I bet that when thinking of Turkish sweets there are three things coming to your mind: baklava, halva and turkish delights. Turks are known for their notorious sweet tooth and even me who would shuffle down my throat loads of desserts gets stuck after eating two or three of their highly syrupy pastries. But since I guess you all know those luscious baklavas, finger-licking halvas and scrumptious turkish delights, I’m not gonna write about them. I will try to show you a few other, a bit less common but nohow less delicious treats.
As much as I’m always allured by huge choice of sterile made market available sweets, I still believe that the best are those that are hand-made. They taste so much better when someone puts heart to create them. And so to get a real taste of artisan sweets we went for a visit to Altan Şekerleme. The shop is stuck in a really weird neighbourhood, where you can buy a saddle as well as sharpen your knives. Once you open the doors you feel like you’re in a time machine, like you’ve just jumped back half a century or so. You do feel like this is not just another place, but that it actually has a soul. The shop was opened in 1865 and since then is run by one family, passing the secret recipes from one generation to another. You can get here halva or turkish delights but we were tempted by the huge rock candies sitting on the countertop in lovely vintage jars. Akide, as they are called in Turkish, come in many flavors – strawberry, lemon, caramel, cocoa, mint, cinnamon and my favourite – bergamot.
I’m sure I’m showing you all the things you must have seen before, but I bet that the sweet below will stun most of you folks. Looks like a typical boring milk pudding, right? Oh, believe me, it can be called anything but boring. I guess you would never tell it’s made with chicken breast fillets, would you? ;) No, it’s not disgusting and no ,it doesn’t taste funny. You basically don’t taste the chicken at all. If no one would tell you there is chicken you would never even have a clue there might be some meat inside. You may ask so why the hell they put it there? Well, I believe it’s all about the texture. You see, when you eat it, you actually can feel tiny tiny fibers that come from chicken breasts. Apart from being unusual tavuk gögsu (cause that is the proper Turkish name of this pud) has also quite a history – it emerged as a palace dish during Ottoman times. If you’re a bit more adventurous foodie then I guess you’ve put it on your “to eat” list.
Ever heard of helva? It’s a dessert that you’ll be offered in nearly every restaurant in Turkey. It’s really good as well as simple to make, so no wonder it’s so often set on menus. Traditionally, helva signifies good fortune and was used to be made on important family events such as births or deaths as well as moving the house, graduating or getting a new job. I’m pretty sure I’ll make this dessert in near future, so if you’re curious how it is done, please keep an eye on my updates ;)
Last but not least a word about ice creams. In Turkey (as anywhere else in the world) you’ll get dozens of delicious ice cream flavours, but it’s a particular one that is unique and worth to walk your feet off to find. It’s famous Maras’ chewy ice cream. Yup CHEWY, that’s not a typo. The slightly chewy consistency comes from a pine-scented tree gum called mastic. It’s widely used in Turkey and Greece to flavor puddings, some bread doughs and raki. You will find it on bazaar stalls in form of crystals, that must be pulverized prior to their use. Additional thickening factor used in chewy ice cream, is another peculiar, typically Turkish product. Salep is a ground wild orchid root that apart from flavour and thickness gives the ice cream its typical pearly white colour. While wondering on Istanbul’s old city narrow streets, you’re sure at some point to bump onto an ice cream show. It takes one metal paddle, one vat cooling down the ice cream mass and one vigorous Turk to make your jaw fall down in amazement on how chewy the chewy ice creams can really be.