I couldn’t bring myself to buy any of the Lebanese cedar tchotchkes but as I wandered down the road, I came across this guy selling candy. He offered me a sample and it was delicious—sweet, chewy, and very apricoty. This is Lebanese malban which is very much like Turkish Delight only better, I think. At least this batch was.
Traditionally malban is made with grape molasses, flavored with rose water or orange blossom water, and thickened with starch. Traditionally it is stuffed with pistachios but this guy had all kinds of malban and noughat—dried peach, rose flowers, cashews, bergamot oranges, pears, dried apricots, and several different versions of pistachio malban.
I asked him to put together a mixed box of various candies, thinking I’d take them home with me. As he was doing that, I noticed Waffa sitting on a bench up the hill from me. She looked as melancholy as I’d felt walking through the cedar grove. I don’t know if it was because she was remembering coming up here as a child or if she just found the whole seen a bit less spectacular than what she’d been hoping for. In any case, I told the candy man to make me a second sampler of his malban, which I gave to Waffa when we got back in the car. She was delighted. The two of us munched on the bright, chewy candies as our car slowly wound its way down through the Qadisha Valley and back to Beirut.