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Lokma is the Turkish name for bite-sized, fried balls of dough, which may be dipped in cinnamon sugar or sugar syrup or honey and cinnamon. This type of treat is popular in numerous Mediterranean countries, though each country has its own variation on how the dish is made and served. You may also hear lokma called lokum, the singular version, which is somewhat confusing. The confection Turkish delight is sometimes called lokum as well. The Greeks, who also enjoy the dish, call each cake a loukoumades, and the dessert is related to the Italian sfinge or zeppola as well as the Mediterranean Jewish dish, zvingoi.
There are some differences in recipes for lokma. One principal difference between the Turkish and Greek version, and the sfinge or zeppola made in Italy, is that the dough made for this dish tends to use yeast. Zeppole don’t use yeast, and are usually filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, jam, or custard.
In Turkey, lokma are sold by street vendors or in stores, where making them may be a somewhat automated process, or they’re made at home. In some parts of the country it is traditional to serve lokma at funerals, especially to the poor. Others areas make them and serve them to neighbors if they have something to celebrate. They’re a common food at festivals, too.
The Greek version of the dessert, loukoumades, is served somewhat differently. Instead of being dipped in cinnamon sugar, loukoumas (plural form) are dipped into honey. You may find lokma made this way in Turkey too. It really depends upon the person making them. Loukoumas may also have sprinkled nuts on top, which is not typical of the Turkish version. Dipping the fried cakes in honey makes the dessert a little messier to eat, but fans of loukoumas or lokma prepared in this way will tell you that a bit of mess is well worth the trouble.
For those used to deep-frying, these cakes can can be easy to make. They require a very short cooking time, and you can vary the toppings anyway you like. Typically you should aim for making each round ball bite-sized with not more than about a tablespoon of dough. The Turkish translation of the word lokma is mouthful. Making the cakes too big can make them too greasy and increase cooking time. A common reference point for Americans making the dish is donut holes, which are about the same size.
You can add spices to the dough. In Turkey, cloves, and cinnamon in the dough are common, and occasionally even chopped pieces of Turkish Delight. Alternately, leave the dough very simple, and wait to roll the each cake in spiced honey or sugar syrup. The simplest method is to deep-fry the cakes, then place them in a bag with cinnamon sugar, giving them a good shake so each cake gets coated thoroughly.
I'm pretty sure I had the Persian and Indian version of lokma at restaurants. The description here of how lokma is made is exactly like what the Persian restaurant owner told me about their desserts. I've also seen it in Indian restaurants, called "jalebi," I believe. It's so interesting how the same foods pop up in different cultures and cuisines.
I had street lokma when I was on vacation in Istanbul, in Turkey. The lokma stand was actually in front of a restaurant, so they were making lokma literally in the street.
The cook used a pastry bag filled with the lokma dough that he poured in large pieces into a deep frying pan filled with oil. They cooked really fast and then he took them out of the pan and put them into another one and poured sugar syrup on top.
I ate one right away, it was warm, crispy on the outside but soft on the inside and the syrup slowly oozed out into your mouth! It was made with plain dough, no cinnamon or nuts
or anything. It's one of the best deserts I have ever had. I'm sure it's not very healthy but it is so delicious.
And yes, lokum is turkish delight which is completely different than lokma. They are spelled so similarly, I was confused at first too. Lokum is a soft, chewy,cube shaped, gel-like candy that comes in different flavors like rose and coconut. The pistachio filled ones are really good.
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