Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joyva Halvah - not so Halvah' good!

I found this gluten-free treat called a Chocolate-Covered Halvah bar at the local Rulli Brother's grocery store a few miles from here in Boardman, Ohio. I read the ingredients-label at the store the first day I spotted them, then came home, logged onto the web, and went to the Joyva Halvah website where I confirmed that the what should be gluten-free truly was (it is also dairy-free I believe).  Note: at the time of writing this, the product is gluten free, but I always suggest reconfirming the status prior to purchase. The next trip to the store resulted in a purchase and evaluation.

What interested me initially was that the core-ingredients were ones I tend to enjoy the tastes of: sesame and chocolate, and a bit of vanilla. The remaining ingredients are ones I would generally consider taste-inert: corn syrup, sugar, oil, and cocoa butter. I figured this could all make for an enjoyable treat; I figured wrong.

Taste, Texture: Different

I did not care for the taste or texture of this gluten-free halvah. The bar, contrary to my initial presumptions, actually tasted rather greasy or something, and the oily nature of the bar overwhelmed both the chocolate and the sesame — a feat I did not quite think possible when the first ingredient on the list was sesame. The texture was odd too. Next, the calories are immense for a 1.75 ounce bar: 340 calories! eek! Had it tasted great and had a nice texture, those calories would not have stopped me from consuming it all... but, as it stands, I found this product not worth eating in its entirety.

Maybe there are better gluten-free Halvah products out there to be tried yet, or perhaps it is just an acquired taste or something. But, my initial impressions are that halvah is just not for me — gluten-free or not. Maybe you have tried some types and liked them? If so, great... if not, I can not personally recommend this as a gluten-free treat that I find enjoyable.


Rhonda said...

When I read your post, I just felt the need to comment. I have been eating halva since I was a little girl. It was something that my Dad would buy as a treat for himself, which of course made it all that more special. He acquired a taste for it while in the service. I acquired a taste for it because it was special time with my Dad.

It is an acquired taste. The texture is due to the main ingredients, sesame seeds, crushed then sugars and cocoa butter. These are high fat and high calorie ingredients.

I think my Dad told me that halva was the equivalent to power bars for folks traveling into barren areas, where food was likely in short supply.

I have never tried the coated in chocolate variety. I regularly buy the brand you pictured in the Marble variety. I think that the chocolate coating would ruin the nutty-coco flavors of the halva. Maybe try another variety before kicking halva to the curb.

Many Blessings,

traceyrolandelli said...

Halva is an acquired taste. I personally love it, especially the marble/chocolate covered stuff. I think all halvah is basically gluten free, actually.

Real popular at Middle Eastern places and the local falafel hut. ;-)

Unknown said...

Homemade halva is wonderful

Anonymous said...

Halvah is something you either love or hate. I have always loved it and my husband think it tastes like sand. It is naturally gf and unfortunately high in calories. Most Jews and others of mediteranean backgrounds grew up with it. In Israel, they serve it at breakfast.

Jenn said...

Hello, I agree with everyone else's comments, halvah is probably an acquired taste. My dad loved it and I grew up eating Joyvah halvah and also love it (but not the chocolate covered variety...I usually buy marbled chocolate/ vanilla or plain). One can sometimes find it in bulk in cheese sections of shops (also Joyva). The 'oily'texture is due to the main ingredient being sesame seeds- try whirring sesame seeds in your food processor and you'll get.. sesame paste, like tahini. They're very oily. I adore the taste and the texture.
So many cultures have their own version of halvah, some have semolina flour or wheat.. others don't. This is my favourite variety which is lucky as I'm also gluten free..

Anonymous said...

I too started enjoying Halvah in our family's favorite Kosher deli many years ago, my father also liked it as he too had it in WWII. I like both the marbled and plain vanilla varieties, I haven't (and won't) try the chocolate covered as I think it would ruin the taste for me. Turkish Halvah (Helvah) is very very similiar to the Joyva brand. Try a few varieties and see if you might not find one that you like!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVE this Halvah. There is no accounting for some people's taste, I guess.

