Dondurma , the elastic Turkish icecream

dondurma, turkey

Dondurma, elastic Turkish icecream

There is more to Turkey than just Turkish coffee or the apple tea. If you love sweets, then you do not leave Turkey without a taste of baklava and its many flavours.  But if there is one delicacy that you must not miss, it is dondurma or the Turkish icecream. As you walk around Istanbul you will find these hot men in costumes sitting in small icecream shops at street corners, teasing you with icecream that stretches on a stick. Ask them for the icecream, they will pretend to offer it to you and then they will take it away just as you stretch your hand, will rotate it again and again and finally oblige you. It is almost like a performance as you watch these attractive men wooing customers. The men are actually stretching the icecream and sometimes they pound it and make the mass firm and this can take up to 20 minutes.

turkey, dondurma

Men preparing the dondurma

The ice cream is not smooth, but chewy. It is elastic and stretches in your mouth. Dondurma means freezing in Turkish and this icecream is believed to be made a day earlier . Dondurma is made of milk and sugar ,flavoured with an aromatic plant resin called mastic , referred to as “Arabic gum or Yemen gum that makes the icecream chewy. But the main ingredient is salep,  a flour that is actually made from the roots of a wild orchid which is added to the icecream to thicken it.

Turkey, dondurma

Icecream being flaunted- its almost a performance


The stronger the salep, the thicker the icecream. In some places I hear the ice cream is so thick that you need to eat it with a fork and knife. Salep icecream as it is referred to comes from the bulbs of a variety of wild orchid which contains a starchy agent which thickens it but the popularity of dondurma has led to the plant fading away from Turkey.  And genuine salep is getting harder to find as well and artificial or alternative flavours are being used.

dondurma, turkey

Dondurma being thickened

But it is forever in demand. Salep beverage, has been popular since the era of the Ottoman Dynasty and its popularity had spread to Europe and UK where it was mixed either with hot water and flavoured . However later, salep was added  to milk and the hot drink was drunk by men to boost virility or to prolong life.

Whether it is an aphrodisiac or an erotic drink or just an icecream, do get high on dondurma when in Turkey.

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