Iraqi taffy (Mann al-Sama)
An Iraqi specialty, these candies go by the name mann al-sama which translates into manna from heaven. Every year we’d get a box courtesy of Alaa’din, our Iraqi friend escaping Baghdad’s scorching summer heat for a few weeks of R&R in Lebanon’s cool mountain air.
As a child, I had asked : ” Why are these called manna from heaven?” and the answer was swift: “Because they come from the sky”.
Needless to say, this added to the mystique of Iraq being a magical place where candy would fall onto one’s lap from the skies above.
My father who’d lived in Iraq several years corroborated the story. He said the candy was scraped from leaves on the ground.
Here is the scoop on these heavenly candies, provided by Nawal Nasrallah in her Delights from the Garden of Eden.
Apparently, historians attribute it to the same manna mentioned in the Bible and in the Qoran as food that God sent the people of Israel during their wanderings in the desert.
But where does it come from?
There are certain varieties of trees in Northern Iraq which give out sap after being punctured by insects. This sap falls off the tree, covering leaves on the ground; it is then scraped off the leaves, cleaned, boiled, and milled; flavored with cardamom, stuffed with nuts, and shaped into large chewy balls: Mann al-sama.
The candies we would get were carefully tucked in a cardboard box, wrapped in paper and tied with a burlap string; feverish hands would open the box releasing clouds of flour and the strong scent of cardamom; in the box, soft balls of taupe-colored marshmallow-like candy nudged side-by-side.
Today, confectioners in Lebanon make it like a taffy, stuffed with almonds and flavored with cardamom. The real mann al-sama to my knowledge is no longer available (at least not in Lebanon). It is still made in Iraq but only gets exported sporadically into Lebanon. One confectioner to whom I talked, from the firm Oussama Ghrawi told me that to make these candies with the real mann is not profitable, therefore it is made without it!
Apparently making taffy-like (or nougat-like) candy was popular in the Arab world since the tenth century.
In Lebanon it is called mann wa salwa.
Nawal Nasrallah says that even in Iraq it is made as a candy nowadays and no longer from that heavenly sap.
Recipe adapted from Delights from the Garden of Eden.
INGREDIENTS: Makes 30 to 60 balls (depending on size)
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1/4 cup of water
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tsp of ground cardamom
- 1/4 cup of butter (2 oz or 50 g.)
- 1 1/2 cups of toasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans)
- cornstarch or flour
- Dissolve sugar with corn syrup, salt and water in a pan, stirring from time to time. Let a syrup form (test it when placing a drop on the counter it should be firm and not drip.
- Whip egg whites (while syrup is cooking) until firm and still shiny. Pour 1/4 of the syrup over the egg whites and keep whipping. Cook the remainder of the syrup until thicker (hard-ball stage or 260F). Add the rest of the syrup to the egg whites and keep whipping. Fold cardamom, butter and nuts.
- Spread the taffy into a pan that is greased and floured. Leave it for 12 hours or longer. Cut into small squares and form into balls; dip in flour or cornstarch to keep them from sticking. They will keep in a cool area for days.
NOTE: I have made this recipe a couple of times and it is tricky. The taffy stays soft. What is crucial is for the sugar syrup to cook long enough to a softball stage. The way to tell is to take a small (teaspoon) amount of syrup and drop it in a glass of water; if it forms a ball, it is ready.
A native Lebanese fir tree is being decorated in a Beirut school.
73 Comments • Comments Feed
The recipe seems similar to Nougat
How are you and how is the family
On December 10, 2011 at 11:59 am
@Arlette; it is like a soft nougat, very strongly flavored with cardamom. Everybody is fine, keep in touch! J.
On December 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm
A bit like French nougat… Lovely candy. Something I’d easily get addicted to.
On December 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm
waou! quelle délicieuse découverte!! et quelle jolie histoire!! j’espère que tu passes d’agréables moments!! bises!
On December 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm
Bonsoir Joumana, ils sont trop beaux on dirait des petits rochers tombés d’une montagne gourmande, bisous et bon dimanche
On December 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm
Two really random questions:
Is this not also an Iranian delicacy?
What camera do you use for your pictures? They’re always so stunningly beautiful!
On December 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm
@7alim: I use a Canon Rebel and thanks! I am not an expert on Iranian cuisine and I consulted the book of Najmieh Batmanglij to check and she does not list these anywhere; now I do notice some similarities the Persians use cardamom and there are a lot of dishes that are similar.
On December 10, 2011 at 1:43 pm
Well, it is similar to Iranian Gaz, which used to be made from Gaz Angabin (meaning Gaz honey, Gaz being the tree that the original sweetener was extracted from). It is similar to nougat.
