Who doesn’t love a Turkish delight to accompany their Turkish tea? Packed with fresh ingredients like nuts and chopped dates, and flavoured with rosewater, mastic, and orange or lemon, these yummy snacks actually serve as a natural antioxidant.
Lokum as this Turkish delight is called, is probably one of the most well known sweets to come out of Turkey, and Yakup Buyukasta has been making them for over 62 years. This easily makes him one of the oldest working Turkish chefs in the United Arab Emirates, as well as the first Turkish delight specialist in the capital.
Mostly square or rectangle in shape and dusted with icing sugar, copra or powdered cream, Yakup started creating these delicious delights at the age of seven and is now known as the “Father of Lokum” back in his hometown in Turkey.
Over his 62 years making these delicacies, Yakup says he must have made over 500 different varieties of Lokums, experimenting with new and unique flavours but staying true to the traditional ingredients.
He ran his own production factories for decades before handing over his business for his sons to carry on his family passion, with his art continuing to be an integral part of his heritage and family traditions.
Nowadays, Yakup spends his days mixing up Turkish dreams in the Royal Catering kitchens in Abu Dhabi hotels, getting the dishes ready for the numerous events they cater every month. Although the Royal Catering team is over 1,000, Yakup is the only Turkish delight chef, and with his experience and expertise it seems he’s the only one you need.
Turkish cuisine has been influenced over the centuries with the many nationalities calling Turkey their home and the multicultural cuisines that emerged during the Ottoman Empire.
Although it is believed that Turkish delight recipes are passed down through families, they are actually not supposed to be made at home. Imagine giving a 200g-ingredient list to someone and asking them to make it out of their small home kitchen. Instead, Turkish chefs learn how to make Turkish delights from their fathers or grandfathers in their small production stores; a place where their passion for their Turkish heritage blooms.
As well as these small but mighty treats, Turkey has many well-known exports and favourite dishes that are enjoyed around the world. With its similarity to Arabic cuisine, Turkish food is a popular choice here in the United Arab Emirates. They use very similar ingredients and cooking techniques to those used in Arabic cuisine, and the country’s mixture of different cultures has definitely made their impact on the dishes created.
The cuisine is set to continue its popularity in the region, as more and more people learn to love their flavours.
But, what makes a successful Turkish Chef? Well, according to Yakup it’s a mixture of experience, passion and sticking to the traditions behind the cuisine. Making these mouthwatering Turkish delicacies takes time and corners should never be cut. At the end of the day, you are creating an art; an art full of tradition, history, love and intense flavours.