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17
Sep

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I am finally starting to find my way around Gaziantep — I have the worst sense of direction ever and I still get lost after several visits to the city — but now I know how to get to my favourite jeweller in the city. Gold is very important in Gaziantep and people buy kilograms of it to celebrate weddings and births. In any case, Platin Jewellers is onย  Gaziler Caddesi, a pedestrian thoroughfare like Istiklal street in Istanbul, and it is owned by the wonderful father and brothers of my equally wonderful friend, Filiz Hosukoglu. As I walked back from the shop, having bought a miserable 4.2 grams of gold ( or a sweet pair of earrings for my niece), I heard loud chanting and saw a whole group of licorice drink sellers distributing free drinks while invoking Allah in all his merciful ways and in between, shouting hayrat, hayrat (from the Arabic word khayr and meaning distribution, good deed or gift). I didn’t quite understand what was going on until later when Filiz and then Tim, the lovely owner of Anadolu Evleri, another of my favourite places in Gaziantep, explained it all to me.

It is all to do with the loss of a loved one, when depending on the family’s wealth, they pay one or more drinks sellers to distribute free drinks to honour their lost relative. Often the sellers go round from house to house touting for business (called sebil) as it is much more profitable for them to sell their whole container in one go than to wait for each passer-by to buy one drink. The occasion is sad but the spectacle on the street is entertaining. And the family must have been wealthy as there were at least half a dozen sellers distributing the drinks.

And here is a little more information on the licorice drink and how to prepare it for those who like it. I have to say I don’t!

From Mediterranean Street Food

Licorice drink is a great favorite during Ramadan when it is sold on the street either by the glass or packed into plastic bags. The way to prepare it is rather complicated. The dried licorice root needs to be first pulverized. Boiling water mixed with a little baking soda is added gradually and rubbed into the pulverized licorice, after which the licorice is left to soak for 2 hours — the street vendor who explained the process to me rubs the boiling water into the licorice by hand, but Iโ€™d recommend using a wooden spoon or other implement. The wet licorice is then carefully wrapped in a cloth without being squeezed, shaped into a cushion and laid on a tray. Some trays have holes in the middle and are placed over a container while others have a kind of spout and are placed on a slant with the spout over the container. Cold water is then drizzled onto the licorice cushion andย  the drink seeps through the licorice cushion and into the container. You can use a colander or manual coffee filter. The proportions to make the drink are as follow: for 2 pounds ground licorice you will first need 3 cups hot water and 1 teaspoon baking soda, then 5 litres cold water to drizzle over the licorice cushion. By the way, you can buy licorice root ready-ground in Middle Eastern stores.


There is 10 comments on this post


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    As ever, fascinating material and a great read. Thank you, Anissa. I’ve never come across a licorice drink on any of my travels, other than licorice-flavored liquor. Here is a link to a post on Liquor-ish Licorice http://bit.ly/bh117H A thing, well one of a few, I miss about Amsterdam/Holland are their salty (salmiac) licorice drops, something of a local culinary icon. Equally addictive, for me, is mastic – but that’s a different story altogether…


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thank you. i don’t think i have tasted the salty licorice drops. must ask my dutch friend to bring me some.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thanks for the earrings auntie!!

    i don’t think i’ve ever seen this drink or tasted it. what’s it called in arabic? sounds a bit like warm, non-alcoholic, arak.

    looking forward to seeing you in beirut xxx


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    hey you read my blog. you don’t need to try it. it’s not so nice but if you insist, the arabic name is ‘erq el-souss. and it’s v different from arak. am also looking forward to seeing you and to giving you your earrings which i hope you’ll like. perhaps i should have linked you to your new job? xxx


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I too don’t like it very much (and also have a horrible sense of direction which makes for a lot of unplanned adventures in Cairo!) As always, love your blog. Can’t wait to travel your way.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    thank you. so pleased to hear this.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    What an interesting custom – licorice is not something I ever associate with celebration or the dead, as I am not a big fan, except for the use of Anis seeds in sausage or baking.

    Actually, part of the reason I hate licorice is the aforementioned salty licorice sweets – which are extremely popular also in Scandinavia. Curious to hear if you would like them Anissa.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    actually, i bought a whole lot of them in the blue mountains near sydney, only two weeks ago and didn’t really like them but i do like regular licorice and i don’t like the drink ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Well I love the drink! You really have to aquire the taste. I learned to make the drink when I first got married as my husband loved it and taught me how to make it. My kids hated it though .


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    how funny. i love the drink too but made with real salep ๐Ÿ™‚

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