Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

What a place. Some 12 million people live in Istanbul, and it’s huge. We came to the oldest Turkish delight makers in Istanbul, Haci Bekir, to see exactly what Turkish delight was.

I was brought up on the over-sweet, pink-tinged jelly that your grandma scoffed on Boxing Day. I actually quite like that sort of lokum (it’s what the Turks called Turkish delight). It’s very satisfying, but it’s a far cry from the sweet I help make in Turkey. Interestingly enough, this beautiful sweet only came to Britain in the 19th Century by an English traveller. Unfortunately, he could not remember (or pronounce it) the Turkish word for this delightful confection, so he simply called it Turkish delight.

Originally made by Bekir Effendi in 1777, he opened a small shop in Bahcekapi he specialised in making soft sweets. The shop is still selling Turkish delight and is on the same spot some 2 hundred years later. The shop’s reputation soon came to the sultan’s attention, and Bekir was appointed chief confectioner to the palace.

When Bekir died, the mantle was handed to his son Muhiddin and later to his son Ali. Ali opened branches in Alexandria and Cairo and was appointed chief confectioner to his highness, the Khedive of Egypt. The company is now run by the fourth and fifth generations together.

DelightFUL Facts

  • The original name lokum derives from the Arabic “Rahat – ul hulkum” (literally soothing to the throat). The pronunciation was gradually corrupted in Turkish to “lat – i lokum” and finally just “lokum”.
  • It is believed that lokum produced by Haci Bekir since 1777 had been known in Anatolia since the 15th century. Then the ingredients used were a syrup of honey or grape molasses and flour.
  • There’s an old Turkish proverb, “If you eat sweetly, you’ll talk sweetly”.
  • Fry’s Turkish bar was launched in 1924 and is still a firm favourite today.

Turkish delight was originally made by mixing honey and grape molasses with a little flour. Later beet sugar was added, and also starch to set the jelly-like sweet. This basic process is still used today.

Five generations and two hundred and twenty-seven years on Haci’s family are still on the same spot and still making Lokum and boiled sweets.

The strikingly beautiful and charming Hande Celalyan (deputy chairman) is now in control and is carrying on the great family tradition. She also told me that she hoped her two children would go into the business eventually. As we drove some 2 hours to the factory, we passed over the river Bosporus to the Asian side of Istanbul. It is only then that you do really get a sense of how large Istanbul really is. It’s huge!

The factory is a quiet simple place, with huge halls filled with huge marble slabs and racks and racks of trays filled with cornflour ready to set the Turkish delight in.

The workers are 2nd and 3rd generation the secrets passed from grandfather to father and eventually to the sons. All the work was carried out with no speaking; it was like a military operation.

We filmed strings of the freshest walnuts I have ever tasted being dipped in lokum, pistachio, rose petal and coconut lokum, all made daily to supply the three shops and large export business. It was fascinating.

We also filmed boiled sweet making, sweet and sour lemon, rose petal looked wonderful. Another great passion in Turkey. This brought back great memories of the rock shop in my hometown Folkestone, Kent. I would love to make a film about rock making, but the owner said he’s too old now, what a shame, I live in hope.
The 3 shops are fascinating, stuffed full of wooden trays crammed with 20 flavours and tall jars full of boiled sweets. The tasting was a real joy; we tried Turkish delight with hazelnuts, lemon, rose, pistachio, chocolate, mint, walnuts, almonds and coconut.

The texture is completely different from the stuff we taste in the UK, much heavier and with a chewy texture, all tasted wonderful. My children loved the boxes I brought home.

The film was really interesting and great fun to make; I only wish we had time to look around more. I suppose the fact that this company is still the market leader by a million miles is a testament to the thought, a simple thing done brilliantly will always win, great to see.


Sekerli Mamuller San
A.S.Istiklal Cad. No: 127/6
Beyoglu 80060

Tel 0090-212 245 1375-76

For more information contact www.hacibekir.com.tr

Leave a Comment