Though there are a lot of options for sweets in the garrison city, Arabic sweets are becoming increasingly popular, especially baklava.

The crispy sweet filled with honey, dates, almonds, pistachios and butter, is popular in the winters as well as the summers, also because it is regarded to be rich in nutrition.

Baklava is available in bakeries across the city, though it was Tehzeeb Bakers which first introduced the sweet in Rawalpindi.

Categorised as an Arabian delight, Baklava can be traced back to Turkey, from where it spread to the Middle Eastern countries.

To make Baklava, kneaded fine wheat dough is spread into a thin sheet. Bite size servings of a mix of dates, almonds, pistachios, butter and honey are placed on the dough, which is then cut into small squares, rolled over the filling and then baked in the oven till the outer layer is crisp and golden. Thick sugar syrup is drizzled on top after it has cooled.

“The sweet is made by especially trained chefs because it is difficult to get the pastry and the filling right. We introduced the sweet three years ago,” said Shaukat Noon, the owner of Tehzeeb Bakers in Saddar.

He said the sweet was popular in Middle Eastern countries and that the bakery had received demands for the Arabian delights, which is why the bakery had decided to include Baklava on its list of items.

Chefs trained in making the sweet were asked to teach local chefs to perfect the pastry as well, Mr Noon said.

Baklava was first being sold without packaging, he said, adding that it was later decided to sell packaged Baklava as they can last for long and the packaging helps to preserve the taste and aroma of the sweet.

Customers at the bakery said Baklava is a better option compared to desi sweets as it has better nutritional value.

“One can eat honey and nuts with butter instead of sugary local sweets, My family prefers Arabian sweets instead of local sweets,” said Mobeen Ahmed, a resident of Saddar.

He said Baklava is good for having with evening tea and to serve guests and that the dried fruit and honey gives one energy.

A resident of Bahria Town, Farhan Malik said he had first had Baklava in Dubai and later in a local bakery. He had found the taste of both to be the same. He said his family loved the Arabian delights and that his father routinely visits the bakery in Saddar to get Baklava for his mother.

He suggested adding a topping of fresh cream on Baklava.

“The outer layer is crispy and the filling is soft. It melts in your mouth when you take a bite of it,” said Sofia Ahmed, a customer at the bakery, waiting for her order.

She said she preferred giving her children Arabian sweets instead of candy and chocolates.

“Baklava is a healthier option,” she said.

Originally published in Dawn, July 11th, 2016