Homsi Halva (Qarmashleyah)
It has many different names: Khubzeyah, Red & White, Sailan with Honey and Qarmashleyah. It originates from Turkey, it was first made in 1850 in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which up till now, is considered a destination to different kinds of sweets. The Halva was brought to Syria by some craftsmen who settled in Syrian cities. Homs was one of the places that hosted settlers and the only city which was able to maintain the production of Halva since it takes a lot of time and patience to make, however; it is considered relatively a cheap sweet to buy.
The process of making traditional Homsi Halva:
At first, white flour is mixed with water and salt in certain amounts until it becomes a liquid mix. Then, the liquid is poured in specific amount into the high degree-heated mirror (a big flat pan without edges) which has already been greased with vegetable oil or margarine and reached a certain temperature. When pouring the mix into the heated flat pan, it quickly cooks into a round and very thin piece of bread. After many pieces are made, they are left to dry for a couple of days depending on the weather. Then, it is kept for 15 days to rest in special bags called (Sugar bags) which are white cotton bags that do not contain any kind of nylon in its fabric so that the bread doesn’t rot.
The second stage takes about two days. The bread chips are taken out of the bags and fried in oil or margarine using a copper pan, then they are put aside to dry for a day or two. After that, they are moved to a copper bowl and treacle is poured over with continuous stirring so that the chips don’t stick. The last stage is when the chips are put on marble tables for half an hour and then put in bags in red and white layers to be weighed and sent to markets. Food coloring is used to make the red chips.
It is worth mentioning that in Homs, there is a day called “Thursday of Sweets” when all traditional sweets are served, especially the Homsi Halva. This special celebration has been going on for generations. It is celebrated on a specific date which is the Thursday before Easter. People buy sweets for their families, relatives, neighbours and those whom they love. Most importantly, Halva is given also in the memory of those who died. On this special day, most people visit the cemetery to celebrate the memory of their loved ones, during their visit, they bring halva to give it to the poor people who come there on that day to eat halva. Halva is a very popular sweet in Homs, most often expatriates visit the city to eat and buy Halva. Al-Safwa Shops in Homs are the most famous for making the best Homsi Halva.