I was asking my friend Aylin Tan what she thought of my menu for the Turkish lunch I am organising for the Oxford Symposium when she very kindly offered to bring pismaniye from Turkey for dessert. I knew that pismaniye was like the Arab Ghazl el-Banat but I thought I would check if I could find a video online showing how it’s made. I must say, I didn’t expect to find so many on You Tube and elsewhere. I like these two even though I don’t understand a word of what they are saying, and part 1, which I did not post, seems to be an introduction with each one of them talking to the camera, I assume explaining all about pismaniye while part 2 (which i can’t find online any longer) is, if i remember correctly, all about boiling the sugar.

next one.

The interesting thing is that in several of the clips, pismaniye seems to be made at home whereas in Syria and Lebanon, it is very much the reserve of specialist sweet-makers, and from the clips I have seen on dragon beard candy, it looks like street food in Asia.

In any case, according to my friends Majed Krayem and Bassam Mawaldi, owners of Pistache d’Alep where I shot the two clips linked here (Bassam is the one not in whites cooling and stretching the sugar; the second clip shows them incorporating the flour into the sugar), the Lebanese make it by machine whereas in Syria and in Turkey, the candy is always made by hand. There is a noticeable difference between the Turkish and the Syrian. In Turkey they don’t stretch the sugar until it is white; or perhaps they cook the sugar longer until it is a deep caramel colour while in Syria, the sugar is completely white by the time it is ready to be stretched with the flour.

And as an intimate aside, this same sugar is what women use in the Middle East to remove the hair on their legs. Not very appetising but my sisters and I loved to eat some before my mother or aunt started using it on us. It is still what most women use for depilation and the lovely Lebanese film Caramel (Sukkar Banat) must be a play on both, the sugar and the candy. If you haven’t seen it, do go.

Even more interesting: the same candy exists in Hong Kong and Korea as you can see from this clip except that Asians use rice flour and fill the candy with peanuts instead of pistachios. I haven’t tasted the Asian version yet but it looks pretty similar. even though their method is different in that only one person works on stretching the sugar with the flour, and as a result, they work with much smaller amounts.

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