely floral and more spicy than sweet – and toasted almond: a champion combination of flavors if there ever was one.
I would not recommend these for giving away this Hallowe’en. They’re a touch pricey at P 60.00 (₤ 0.90) to be bought in bulk. Most Filipino children – even those from what I like to refer to as gastronomically elitist households – probably won’t like the taste (Turkish delight being something of a taste that’s supposed to grow on you). And, given how these are refrigerated, they won’t stand a chance in the humidity. But, then again, who cares?
I’d buy these again; they’re just plain lovely to me.