Also known as Turkish delight, a firm, gelatinous cube made with water, sugar and starch various flavourings (rose, quince, pistachio, Bergamot orange, mastic among others), then coated in powdered sugar to keep them from sticking together. They were often offered to guests instead of spoon sweets, glyko tou koutaliou.
The word comes from the Arabic al-halkum, 'throat comfort'. They were ainvented in the 18th century, and perhaps came to Istanbul by way of Persia. One story says that a sultan broke his tooth on a hard candy, and demanded a softer sweet. There are records that once palace had the recipe, it tried (unsuccessfully) to keep other pastry chefs in Istanbul from making it.
Loukoumi was brought to Syros by refugees from Chios sometime around 1824, during the Greek War of Independence. As a major port the island quickly famous for its loukoumi, exporting it around the world, some 8 tonnes worth in its heyday. Today they still make it (although much less) as anyone who has ever gone island hopping in the Cyclades: no matter how short the stop, there will be time for the salesmen to race on board with baskets full of boxes of loukoumi and halvadopita.
Image by Katy