“She’s here!” he grinned. “Finally! We have been waiting for her.”
You’d think I was old friends with the man who welcomed me into the shop, but this was my first time to the city and my first time meeting him.
Sam and I had started out the day with the intention of visiting some of Istanbul’s main attractions – perhaps a little wandering through the Grand Bazaar or even a visit to the underground Basilica Cistern – however, as often happens in a new town, we were sidetracked by something colourful – in this case a window display brimming with trays full of Turkish delight!
Seeing as it was around tea time and this friendly man was eager to have us as his guests, we decided to step into the sugary haven that is Hafiz Mustafa for a little afternoon treat. Because when in Istanbul…
Inside the place was teeming with activity – old friends catching up over a cup of tea, young couples flirting across the table, and a growing queue of customers waiting to purchase their favourite sweets to take back home. We worked our way through the crowd and managed to find a small round table near the back.
I have to admit, prior to setting foot in Hafiz Mustafa, I was under the impression that there were only 2 varieties of Turkish delight: plain and with nuts. Well, I was proven wrong once our waiter handed us thick menus with every kind of Turkish delight you could possibly imagine.
The different flavours for plain Turkish delight included: rose, cinnamon, mint, strawberry, lemon, orange, kiwi, pomegranate and apple.
But that was just the beginning. You could also get what I would call ‘gourmet Turkish delight’ with fillings like hazelnut, walnuts, pistachios, pomegranate seeds and even coconut.
Dare I tempt you with more?
On top of that, they were serving halva, which is a dessert I recently tried in Israel. Halva is a sweet paste usually made from sesame seeds or other nut butters, and like all desserts, you can get the plain version or the one filled with chunks of chocolate, coffee, and hazelnuts.
And don’t get me started on the baklava, a sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey.
And if that wasn’t enough, there were cakes, puddings, candies, and dried fruits like figs and nectarines also on the menu.
When it came time to order, I opted for the pomegranate with chunks of pistachio and shredded coconut, while Sam went with the classic strawberry dusted in powder sugar. We figured that the smaller dishes starting at 5-7 TL would be a modest sampling size, but instead we got 2 platefuls. (I can’t even imagine what the bigger portions are like!) In retrospect we probably could have ordered just one plate to share and that would have been enough, but this way we ended up with some treats to take back home.
As for the tea selection, that was another menu full of delightful options. We asked the waiter for his suggestions and ended up with a glass of Turkish tea and another of apple tea. Aromatic, full of spices, and perfect when paired with a sugary treat.
If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, make some time to pop into a Turkish delight shop! Not only is it a fun way to spend the afternoon, but your friends and family back home will also thank you when you bring back a box of treats as a souvenir.
Now here is a little video of our afternoon outing with plenty of friendly banter and singing from our waiter that day:
Have you tried Turkish delight? What’s your favourite kind?