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What is Turkish Delight?

The creator of the Turkish Delight set up a confectioner's shop in Istanbul, Turkey.
Some Turkish Delight includes nuts, like walnuts.
Mint is a popular ingredient often found in Turkish delight.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
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Turkish delight is a candy first made popular in Arab countries over 200 years ago. Legend has it that the ruler Abdul Hamid I commissioned a confectioner to create a special candy for him during his reign in the 18th century. Bekir Effendi from Anatolia is credited with the creation of the Turkish Delight, which quickly won popularity in Istanbul, where Effendi set up a small confectioner’s shop.

Many in the US do not recognize this dessert, though they have probably tasted a version of it when they enjoy Applets and Cotlets, a longtime favored American sweet. More traditional versions in Arabic countries may be flavored with lemon or rosewater, and Americans are not very familiar with rose water as a flavoring. Many Americans find such versions of Turkish Delight both sticky and soapy.

This sweet is a simple candy composition, generally made of sugar, gelatin, water and cornstarch. Each candy rope is cut into small squares, usually less than one inch (2.44 cm) long. Though lemon and rose water are common flavorings, it may also be flavored with mint. It can contain nuts, like walnuts or pistachios, and is often coated with cornstarch and powdered sugar.

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Turkish Delight was first introduced to the Western world in the 19th century, where it received its current appellation. In Turkey and other parts of the Middle East, the candy is called Lokum. The British delighted in the candy, and it may have been particularly apropos to praise it during the rationing of WWII, because so little sugar was allowed per week. Winston Churchill was known to enjoy Turkish Delight stuffed with pistachios.

Some gourmets insist that this dessert is best appreciated when purchased and served fresh. Over time, if the candy is left out, it will harden and become difficult to eat. People who encounter Turkish Delight as adults may find they do not care for the taste or texture of the candy. However, those who have enjoyed it since childhood praise it.

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