Have you ever heard of luqaimat, the Arabic relative of the donut? This traditional sweet is often served at tea time, when entertaining guests, and during the holy month of Ramadan. In Qatar, they are so popular that many cafes and restaurants have given them their own twist by serving luqaimat with different dips.
If you never heard of luqaimat before, you are in the right place because in this article you will learn about the background of luqaimat and discover recipes you can try at home. And if you have heard or even tried luqaimat already, we hope to introduce you to new recipes and facts about these tasty treats.
What exactly are luqaimat?
The word, luqaimat (if you are wondering how to pronounce it correctly, you can find out here), can be translated as bite-size and they look similar to donut holes. Like donuts, luqaimat are also deep-fried to get a crunchy texture and golden-brown color on the outside, while remaining soft and airy on the inside.
Although they are similar to donuts, there are key differences. For example, there is little or no sugar in luqaimat. The sweetness comes from the honey or syrup they are served with. Adding saffron and cardamom also gives them a distinctive flavor. However, there are recipes without these two ingredients, which we will also share with you.
The history of luqaimat
The earliest written recipes for luqaimat date back to the 13th century. Among others, it was included in The Book of Dishes by al-Baghdadi, published in 1226. It was one of the 160 recipes in the original book. However, luqaimat was already enjoyed centuries before even if there are no earlier written recipes.
There is no certainty of the exact origins of luqaimat, but some say it came from Ancient Greece. The Ancient Greeks would give them to winners in the Olympic games as “honey tokens”. From there they spread to the Middle East via Turkey and evolved into Luqmat al-Qadi.
What is certain is that it was a famous dish because it even made it into the story The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad which is one of the stories in the One Thousand and One Nights story collection.
A further mention of the dish comes from Ibn Battuta, a 14th-century scholar, and explorer. He used the name Luqaymat al-Qadi when he described the dish he was served while traveling in India. However, his hosts called it al-Hashimi.
What are the different regional varieties?
Since the dish has been said to originate from Ancient Greece and spread to the Middle East from there, it is only natural that there are different variations of luqaimat. Let’s find out more about these varieties.
The Arab countries
There are differences in the luqaimat recipes between the Arab countries. In the countries on the Persian Gulf, they are spiced with cardamom and saffron and the recipe has changed little since the 13th century.
In Iraq, they are called lokma or luqaymat and come in a range of sizes and flavors. In other parts of the Middle East, people also use the words awameh and zalabya to describe these little bites.
The Cypriot Greek word for the sweet dumplings is loukoumádes. In Cuprys, the recipe usually uses cinnamon rather than cardamom. They are served in honey syrup and sometimes sprinkled with powdered sugar.
In Greece, the dish is also known as loukoumádes. They are a popular street food and are usually served with different combinations of honey, cinnamon, walnuts, and chocolate sauce. The first mention of loukoumades in writing dates back to the 3rd century BCE when poet Callimachus mentions them.
The word used in Turkey is lokma and it can be either a sweet or savory dish. The savory lokma is served with cheese similarly to bagels.
It is traditional in Turkey to cook large quantities of lokma forty days after someone has passed away. The close relatives and friends of the departed will cook lokma and offer them to neighbors and passers-by. Those who receive a plate of lokma will recite a prayer for the soul of the deceased.
What ingredients do you need to make luqaimat?
In a moment, we will share with you some alternative recipes, for luqaimat. However, we wanted to start with a recipe that uses traditional ingredients like this recipe from Fa’s Kitchen.
To make the luqaimat dough you will need:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk powder
- ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- A few strands of saffron
- ⅓ cup lukewarm water (approximately)
You will also need:
- ½ cup date syrup for dressing, note that you can use honey instead
- Sesame seeds for sprinkling
- Oil for deep frying
Step-by-step instructions to make luqaimat
- Start by mixing all-purpose flour, yeast, milk powder, sugar, cardamom powder, and saffron in a bowl.
- Add the lukewarm water slowly while mixing with your hand until you get a sticky consistency.
- Cover with a muslin cloth or a towel and leave to rest in a warm place. It will need a few hours until it has doubled in size.
- Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, a saucepan, or a skillet. You can also use a deep fryer if you have one. Drop small balls of the dough into the hot oil.
- Use a slotted spoon to roll the dropped balls in the oil to cook them evenly. When they are dark golden brown, they are ready.
- Remove them with the slotted spoon and place them on a kitchen towel which will soak up any excess oil.
- Place in a serving bowl, pour the date syrup or honey on top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Serve while still warm.
Alternative recipes to try
Sometimes recipes for luqaimat replace the milk powder with yogurt. A recipe from Jazeera Majeed is one of those and it uses minimal ingredients. You only need white flour, yeast, yogurt, sugar, salt, and water. You can learn more about the recipe and watch a video of Jazeera making luqaimat here.
Another recipe you might like to try is this one from Munaty Cooking. It is an interesting recipe as it uses mashed potatoes. Muna says that mashed potatoes are the secret to a lasting crunch. For a vegan option, try this recipe from Dine With Dina.
Now that you know what luqaimat are and where they come from, we hope you will try one or more of the recipes we shared. Which one do you like the sound of the most? Do you think you will go the traditional route or see if the mashed potato really gives the luqaimat that perfect crunch? Or perhaps you like the dairy-free vegan option.
Whichever you decide to try first, we are sure you will enjoy them. You can let us know in the comments which recipe you tried and how you liked it. You can also write any questions you might have in the comments field, although it is worth checking the frequently asked questions first.
Frequently asked questions
Can you give me some tips on deep frying?
When deep-frying, it is important to make sure your oil is hot enough. If it is not hot enough, the balls will take too long to cook and will end up soaking in too much oil. Too hot and they will cook too fast on the outside and leave the middle doughy. You can test the temperature of your oil, with a single ball first.
Are some oils better than others?
You can use most oils to cook your luqaimat. However, oils with a mild taste and a high smoking point are the best. Examples of these would be canola oil and vegetable oil.
Is there an easy way to deep fry the balls?
You can make little dough balls by rolling them against the counter with the palm of your hand. A popular alternative to that is to use a large freezer bag. You put all the dough in the bag and cut off a corner of the bag. Then squeeze the bag over the oil until some batter comes out. Use scissors to cut into balls and let them drop straight into the oil.
I don’t like syrup or honey. Can I use something else?
Absolutely. Syrup and honey are the traditional toppings for luqaimat, but just like the Qatar cafes are adding their mark with different toppings, so can you. They are very nice served with a lemony icing sugar dip and peanut butter goes with them perfectly. If you would like to get more experimental, try this Salted Caramel Sauce with Rose Water and Orange Blossom from Every Little Crumb.