Unknown said...

Halvah is definetly an aquired taste. Dates back over 3000 years. This was actually a staple food back in the day. Loosely translates 'sweet meat' & considered "food of the Gods". To many, the flavor, texture & the way it melts in your mouth is simply delectable! Myself, a huge chocolate fan, would rather have marble or the vanilla variety. Not to mention, at least it's got plenty of protien and the fat isn't saturated. To me, even Belgian chocolate pales in comparison. And if you don't like it, that's ok. The upside to that means more for me! =)

Anonymous said...

Halva is certainly an acquired taste, but once acquired...well, big smile, it's a life-time addiction.

My husband was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and every winter holiday time, we'd go down to visit his mom, and get Halva as part of our present.

Mom is no longer with us, but each December holiday season we enjoy this special dessert she loved so much, and share it with all of our middle-eastern heritage friends, Jewish/Arabic/etc., who have had a similar fondness for this unique taste combination. US folks are so use to gooey, that they can't always taste the underlying richness of flavors. In halva, or Turkish delight, you can taste the subtleties...I LOVE it with a good rich black tea!

Debbie & Ray and Elza in Oswego

debjohns said...

I also grew up on the Joyva Brand Marble Halva. When I read Arlynn's comments it was like reading my own experience, almost exactly! I love the Joyva brand of Halva. I've tried many others, even in Turkey and other countries which is good when homemade but I haven't cared for the other packaged bars, they didn't taste fresh.

I have very special childhood memories of sharing this treat with my father when I was young and all through growing up.

I would get excited and offered it to a friend to try for the first time and often they would spit it out saying it tasted like sweet sawdust! And we would all laugh. So I suppose it is an acquired taste.

It is addicting to me and I love it. I don't think I've ever tried the chocolate kind, maybe I will out of curiosity.

R. Mori said...

I sympathize with you, but chocolate covered candy bars are not the best way to try Halvah for the first time. First, it really should be sold refrigerated, because the sesame oil will separate making it gritty. The marble is a mix of vanilla and chocolate flavored (not covered) and I think it's the most popular.

It's also sold in VERY large 6lb loafs that look like a cold cut loaf. It's even sliced on a meat slicer. That's the way bought it when I was a kid and some nut stores still sell it that way.

And yes, it is VERY fattening.

1cat2many said...

Lately I've been craving the unique deliciousness of halvah. My father loved it and of course shared it with me so I've been eating it since I was a little girl. It's very sweet and oily so it's best enjoyed in small amounts. I can't find it near me and it does seem to go stale quickly, probably due to the high oil content, hence I am leery of buying it off of the Internet, where it seems to only be sold in large quantities.

Dual Role Grandma said...

Halvah! Love it. I'd get it in a deli though. I've always loved it, since my first Joyvah bar when I was 6- and I'm in my late 50s. My deli makes it g/f with pistachios studded in it.

Anonymous said...

I tried it for the first time today. Absolutely delectable. Then glanced at nutritional label. Eh gads!! Was this even possible? 680 calories?!? 44 grams of fat?!? I don't think I've ever seen such a calorie/fat dense food in my life. It was a decent sized bar, but nothing crazy. How could this little thing that fit in the palm of my hand haveah such 'hefty' #'s. I don't eat meat, but I'd guess a Big Mac or Whopper would be hard pressed to beat out this little guy.

Unknown said...

I grew up, as did my husband eating Halva (we called it Halava). It was, and is, a part of the New York Jewish culture and now since many people like to try cultural varieties of foods, something for everyone to enjoy. I thing it is delectable, as I do tahina, hummus, and all things Mediterranean.

Unknown said...

I have been eating Halavah (Not a typo, that's how we say it) all my life. I and my whole family love it. Since leaving NY and moving to Ft. Lauderdale, I've had a hard time finding it.