Halvah: Sesame delicious!

Halvah: Sesame delicious!

Halvah is one of those foods that has generally escaped the attention of America at large. This kosher treat is popular in Jewish communities, of course, and its Middle Eastern heritage also makes it a favorite staple of international grocery stores. It is also something I consider fondly as a childhood treat, because for whatever thought process was involved, my mother often used to buy it at the grocery store. I doubt there were many other kids in Alaska in the 1980s who ate a lot of halvah, but I certainly did.

Halvah is a dense, sweet treat which, in the form you usually encounter in America, is made of crushed sesame seeds sweetened with honey. (There are other forms of halvah, but I have not personally found any of them for sale here.) 

Halvah's texture is unique and difficult to describe. It manages to be both sandy and crunchy at the same time, but deliciously so. It reminds me a little of the filling in a Butterfinger bar, but sesame flavored, and not quite as dry and solid. Halvah crumbles, with a fine texture that comes from the crushed sesame seeds. If you have ever tried one of those "Sez-Me Snacks," the taste is similar, although not the texture.

Halvah can often be found in the deli section of supermarkets. I have found it across the country in the same format everywhere: small slabs, usually of marble halvah, wrapped in plastic wrap and stickered with the deli label from the store. I suppose some national distribution network must be sending out rectangular loaves of halvah, and each store just slices what they need. Certainly the stuff seems to keep forever.
 
Halvah presumably can be found in "all chocolate," although I have never seen it. I usually find the marbled form, which has swirls of chocolate in the plain vanilla background. Sometimes I have found the "all vanilla" type. It's a strange phenomenon, like only being able to find chocolate/vanilla swirl ice cream, but not chocolate and only occasionally vanilla.
 
Nutritionally, halvah could be worse for you. Because it is made with a tahini base, it contains a lot of trace elements, including manganese, copper, and methionine. It also apparently has a lot of omega 3 fatty acids. Of course, you have to balance those health benefits with the fact that it has a lot of oil and sweetening in there, too!
 
If you have never tried halvah, keep an eye out the next time you are cruising through a grocery store deli department. It's definitely something that every curious eater should try once in their lives.