Turkish delight or LOKUM is a family of confections based on a gel of starch and sugar. Premium varieties consist largely of chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel; the cheapest are mostly gel, generally flavored with rosewater, mastic, or lemon. The confection is often packaged and eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar, copra, or powdered cream of Tartar, to prevent clinging. Other common types include such flavors as cinnamon and mint. In the production process, soapwort may be used as an emulsifying additive.
The sweet as it is known today was invented by Bekir Effendi, who moved from his hometown Kastamonu to Istanbul and opened his confectionery shop near the Yeni Camii Mosque in 1776.
Originally, honey and molasses were its sweeteners, and water and flour were the binding agents, with rosewater, lemon peel and bitter orange as the most common flavors (red, yellow and green). LOKUM was introduced to Western Europe in the 19th century. An unknown Briton reputedly became very fond of the delicacy during his travels to Istanbul and purchased cases of it, to be shipped back to Britain under the name Turkish delight. It became a major delicacy in Britain and throughout Continental Europe for the high class society. During this time, it became a practice among upperclass socialites to exchange pieces of Turkish delight wrapped in silk handkerchiefs as presents.
The Turkish words lokma and LOKUM are derived from the Arabic لقمة luqma(t), meaning morsel and mouthful, plural لقوم luqūm. The alternate Ottoman name rahat hulkum, from Arabic راحة الحلقوم raḥat al-ḥulqum, means contentment of the throat. In Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia, it is called حلقوم ḥalqūm. Its name in Bosnia (rahat LOKUM) and in Romania (rahat) clearly relate this etymology. Its name in Greek, λουκούμι (loukoumi), shares a similar etymology with the modern Turkish. In parts of Cyprus, where the dessert has protected geographical indication (PGI), it is also marketed as Cyprus Delight.
In English, it was formerly called Lumps of Delight. (Turkish Taffy is a packaged nougat candy sold in the United States from the 1940s through the 1980s.)
Around the world
In Australia, Turkish delight was once known as "Tom Bee", after a returning serviceman who introduced the delicacy after the Second World War. The serviceman, Tom Bradfield, was a personal friend of the Tasmanian Governor at the time, Sir Tannon Muller, who became responsible for the "Tom Bee's" widespread popularity.
In North America, Turkish delight is not especially common, though it forms the basic foundation of the Big Turk chocolate bar (distributed by Nestlé in Canada) as well as the basis for most of Liberty Orchards' line of confectionery, including their various "Fruit Delights" and Aplets & Cotlets. Additionally, the Nory Candy company of California has been producing their "Rahat Locum" version of Turkish delight for 30 years.
Elsewhere, Fry's Turkish Delight is produced by Cadbury in the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and can also be found in Canada and New Zealand. The interior jelly of jelly beans may trace its origin back to Turkish delight. The confection is known in Brazil as Delícia Turca or Bala de Goma (Síria/Árabe). In Greece and its islands it is often branded "Greek Delight", possibly because of the historic hostility between Greece and Turkey.