When you hear the words “street food” in Turkey they conjure up images of döner kebab (meat or chicken cooked on a vertical rotisserie), simit (circular sesame-crusted bread), balık ekmek (fried or grilled fish inside a loaf of bread), midye dolma (stuffed mussels) lokma (fried sweet dough covered in syrup), mısır (freshly boiled or grilled corn on the cob) to name a few.
There’s another street food that you may have walked past and wondered about on more than one occasion.
Macun is a soft, sweet toffee-like paste that comes in a variety of colourful flavours.
The vendors (macuncu) serve it from specially designed trays that are split into five or more separate triangular-shaped compartments for each vividly-coloured gooey flavour.
The macun is scooped with a macuncu mablaği or macunkeș, which is shaped like a screwdriver, and wrapped around a small stick, like a lollipop. This can be done with alternate flavours, creating a striped sweet.
You might think it was something that might only appeal to children, but give it a try and you’ll be surprised by its honey-sweet and spicy taste.
Macun is a lot more than just a sweet, colourful candy.
Macun originated from spicy preparations of Mesir Macunu, a traditional herbal paste and, according to legend, is made of forty-one ingredients, aiming to heal forty-one ailments.
It is prepared with many herbs, spices and flavouring ingredients including amber, musk, crimson, turmeric, ginger, clover, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, coconut, bergamot, mastic, mint, rose, lemon and plum.
In the past, macun was consumed as a pharmaceutical medicine as it was purported to have therapeutic effects giving the body strength and calming one’s spirit
Turkish Macun also known as Mesir Macunu or Mesir Paste is also known for its aphrodisiac properties.
Next time you’re enjoying one of the many festivals that take place in Turkey, watch out for the macuncu and give it a try.
This article was first published on 5 May 2019.