Little puffs of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
The golden, crunchy exterior. Then the airy, pillow-y middle. And finally your taste buds are hit by the most exquisite burst of sweetness coupled perfectly with the slightest tangy undertones. Eating one luqaimat is an adventure through the best parts of the dessert world. And it’s an adventure that you’ll repeat again and again until every last one has disappeared from the plate!
Luqaimat are infamous throughout many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries…everyone claims it’s theirs originally and specifying its origin will probably start world war three 😛 But all signs point to it originating in the Ottoman Empire palace courts from where it spread to Ottoman-controlled territories like the Balkans, Middle Eastern, and Caucasus countries.
The Turkish name is lokma, meaning ‘a mouthful’ or ‘a morsel’. From there, we get the Arabian Gulf variation, luqaimat. In Egypt and the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine), it is called luqmat-ul-qadi. In Somalia, it is burka macan. The Swahili people call it kaimati. And the Greeks call it loukoumades.
As varied as the cultures that make it, luqaimat is flavoured in different ways and paired with a variety of sweet accompaniments depending on where you are. It can have yogurt (my personal favourite), or not. In the Arabian Gulf, saffron and cardamom powder is added to the dough batter for a unique taste. A popular street food in the United Arab Emirates, there it is served hot out of the oil with a drizzle of dates syrup and sometimes a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. And in Greece, it is dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon powder.
I love a combination of the types…first dipped in a sugar syrup, and then dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon!!!!!! It’s like mini-glazed doughnuts, only better. Like fair food, but better still. Just a perfect all-around dessert!
Recently on a trip to Makkah, I went on a late night picnic at a park across from Rajhi Mosque. The weather was nice…Makkah is notoriously much warmer than Madinah in the winter. But the best part was the fair/mini market they had in one section of the grounds. Between dozens of stalls featuring all kinds of products, I found a luqaimat stall!!!!!!! This was the Hijazi (Arabian Peninsula) version; it is a more compact dumpling and very crunchy. And you top it with your choice of sugar water, honey, or dates syrup and sesame seeds or black seeds…or everything as I did 😛 Even though I still prefer the fluffy version, this was one experience that finally got ticked off my bucket list.
Eating luqaimat from a street vendor. Check.
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tbsp yeast
- 2-2 1/4 cups warm milk
- 3 tbsp yogurt
- 3 tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- powdered sugar and cinnamon powder to dust with
- Sift the dry ingredients together.
- Add the yogurt and milk. Mix well. The batter will be slightly thicker than pancake batter.
- Cover and leave it to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Heat oil. Test if its ready by dropping a bit of batter in...if it pops up right away, you're good to go.
- Drop about a tablespoon of batter at a time. Stir constantly.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well.
- Put the sugar and water in a saucepan on low heat. Let it simmer until the sugar is melted and it has a consistency like maple syrup.
- Remove from heat and immediately begin dipping the fried dough balls into it. Alternatively, you can pour it over them, but this doesn't coat them 100%.
- When all the balls have sugar syrup on them, use a sieve and sprinkle the powdered sugar and cinnamon all over the plate of luqaimat.
- Serve hot and enjoy!