Delightfully sweet

The unexpected rain had cooled the air down as we walked downhill along the ancient middle road of Constantinople, now called Alemdar Cadessi. It was that time of the afternoon when you need to sit down with a small Çay (pronounced chai). We passed a place with large windows looking into a cozy space where people were sitting with chai. I looked at The Family, and she nodded. Efezade was our choice this afternoon.

It was nice to sit down after a day walking around the area of the old imperial palace of Constantinople. We could let our umbrellas drip into a little stand, and take off our damp jackets. The place was comfortably warm, the server was friendly. We got our large cups of tea, and inspected the special lokum (Turkish delight) that they make here. Claudia Roden writes with feeling about sharbat vendors of Cairo “The flasks glowed with brilliantly seductive colours: soft, pale, sugary pink for rosewater, pale green for violet juice, warm, rich, dark tamarind and the purple-black of mulberry juice.” Here the colours and flavours of flowers had been captured in these special sweets on display: rose, orange, saffron, chocolate, violet. Two tiny cubes of lokum studded with pistachio: a rose and a chocolate, and I was hooked. Later we would buy large amounts to bring back to India, but that afternoon we pushed on an open door to go beyond the packets of pale cubes on sale at airports and tourist shops. The world of lokum is deep, and I think I have just started exploring.

Window shopping

On my first day in Istanbul I had to stop every few steps to look in at the windows of sweet shops. The Family wanted to get to the Topkapi Palace at a reasonable time, and my distraction wasn’t helping.

I couldn’t stop to taste, so I did the next best thing: take a few photos. I always thought that halwa, Turkish Delight, was the main Turkish sweet. I was only just beginning to find that was a false impression. The commonest sweet in Istanbul seemed to be baklava.