That beautiful display of sweets and treats at a Middle Eastern store always makes it difficult to pick just one thing to take home. Like a kid in a candy store – baklava, nammoura, and maamoul are just a few of the delicious treats you can find and it’s so hard to choose. Many have nuts, others honey and some with aromatic flavours of orange blossom water or rose water. This time, I got some shredded halwa.
Halwa is this creamy coloured, twisty thing that is displayed in columns at the store. It is predominantly made of sesame seed paste (tahini) and honey, but this one specifically has chopped pistachio nuts in it too. The smell of it is oddly herbal and it has a distinct texture to it. When you first put it into your mouth, it is flaky and crumbly. Yet it eventually melts into a blob and becomes a harder candy that you can chew until it completely dissolves. It is quite sweet, so a small chunk will suffice for most. Cutting off a piece takes on a completely different look. It pretty much reminds me of shredded chicken breast, but that’s where the similarities end – it doesn’t tastes anything like chicken!
Even though I have only ever discovered shredded halva at a Middle Eastern store, halwa itself comes in many different forms and from various cultures. It isn’t just a Middle Eastern treat. There is halwa in many Indian stores and restaurants too, like gajar halwa (my fave!). However, when a friend informed me that it was also a Polish thing I delved into it further. And low and behind, halwa is indeed a worldwide sweet! Some are made with semolina, ghee and sugar, others are made with sunflower, nuts and chocolate and another type contains potato or rice flour, sugar and cashews. The types of halwa out there are endless. It’s eaten in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and North America. In the end, regardless of the ingredients, the common denominator is that it is a sweet treat that is enjoyed by many around the world. 🙂