What is Turkish Delight?

Turkish Delight has many names. Some call it rahat lokum, others call it lokum. Put simply, Turkish Delights is a family of confections based on a wondrous blend of gel formed from starch and sugar. There are endless possibilities and often contain chopped dates, pistachios, and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel.

Traditional varieties of Turkish Delight are generally flavoured with rosewater, mastic, bergamot orange, or lemon. This confectionary delight is often packaged and eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar, copra, or powdered cream of tartar and often include cinnamon and mint.

The exact origin of these sweets is shrouded in mystery. However, we do know that "lokum" comes from the Arabic Halkum or Al-Halkum. In the Arab World, Turkish Delights are often called rāḥat al-ḥulqūm (رَاحَة الْحُلْقُوم) which means "Throat Comfort".

Some say that the sweets, as we know them known today, were developed by Bekir Efendi, named Hacı Bekir, after performing the Hajj. He moved to Istanbul from his hometown Kastamonu and opened his confectionery shop in the district of Bahçekapı in 1777 and, indeed, the company still operates under the founder's name.

But how did Turkish Delight come into being? It is important to consider that Ottoman confectionery was originally sweetened with honey and molasses, using water and flour as the binding agents, with rosewater, lemon peel and bitter orange as the most common flavors (red, yellow and green).

Eventually, Turkish Delight was introduced to Western Europe in the 19th century. A Briton with a sweet tooth reputedly became very fond of the delicacy during his travels to Istanbul and purchased cases of it, to be shipped back to Britain under the name Turkish Delight, and the rest is history.

Turkish Delight then became a popular delicacy in Britain and its Empire and throughout Continental Europe for high class society. Indeed, at this time, it became a practice among upper class socialites to exchange pieces of Turkish Delight wrapped in silk handkerchiefs as presents. Cadburys of England even produced Fry’s Turkish Delight, which continues to be popular worldwide.

Selamlique’s authentic Turkish almond delights are coated in chocolate, for a traditional sweet treat with various flavours including rose, mastic, cinnamon or pomegranate. Sprinkled with gold dust, these treats are perfect for enjoying at home or as a delectable gift.