Ali and the Pistachio Halka of Gaziantep

Sweets of Gaziantep

pistachio-halka

I’m standing in the street around dusk and my fingers are sticky, my pen is sticky, a spot under my nose, the pages of my little notepad, and a finger-print sized patch on my camera. Even my feet are stuck to the pavement. Tip wants me to take a photo but I won’t touch the camera without some time in a washroom. It’s like a sugar grenade has gone off and I am a casualty. I’m standing arms length from an open deep-fryer attached to a food cart and it boils a frothy white as the master of sweets, Ali Bahcecioğlu, stirs a batch of halka.

halka-turkey

I first had halka (mushabbak in Arabic) the deep-fried, gun squirted sort of donut – think Mexican churro — at a futbol match in Ankara back in 1997 (see The Yogurt Man Cometh ). The name means “hoop” as it is laid into the oil in a looping fashion. It was sold in a push-cart and held out in a piece of newsprint to keep fingers from getting sticky. But what Ali offered wasn’t just the normal or plain (sade – sah-day) but also the Antep version: fıstıklı — with pistachios pulverized and worked into the dough. Delicious. Pistachios, abundant in this region, are in everything around here (like walnuts in Wisconsin, but much better).

halka-gaziantep-mirac

His cart was parked at the opening of a narrow walkway off of Gaziler Caddesi (Veterans Street), a pedestrian walkway of shops in the center of Gaziantep where crowds of locals go for an evening promenade. But Ali wasn’t your ordinary street vendor. He had worked as a pastry chef at the Princess Hotel in Istanbul for many years.

Burma Kadayif
Burma Kadayif

Back down the narrow lane behind him (33/A) is his tiny shop, Mirac, about the size of his cart times five. He walked us there and we looked into his display case in the window to see some burma kadayif, a spiraling pastry made from what seems like Shredded Wheat soaked with syrup, laced with the green of pistachios, and embedded with a bit of cheese. He handed out samples and our blood sugar doubled just from licking our fingers.

Easy to find. When your feet stick to the pavement, you know you've arrived.
Easy to find. When your feet stick to the pavement, you know you’ve arrived.

Enjoy more posts from this Southeastern Turkey journey! Click here for the Gaziantep trip posts.

For more articles and photo galleries about Turkey and Turkish culture, see The Mad Traveler home site.

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