SHEKI (SHAKI), AZERBAIJAN - MARCH : March 30, 2012, Karavan Saray Hotel, Sheki (Shaki), Azerbaijan. Men make Sheki halva, a gooey candied baklava that is often referred to as the Sheki sweet. A net is made of fried dough and sugar, and when it hardens, it is spread with a hazelnut paste and covered with honey. (Photo by Reza/Getty Images)
What Makes Halva So Unique?
By Chris Day
Halva, sometimes spelled halvah, originated in the Middle East but is considered a culturally diverse candy. The name comes from the Arabic halwá, a word that means sweet, and the basic halva recipe is made of three simple ingredients: toasted sesame seeds, oil, and a sweetener like sugar or honey.
That being said, halva recipes are flexible and allow the inclusion of various nuts, dried fruit, cocoa, vanilla extract, and spices like cardamom and cloves. According to Nutrition Value, halva has a host of nutritionally beneficial properties like protein and iron, but due to its high sugar content, it can hardly be considered a healthy food. Moderation is key to enjoying halva.
Halva arrived in the U.S. in the early 20th century when New York City first began to epitomize the melting pot of different cultures we know today. In 1907, a Ukrainian immigrant named Jacob Radutzky started making the confection in his garage on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, using a recipe from the old country.