Caution, This blog post contains photos and descriptions of the overwhelming variety of tantalizing Turkish deserts and should be handled with caution. Read in a slow pace to avoid quick ramp up of blood sugar!
Baklava takes the first place in the list as the most renowned Turkish dessert. If you think you
have already tasted baklava, reconsider it. If you haven’t eaten baklava in one of the finest baklava produceries in Istanbul, where the Phylo layers are micrometer thick and the butter used is an extra refined one, you haven’t eaten baklava yet.
Here comes another syrup bomb. What makes this one legendary is the Turkish treaded cheese, which starts to smelt within its finely weaved pastry encasing when the desert is cooked. The smelted mozarella-like cheese, which contrast the heavy syrup added later on with its slightly sweet flavor, adds up so much to the charm of the desert, also visually: The stretching cheese when you move a piece of this delicacy to your mouth, creates amazing scenes for food photography. This scene is even more mouth-watering should you be already familiar with the legendary taste of kunefe.
Muhallebi – Muhallabia:
If you are a first timer in Turkey, you could be prone to think that the typical Turkish desert has 90 percent sugar. Well, some of them like the previous two in the list are indeed syrup bombs. But there is also a considerable amount of light-weight Turkish deserts suitable for modern palate. Muhallabia, which is an Ottoman classic living today in the whole former Ottoman territory with dozens of tasty varieties, is one of them. The Turkish variety is an extra soft, blancmange-like creamy pudding with wonderful aromas like vanilla, orange peel or rose-water and with little sugar content. If you want to spice things up a little you can try this quite light pudding with some chocolate sauce as well.
Now that we have learnt about the two Ottoman classics baklava and muhallebi, it is time to learn about their yummy combination. Laz Boregi, like Turkish borek (hence the name boregi) or baklava is a layered pastry, but has a different filling than both borek and baklava: muhallabia. If you want to try the surprisingly good combination of baklava’s chrunchiness and muhallabia’s creameness you should aim for Black Sea restaurants..
Gullac like muhallabia is one of the light-weight Turkish deserts. Don’t get me wrong, light-weight stands by no means for less tasty, quite the opposite actually: Gullac is such a playful combination of subtle aromas and flavors, that you might forget about every other Turkish delight once you taste it. Just imagine the arising rose scent while you enjoy a milky, nutty treat with extra thin layers of slightly sweet rice starch. The whole is usually topped with pomegranate pieces and ground pistachio. The killing touch..
Sutlac – Turkish rice pudding:
Well, the name is pretty self-explanatory, it is a milky rice pudding. It might sound ordinary. It can be also a quite ordinary pudding, but if you hit the right place where it is prepared more or less the traditional way, than you are going to find something else: A Casseroled desert with a burnt top sealing an almost fluid mixture of milk, rice and sugar trio. But can you imagine a Turkish desert without nuts? Hardly, right? Well, nuts come as a topping here. If a few spoonfuls of shredded hazelnuts are not enough for you can ask for one or two balls of vanilla ice cream to accompany them. Good luck waiting..
Tavuk Gogsü – Chicken breast:
Why would someone call a desert tavuk gogsu, or chicken breast? You probably don’t want it to be true, but yes, chicken breast is among the ingredients of this milky desert. It may not sound very appetizing, but believe me a little protein from the finely split chicken breast fibers adds up so much to the character of this extraordinary desert, that I can with confidence put this one to the top three of my favourite Turkish deserts..
Lokum – Turkish delight:
Who doesn’t know Turkish delight? This gelatinous cube, which is the precursor of jelly beans, is one of the best known Turkish deserts. If you think that it is a little too sugary for the modern-day palate, don’t buy the prepackaged ones, but good quality open Turkish delights prepared with a generous amount of nuts and honey as sweetener. Also remember, that this Ottoman invention, which’s Turkish name “lokum” is derived from the arabic expression “rahat ul hulkum” or “throat comfort”, was from the very beginning only meant as a treat consumed in small quantities. A few cubes of Turkish delight in a handkerchief was a popular gift among European high society in 19th century. And today it is customary to put one or two pieces of Turkish delight on the saucer when serving Turkish coffee.
Maras dondurmasi – Turkish ice cream:
Almost every introductory video of Istanbul feature an ice cream seller in traditional dresses. In some of them you see them also on action tricking the poor tourists which have a hard time trying to get hold of their ice cream cone on the one end of a stick reached over to them by the ice cream seller. Thanks to the extra stickiness of the Turkish ice cream and quick reflexes of the seller grabbing what you paid for can be mission impossible. If you finally have your ice cream you should note that it is extra elastic beside being extra sticky and has a unique consistency and flavor thanks to the use of goat milk. If you are an ice-cream lover and open for new tastes, you should definitely take the challenge of grabbing a Turkish ice cream from the first traditional ice cream seller you stumble upon.
Asure – Noah’s pudding:
Here is the ingredients champ of all Turkish deserts. It is a mixture of all kind of grains, dried fruits and nuts bound by a slightly gelatinous filling. The abundance of ingredients, which has a different mythological explanation in every religious culture, makes Noah’s pudding ideal for those who like it all mixed up..
Helva – halva:
Helva or halva is one of the names in this list which should sound familiar. After all the originally Arabic desert is present by the same name in a multitude of cuisines throughout the world. The most common halva type is the one prepared with sesame oil. The few varieties of halva consumed in Turkey are also made from sesame oil. You can choose between plain, vanilla, kakao and pistachio versions. The Pistachio version with chunks of Turkish pistachio kernels is the most favored one. It is, however, a good idea to limit the consumption to thin slices as the sesame oil based treat is the most calorie-rich and heavy one among all the deserts in this list.
Irmik helvası- Semolina halva:
Well, I just told that halva is a sesame oil based sweet, but the name halva is also be used as a synonym for sweets in some cultures, as it was the case in the Ottoman cuisine. In Turkish cuisine, this former use survives in the name of semolina halva, for example, which being mainly a flour based home treat is quite different from the packaged regular halva. Beside Semolina, this desert features milk, butter, sugar and pine nuts. The cooking process turns the whole to a nut-butter like paste with a slightly gelatinous twist making semolina halva one of the most original flour based deserts in the Turkish cuisine. In Istanbul, this authentic taste can be found in some of the tradesman and home cooking restaurants(respectively esnaf lokantasi and ev lokantasi).
Kabak tatlisi- Pumpkin desert:
Here is another quite simple home desert which is also quite common in the self-service restaurants in Istanbul. It is prepared simply by boiling pumpking pieces in water and adding sugar. Using milk instead of water adds an extra layer of flavor. favourite topping for pumpking desert is grounded walnuts.
Ayva talısı – Quince desert:
This list would be incomplete without a fruit desert on it. Our favorite is quince desert, which usually is served with the delicious manda kaymagi. The deep red color of the desert , when it is simmered the traditional way with its seed for several hours, stems from the coloring substances in the seeds, although nowadays most places take the short cut and use artificial coloring. Artificial or natural, the attractive color never disappoints you when you take the first bite, since the subtle flavor of the lightly sugared fruit is in perfect harmony with kaymak, chopped cream from the Anatolian water buffalo. Make sure to have an extra kaymak topping to make the tasting extra enjoyable…