Yemen Sweets

Instagram Post 8/19/2019

I was stalking the aisles at Brooklyn’s Balady Foods, the redoubtable Middle Eastern market at 7128 5th Ave, in search of goodies for my Little Levant ethnojunket when I stumbled upon this toothachingly sweet trio of blood sugar tolerance tests from Yemen Sweets that turned out to be a little much even for me.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

This one is called Harissa, a word I’ve always associated with North African red chili pepper paste and never with candy. A little research and I learned that the Arabic word harissa (هريسه) means to mash or squash which made some sense. Its main ingredients are sugar, soybean oil, peanuts, flour, cornstarch and sesame seeds (no heat) so, predictably, its dry texture is somewhere along the cookie<–>candy continuum, closer to cookie were it not for the oil. You can readily taste the ground peanuts and sesame seeds along with the intense presence of clove and cardamom.

Similarly flavored, Khalta has a texture along the gummy bear<–>Turkish delight continuum. Seems like khalta (خلطة) means mix, but probably in a different context. Mitigated by plenty of peanuts and strewn with sesame seeds, it was unusual as well.

The most immediately accessible of the three (although TBH the others grew on me eventually) is Labaneyh. This one had a crumbly texture and tasted like a perfumy cross between fudge and white chocolate, no surprise since cacao is listed among the ingredients along with milk, the Arabic word for which is laban (لبن) so that’s logical.

I was unable to ferret out much information about these three sweets despite the manufacturer’s address listed on the packaging which doesn’t seem to relate to much in the real world. Anybody out there know more about these? Your comments are greatly appreciated!


4 thoughts on “Yemen Sweets

  1. I think Khalta is like Turkish delight but not as soft. I assume it is flavored with rose petals or fruit. Of the three this looks most interesting.

    Labaneyh may be a lot like Halva??

    • Hi Sarina,

      Good description of khalta, although this one didn’t have much rose essence – but I can easily see how that could factor in with a different recipe. The labaneyh really did seem like a cross between fudge and white chocolate (super sweet!) rather than typical Middle Eastern halvah, although it certainly does look like that!

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Greetings from Brazil, Rich, where I am savoring such treats as a giant fresh
    maracuja (passion fruit) that is delectably sweet!

    When is the Little Levant ethnojunkie happening and what’s the connection to Poland, Scandinavia, and Mexico?

    • Hi Talia,

      Like all my food tours, the Little Levant ethnojunket happens anytime anybody would like to book it! They always start at 1pm, but the date can be anything that works for us. Let me know when you’d like to do it – and if you know anyone else who’d like to join in (I generally cap it at six guests maximum); more people = more things to taste!

      Bay Ridge has a thriving Middle Eastern neighborhood, of course, and most of the tour comprises businesses that hail from that part of the world. (Did you know that Bay Ridge and Beirut are cognates? Just kidding.) But Bay Ridge used to be home to many Scandinavians (Norwegians in particular) and we’ll visit the last remaining vestige of that culture. There’s a Polish market in the neighborhood (we’ll sample one of the kielbasi from there) and an outstanding Mexican market and eatery where we’ll grab a bite as well since variety is the spice of life!

      Thanks for your interest!

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