On December 5, 2017 at 7:46 pm
Tom @ Tall Clover says:
Joumana, I love taffy and every Christmas our family has a tradition (from my father’s side) of making and pulling taffy. His family called it French Chewing Candy. Anyway, it was a caramel-ly, creamy delight. I’ll have to try your recipe as it add nuts and is a departure from what I’m used to. Looks delicious!
On December 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm
That looks splendid. I have now tried 2 versions of manna and love them. They are sweet but in an interesting complex way… one of them almost has a menthol-like camphory edge to it. The stuff was very pricy so I see why they stopped using it for candy… it would be crazy expensive.
I can’t wait to try this… lovely recipe.
On December 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm
I don’t know which one fiscinates me the most these sweets or the story behind them. All the area around Persia and Middle East is so full of myths, stories and history so rich in cultural aspects and fables. I hope one day I will be able to visit these places and just get a small touch of all this history!
On December 10, 2011 at 1:37 pm
They really sound delicious, now I need to look for corn syrup 🙂 Diane
On December 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm
What an interesting story about these candies. I am going to try my hand at these, I bet they will be the perfect addition to my goodie bags this year. Love the burlap sack idea. 😉
thx for the kind words on my tahini soba noodle dish over at LC.
On December 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm
Belinda @zomppa says:
Manna from Heaven indeed! I would love these confections! What a gorgeous and HUGE tree!
On December 10, 2011 at 11:47 pm
vous ne faites pas les choses en petit beyrouth au niveau sapin !!!!pierre
On December 11, 2011 at 6:27 am
T.W. Barritt says:
I love the story behind these candies – from the ancient legends to the modern recipe! Thanks so much!
On December 11, 2011 at 6:40 am
culinaire amoula says:
Ils sont très jolis.
On December 11, 2011 at 10:05 am
I’ve had manna in the Middle East but it was flavored with coriander seed. This version with cardamom sounds wonderful, Joumana!
On December 11, 2011 at 10:44 am
You always make the most innovative and beautiful sweets Joumana.
That tree is huge!! What a photo!
On December 11, 2011 at 11:00 am
Lovely story – I love when food is infused with lore. And these look like French nougat which I adore! Wonderful holiday treats!
On December 11, 2011 at 11:57 am
Mark Wisecarver says:
Ohhhh I love you for sharing this, so awesome!
On December 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm
Dear Joumana – Such a nice and wistful story – cloudy with a chance of candy, eh??
Part macaroon, part nougat, this is just so lovely with the flavors of cardamom. I do however always cringe using corn syrup and never store it in my pantry. I would love your take on this ingredient – is ti all in my head?
chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors
On December 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm
@Devaki: I don’t use corn syrup much, only in this case, a one time deal! I heard (and people have written books on it!) that it is real bad for you. Still, if you don’t consume it on a regular basis. I tend to agree with the advice of the Mayo clinic
avoiding too much sugar, of any kind, on a daily basis.
On December 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm
The background of these treats is so interesting and they look delicious!
On December 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm
They look splendid! Thanks for sharing 🙂
On December 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm
I love when food comes with a story. Beautiful recipe.
On December 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm
Wonderful background on this candy, Joumana. They look like little clouds. And look at great deal like nougat.
On December 12, 2011 at 5:41 am
Oui, Chef says:
I’ve always loved Italian nougat, and cardamom is among my favorite spices. CAN’T wait to give this one a try!
On December 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm
Magic of Spice says:
Joumana, these are delightful, and I love the story/history behind the name 🙂
On December 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm
Wow that is one tall tree! It’s gorgeous! I like the stories you have with your beautiful, flavorful dishes and goodies. As a kid I loved that, and would love candy falling from the sky!
On December 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm
Oh, am I glad I found a few moments to return to your blog and see what you are up to. Here I find my favourite: manwa salweh! Yum. I will try your recipe although I fear it will not taste like the decadent pillows of heaven that I have eaten. I ate some given to me from Iraq and from Turkey. In fact, an Iraqi man introduced me to these yummy pillows once years ago when I was a twenty something.
Manwa salwah is a specialty of Isfahan, Iran. I know because my Iranian Canadian’s mother brought a box to Canada with her when she came to visit. They call it gaz.
all the best in your business making and showing delicious food.
On December 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm
@Tainia: So glad to hear from you again and thanks for the info. I wonder why this was not mentioned in Najmieh’s book. Will look into it.
On December 16, 2011 at 12:56 am
Nuts about food says:
That is one tall tree! And I love your childhood story.
On December 16, 2011 at 8:14 am
Hi Joumana, these are my husband’s favorites so I tried them. They were DELICIOUS !!! Only one question I have…….mine turned out a little on the soft side. How do I make it a little firmer?
