Golden, red, green coloured, jelly-like sugary delight stuffed with cashews and almonds – that’s Bahraini halwa for you
It is said that your trip to Bahrain is incomplete if you have not tasted the Bahraini halwa. The jelly-like sweet, made from sugar, corn starch, saffron and nuts, is locally known as halwa Showaiter, derived from the family name and its chain of stores, but regionally and internationally known as Bahraini halwa. According to food aficionados, the Bahraini halwa is a direct descendant of the Omani version, introduced to the local cuisine more than 90 years ago following visits by Bahraini pearl divers and fishermen to Muscat.
The name ‘halwa Showaiter’ comes from the Showaiter family, based in Muharraq, which has been in the sweets business for over 150 years. Halwa is one of their flagship products and undoubtedly the best in Bahrain. The dish, an integral part of the local hospitality, is served along with traditional Arabic coffee. Halwa is also a key feature of the Bahraini dessert menu during the three days of Eid that follow the holy month of Ramadan. Sales of the dessert usually drop during Ramadan, but ahead of Eid, and throughout the year, the shop owners report high sales driven by local customers and tourists alike.
Making the halwa is a labour of love and patience. Special large containers are used for the purpose. After putting the raw material in the container, a long wooden spatula is used to stir the ingredients continuously – the key to a perfect product. Additional garnishing of dry fruit is added and as the makers keep a close watch to attain the perfect stickiness. Once the desired consistency is reached, the contents are scooped on to another pan swiftly. This is done to avoid over cooking and toughening of the halwa. The halwa comes in several colours and with different bases of saffron or cardamom. The types of nuts used also add their own flavour. By and large it is sold in circular, white plastic boxes.