Around this time last year, I had my first ever taste of authentic Turkish Delight (Lokum) made by the famous Turkish manufacturer, Koska. My parents had brought me a small assorted bag of their favourites from their trip to Istanbul and told me I hadto try it. In my Turkish Pic’n’mix bag were three types: Fistikli (Pistachio), Gullu (Rose), Incir Sadrazam (Fig and Walnut). NB. I traditionally thought of Turkish delight as a vile pink gelatinous substance covered in chocolate and avoided it like the plague in the countless boxes of Cadbury’s Milk Tray I was presented by guests that visited our house from the ages of five to seven.
Koska’s Lokum was far from gelatinous and repugnant- though quite sweet- and the flavours were delicate and refined. After the bag finished, I was quite sad and began looking for similar products in London. To no avail. I spent that summer in Singapore and came across commercial manufacturer Hazer Baba’s Lokum and sampled their pistachio, almond, and walnut varieties. Yes I am a sucker for nut focused desserts/confectionery. The texture sometimes varied from box to box ( dicovered when I brought back a few as university essay writing treats) but it was close enough.
The summer of my liberation ( 2012) I visited Borough Market and found two vendors of Lokum. I was rather excited. The first, a cheery gentleman called Max, was not a Turkish purveyor of snacky sundries. He was in fact from Barcelona and sold a variety of nuts, and dried fruit along with his Turkish Delight. He had two varieties, one in the form of familiar flavours like Pistachio, mint, lemon and rose and a larger variety that resembled decorated marshmallows. The latter is probably not a Turkish recipe, but satisfied my cravings for the sticky-sweet cubes of joy and was made all the more enjoyable by his sunny persona, and willingness to entertain conversation beyond business!
Taste: 4/5 Texture: 3.5/5 Conversation: 5/5
Walking around the corner from the charismatic Max, I found the second. A seriously Turkish looking stall selling family grown olives, authentic dolmades (vine leaves) and of course Lokum. Nazar Boncuks (blue turkish eyes) hanging from every where!
This vendor was run by a well-spoken English man, Graham, whose wife hailed from the mystical terrain that is Turkey. He sourced his Lokum from a manufacturer who uses an ancient Ottoman method of preparation. He explained the painstaking process of mixing fruit, sweet spices and nuts by hand into ‘mastic’- the base of the Lokum- which gives it a characteristic silky texture as opposed to the spongier mass produced versions out there which use gelatin to set the ingredients faster.
I asked him which of his flavours would be typical bestsellers in Turkey and, of course, he pointed out Fistikli (pistachio) and the plain variety (Mastic) and introduced me to another flavour called Mesir Macunu, meaning mixed spice. He ordered I try one of these, stating it would taste like nothing I’d tried before. I was a little skeptical but took a bite out of the cube he offered me anyway. He was right. It was delicious. I could taste cinnamon and some spice with a citrus-like flavour and, in a nutshell it was like Christmas in my mouth. I took his card and thanked him for his time and skipped merrily onto the next markets… elated that I had found real Lokum in my ‘lok-ality!’
Taste: 5/5 Texture: 5/5 Conversation: 5/5