On December 16, 2011 at 9:49 pm
@Zeina: Ms. Nasrallah suggested in her recipe leaving them out for a couple of days; since her recipe does not specify the temperature of the syrup, I don’t know what temperature the candy needs to be exactly; but if 260F was too soft, try a harder syrup cooked a little longer; where it gets tricky is that if too hard, it is difficult to combine with the meringue in a home kitchen without the benefit of commercial tools. Mine was on the soft side too, but the taste was fine.
On December 17, 2011 at 3:48 am
Hi Joumana, just wanted to give you an update. I did as you recommended and let the syrup cook a little longer. They came out perfect! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this delicious recipe!
On December 26, 2011 at 9:21 pm
@Zeina: So GLAD it worked out! 🙂
On December 27, 2011 at 6:00 am
This looked so wonderful , that I had to try it .
Ack , Something went wrong somewhere. I wish I took a photo of the Taffy.
Here is what happened : after the taffy was rolled and placed on a serving plate , they spread. and molded into one. They were still delicious , heavenly actually.
Thank you for the wonderful recipes ,that I so enjoy !
On December 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm
@Lucy: I actually had this problem; it is a tricky recipe and I should have warned people about that. The sugar syrup needs to cook for a longer period in order to make a stiffer taffy. How long did you cook your syrup and did you measure the temperature?
On December 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm
I used a candy thermometer and heated it to 260 ..perhaps I should of cooked it longer at that temperature, either way I will try again.
Thank you for all your recipes ! You inspire me !
On December 30, 2011 at 11:22 pm
@Lucy: The original recipe did not call for a specific temperature. Your struggle with it is inspiring me to try it again and see if I have better results with a higher syrup temp; I will let you know!
On December 31, 2011 at 12:08 am
Seriously ~ It never fails ~every time I eat mann al sama ~ I feel as if I have died and gone to heaven!!! One bite of this amazing sweet and it reminds me of all the warmth of the Middle East ! This is truly-the most amazing sweet ~ Thank You for sharing the recipe
On July 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm
Thank you very much for the history. I have been trying to figure out for years where to get mann al sama. I grew up in Beirut and my mom had a lot of Iraqi relatives who would visit – always with a box of mann. Even as a kid I knew the stuff that came in the wooden box was better than the cardboard. Alas that was the late seventies, and I have not seen or eaten mann since. I found something called divinity in the US, but it looked awful. I will try your recipe; I like nougat a lot, but remember mann al sama as something different. Thanks again.
On August 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm
You can’t imagine how happy I am to see this recipe. I was lucky enough to have some of these delicious sweets last Eid when a friend of my husband brought some from Iraq. The taste really is something unlike anything else and further reinforces my belief that Iraq is a magical place. Hopefully I can recreate these and make a homesick husband very happy! Thank you so much for sharing.
On October 10, 2012 at 8:40 am
Penelope C Purchase says:
I have had the “original” kind that fell from the trees in Iraq. I was sent a “cardboard shoe box” full one just before one Christmas from a friend in Iraq about 44 years ago when this was still available before the 1st Iraqi war. I lived on it that Christmas and didn’t want any other food. I have been informed that the “wars” recently have decimated those particular trees and it is no longer possible to get the original manna from heaven! I feel very privileged to have been able to have tasted it.
On December 3, 2012 at 6:09 am
@Penelope: It is indeed very lucky that you were able to taste the real thing! I have been trying to get the anbar rice from Iraq, another delicacy from the South and have not had much luck so far! On the other hand, I bought a couple of boxes of a candy from Iran called gas I think, and it tasted a lot like the manna; I was not able to find out more because this particular bazaar was shut down after 3 days and gone; I amhoping they will come back this year and I will get to the bottom of the story!
On December 3, 2012 at 7:19 am
OMG I just had this for the first time and it is to die for!! Unfortunately I bought like 2 pieces on vacation 12 hours away so there is no more. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks so much for posting it :))
On April 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm
Hi. I’m an Iraqi Assyrian and your Mann Alsamma looks authentic. I remember it as my favorite treat as a child in Dora, Baghdad. My mother made it occasionally. I’ll have to make it for my kids soon. Thank you for the memory!
On February 9, 2014 at 4:36 pm
@Raman: I have found this recipe challenging; I made a different mann al-samma for an iraqi cookbook on worked on recently (in arabic) using the formula of a marshmallow flavored with cardamom. I will revise the recipe and post it soon. Thanks! 🙂
On February 11, 2014 at 1:08 am
You said in the recipe to heat the syrup until it reaches 260 F (which is a hard ball state).
But in your last comment at the bottom you cautioned that the syrup should reach a soft ball stage. I am a bit confused.
