What is Turkish delight? A guide to Turkish sweets

We all know it as a squishy purple sweet that’s often covered in chocolate, but there’s more to Turkish Delight than you think. This is especially true if you travel to Turkey to try it, but even then, it’s not the only sweet treat this country has to offer.

From street vendors to specialised cafes and baklava to salep dondurma, Turkish sweets have all kinds of shapes and sizes. Take our advice and you’ll know which ones to try first.

Turkish Delight - behind the legends

Locally known as rahat lokum, Turkish Delight is a recipe that goes back centuries.

Many believe that the sugary treat is Arabic in origin, although many scholars attribute Turkish Delight’s origins to the Persians, at least as far as the rahat lokum name goes.

In a nutshell, Turkish Delight is a sweet and sticky treat known for its rich, chewy consistency. It’s often flavoured with rosewater, mastic or citrus fruits, and in Turkey popular coatings are sugar, sweet pastry or nougat.

In fact, it comes in all manner of flavours, shapes and sizes, so if you’ve only ever tried the chocolate Turkish Delight you get in tins of sweets at Christmas, you’ve been missing out.

Turkey's ice cream

There’s so much more to Turkey’s sweetest treats than Turkish Delight. If you’ve visited an Italian gelateria you’ll know that the ice cream they make blows what we have in the UK out of the water. In Turkey, your traditional perspective of ice cream will be twisted even further when you eat salep dondurma.

Served in specialised shops, busy streets, city plazas and markets, performance is as much a part of the purchase as eating it. Dondurma is a stretchy kind of ice cream, so as much as it gets served in cones, it’s texture and feel is unique.

Don’t be surprised if the salesman pretends to hand it over before throwing it from one hand to the other, or twisting it behind his back. It’s all fun and games, so prepare for some slapstick with your dessert.

Sweetening your stay

Other street sweets include halka tatlisi, which are similar to Spanish churros resembling a crispy kind of doughnut, made into a big hoop shape. Lokma is another popular choice – bite-size pieces of deep-fried, sugary dough that are hard on the outside, yet squishy in the middle – very moreish.

As far as cakes go, you’ll find plenty of sticky and sweet, honey-rich baklava. Best eaten hot and fried, genuine Turkish baklava is a fantastic way to crush hunger pangs morning, noon and night. It’s not all hazelnut and pistachio pastries like you get in the UK, as more outlandish variants make their fillings from candy-roasted chestnuts or sour cherries.

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