Do you remember last year when we went to the Üzümlü Mushroom Festival and we came across a street seller impressing the crowds by winding sticky, multi-coloured sweetness around a stick? He was doing a roaring trade and our friend told us it was Osmanlı Macunu; a traditional food from the Ottoman times. We didn’t try any on that day because it just looked so sweet. It was one of those sweets best left for the kids to enjoy.
After we did that post, many people got in touch to tell us more about Osmanlı Macun and, when not being sold in the sweeties-for-kids version, it’s taken / eaten / drunk for its medicinal properties.
The story goes that Hafsa Sultan, the wife of Yavuz Sultan Selim became ill in the 1500s. When no cures were found, a special paste, made from many herbs and spices, was prepared in Manisa (macun is the Turkish word for paste) and sent to Hafsa Sultan. The cure worked. So impressed with this special paste was Hafsa Sultan that she ordered it to be thrown from the minarets and domes of Sultan Mosque to the waiting townsfolk below and Manisa still has an annual Macun Festivalı (Paste Festival) to this day.
There’s a reason for writing about Manisa Macunu today. Last week, we were given this packet as a gift and, after learning from others that it was a spicy rather than sweet flavour, we couldn’t wait to tuck in to sample it.
This particular packet contained five sticks of colourfully wrapped macun. We tore off the wrappers and sunk our teeth into the sticks. As soon as your tongue hits the macun there’s an immediate zing of black pepper, cinnamon, aniseed, clove, cumin. And these are just a few of the ingredients used. Others include turmeric, aniseed and licorice. The list goes on but you get the picture. There’s a comforting, medicinal yet Christmassy (think mulled wine) flavour to it and we’re Manisa Macun’s newest fans.