The tiny squares of pastry stretch from one end of the glass case and end fourteen feet later. There are trays of baklava dripping with honey, topped with minced pistachios and covered in chocolate. Displays of Turkish delight gleam in Jello colors. The clerk at the door snips off a piece and hands one to every passerby. How can I resist?
It’s the best Turkish delight I’ve ever had. It’s moist, yet firm and chewable. A pistachio hides inside the gleaming red square, and it’s gone in two bites.
The man behind the Turkish delight, Ismail Hakki Zadi, came to Istanbul in 1864 to become a moneylender. In his spare time he began making rock candy using a mortar in the basement of his shop. His son Hafiz Mustafa volunteered as a muezzin at the local mosque. Soon he started making and selling filled pastry buns from his father’s shop. They became a big success. Between 1926 and 1938, Mustafa’s concoctions won 11 medals in European competitions.
Mustafa’s fame as a confectioner spread. As the shop, Hafiz Mustafa, grew, so did his ambitions. Over the years he and his successors opened additional retail stores. Unfortunately, the outlets failed and the original store and its name passed into other hands. The current owner devotes his time to rebuilding ties with the old, traditional families lost through earlier experiments as well as welcoming new followers.
Mike and I sit down for tea and chocolate baklava. Baklava in itself is a sweet indulgence, a light pastry layered with honey and crushed pistachios. The chocolate makes it even naughtier. We have a side of tea to revive us and soon we’re ready to further explore Istanbul.
The Lezovi are visiting Istanbul, making Turkey the tenth country in their tour of Europe.