On May 13, 2014 at 11:12 am
@ rasha: I am sorry for the confusion. It is indeed cooked to a hard-ball stage which is anywhere between 250-265F. I have to caution you that I found this recipe tricky when I tested it. and I have since adopted another method, which is to cook mann el-samma like one would make marshmallows, with the addition of rosewater and cardamom as flavoring. Let me know if you’d like to know this other method, I was planning on posting it at some point.
On May 13, 2014 at 11:36 am
I just made this and it comes very close to it! I was actually gonna comment that mine came out a little sticky but I just realized I made the mistake and stopped it at firm ball stage instead of hard ball. Bummer! So it’s a little sticky for me but next time I’ll fix my mistake. Is it thicker if I go to the hard ball stage? Just curious. Oh and I LOVE pistachios! I thought 1 1/2 cups was little so I went to 2 and I still find it not enough! (I like it nutty!!) So next time I may go up to 2 1/2-3 cups! Love this recipe! Don’t know when I’ll get the real Mann al-Sama but I’m good with this recipe for now. 🙂 Thank you!
On May 15, 2014 at 1:51 pm
@Rima: Hard ball is much firmer and harder to handle (that’swhy they have machines making it:)
Anyway, you are most welcome. I will eventually post my other version with marshmallows a much easier technique.
On May 17, 2014 at 1:25 am
hmmmm maybe I’ll take it off the stove before it hits hard ball and see what the result is? 🙂 I used my KitchenAid to mix the ingredients through the whole process and it was wonderful!
Before I found your *WONDERFUL* recipe, I have been making marshmallows and just throwing in the pistachios, a small cap full of rose water, and a heavy pinch of cardamom! They are perfect and lighter than Mann al-Sama! I’m interested to see your recipe and see if it is similar to mine or different. I don’t mind having many recipes! 😉
On May 18, 2014 at 1:20 pm
@Reima: I use the same mixer, could not live without it! Will make them soon and you will be able to tell. Glad they turned out good! 🙂
On May 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm
how can I get al mann wal salwa sweet ? did you sell it ?
On July 18, 2014 at 1:19 am
@ layla: i don’t sell it, just make a substitue version. I would check online just got a box from Baghdad, will give you their address if you wish.
On July 18, 2014 at 4:32 am
Coco in the Kitchen says:
Joumana, I don’t know how I wandered on this page, but I have to make these Heavenly treats tonight! xo
On May 4, 2015 at 9:28 pm
Hi Coco in the Kitchen, they are a little tricky, so let me know how it goes 🙂
On May 6, 2015 at 6:21 am
So much historical stuff about this dish from Iraq, and at the end – 1 1/2 CORN SYRUP. Where in the name of Gods, Middle Easterns were getting corn syrup? Corn wasn’t growing in that region. Where is original recipe?
On July 25, 2016 at 4:42 am
Joumana Accad says:
@Helen: I agree! However, the unfortunate thing is even in Iraq, in Mossul to be exact, where mann is found falling on the tree leaves, hardly any pastry shops make it the old-fashioned way! I am determined to go to Iraq or Iran and bring back some real mann and at least attempt to make it the traditional way, soon, inshallah~
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On October 9, 2018 at 6:34 pm
Can i make this recipe using glucose syrup instead of corn syrup?
On December 30, 2018 at 4:59 pm
I have not tried it with glucose syrup, but I would imagine that you would get BETTER results! Glucose syrup is used to make a French specialty called pate de fruits (sort of like gummy bears with fruit juice) ; I would definitely give it a shot.
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On January 1, 2019 at 1:21 pm
Matthew Trottier says:
Is there an online retailer that I could buy from? I am terrible at cooking.
On September 16, 2020 at 3:19 pm
Ahmad Saeid says:
I think you should have mentioned that these candies originally come from the Kurdistan region in Iraq. Taken from the leaves of a spatial tree from the heights of the mountains in Sulaymaniyah (Sulaymaniyah). Its locally called GAZO… You can se more info here:
On September 15, 2021 at 7:56 am
Joumana Accad says:
@Ahmad Saeid Thank you so much for the added information! I bought a box while I was in Kurdistan but it was not the old-fashioned type I remembered and had no idea it was locally made. I will check these sites, thanks!
On September 15, 2021 at 12:09 pm
These turned a bit on the soft side for my taste so the second time I made these I raised the temperature for the sugar mix to 293° F (145° C) but otherwise followed your recipe. I whisked the batter for about 10 mins until I had a thick, glossy, firm meringue. It’s hard to over-whisk at this stage but easy to under-whisk, so I kept going until the meringue looked like sticky chewing gum.
On July 17, 2022 at 8:08 am
Joumana Accad says:
@Mika Glad you figured out a better temperature, as these are very challenging! I need to make them again and will keep in mind your suggestions! Best
On July 25, 2022 at 8:33 pm