'Halvita', the crisp soapwort nougat, makes strong comeback in Giurgiu County

 •  English

'Halvita' or the crisp soapwort nougat, a sweeter than honey confectionery product, has made a strong comeback in the fairs of the southern Giurgiu County, as candy lovers of all ages seek it for its crunchy and pleasantly sticky consistency.

Photo credit: (c) George CALIN / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

"'Halvita' is poured on wafer sheets or directly in trays, and after it is kept cold for at least 12 hours, it is cut into various shapes and sizes depending on the grammage required by the customers. We have 'halvita' for all budgets, from large pieces of up to five hundred grams packed in wafer sheets and wrapped in cellophane to very tiny pieces that fit a child's bite," uncle Tudor, a 'halvita' manufacturer from Giurgiu, told AGERPRES.

As a novelty this year, 'halvita' traders and manufacturers chose to also sell their product in waffle cones, just like ice cream, for it to be easily eaten while en route.

The merchants are proud of their ware, but few are willing to reveal their recipe. ''I can tell you the recipe, but you cannot prepare 'halvita' anyway, because you don't have soapwort, a special ingredient that is a must in the recipe,'' said another 'halvita' trader.

''Many believe that 'halvita' is made just by whipping the egg whites, this is rather the recipe for nougat, but genuine 'halvita' needs soapwort, a hard to obtain product. After mixing the ingredients, one must leave the 'halvita' to rest for almost 12 hours to get the aspect you see on the stalls, that is white and glassy-shiny. I have been making 'halvita' for years, but I tell you this is no easy process,'' said Mariana, a seasoned local 'halvita' producer, who has worked for years in the trade of pastry and confectionery, but has now fully dedicated herself to crafting the crunchy 'halvita'.

In conclusion, to make 'halvita' one needs honey, sugar, some water, egg whites, lemon juice. In this mix add nuts, peanuts, raisins, but then there can be no addition at all, depending to the customers' preferences. Everything is prepared in a vessel with thick walls to prevent the mix from sticking or burning while placed on a low fire, and the whole secret resides in adding soapwort, which has foaming properties, into the mix.

Photo credit: (c) Silviu MATEI / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Giurgiu city's 'halvita' manufacturers say that soapwort is very hard to find and supply themselves mostly online or from special stores in Bucharest. In the end, the composition is poured into trays, or on wafer sheets, kept cold over 12 hours and then cut into the desired shapes and sizes.

Because when it is ready 'halvita' is very hard, so that only those with strong and healthy teeth can enjoy it, the Giurgiu manufacturers have both a hard and a softer 'halvita' variety on offer, to make everybody happy.

''I bought a piece of softer 'halvita', because the harder one is too tough for my age; I bought it because I felt this craving and because it reminds me of my childhood when, on Shrove Tuesday, our parents used to tie pieces of 'halvita' to strings and balance them in front of the kids who were visiting our house on that day. We had to catch the sweet pieces with the mouth and of course we were a sticky mess all over, and everybody had a hearty laugh and there was real merriment in the house," says a 60-year old lady from Giurgiu who stopped to buy a piece of the confectionery.

This custom was borrowed from Turkish merchants and is practiced on Shrove Tuesday, which is the separation landmark between the old and the new agricultural year; however, 'halvita' also sells at fairs or on other holidays of city.

In Giurgiu, 'halvita' is produced and can be found only at street vendors or occasionally at stalls; sweet shops don't sell it. This makes Giurgiu sometimes come across as a being stuck somewhere in the past, when the Turkish merchants used to loudly advertise their wares in the streets. AGERPRES

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