You can see the street vendors selling Turkish ice cream like they are selling boardwalk taffy. This is maras Dodurma
It’s an Ice Cream made with milk, sugar, and mastic. It’s elastic because of the salep (wild mountain orchid roots). This ice cream has a chewy texture and is stretchy. That’s the best description. According to the local gossip, people have been photographed using it as a jump rope; others have cut it with knives.
It’s also available on the streets or in Istanbul’s markets. Because of its unique stretchiness, vendors can play all sorts of practical jokes about would-be ice cream eaters.
I love my baklava and my lokum (Turkish Delight), but I also love Turkish ice cream (or dondurma to the locals).
Dondurma, which is literally the Turkish word for “freezing,” is the local version of ice cream.
Turkish ice cream is quite different from western-styled icecreams. It’s sweet, creamy, stretchy, and sticky. The addition of an aromatic resin, mastic, is responsible for the stretchiness and stickiness. Dondurma’s recipe also contains mastic. It is made with milk, sugar and thickened by salep, which is a powdered type of orchid bulb.
Dondurma is a must-eat, no matter if you are visiting Istanbul for the first time or a return visitor.
There are many flavors of Turkish ice cream available. But some of the favorites savored by locals (this dondurma-loving blogger included) are:
Turkey’s summertime is the perfect place for ice cream lovers. Turkish ice cream is not confined to bowls or cones but can be enjoyed as an accompaniment to almost everything.
- from baklava to irmik helvasi (semolina dessert);
- From tavuk Gogsu (chicken breast dessert) to profiteroles
- to sitting atop a freshly cooked, warm kunefe.
The tricks of the trade
Local sellers are as unique as the ice cream you buy. With every sale, the Fes-capped men in traditional robes entertain both the buyer ( ) and the crowd. They will be easy to spot, setting up shop in traditional ice cream carts while ringing their bells with long dondurma scoops. If you are lucky enough to not hear them, they will be visible in the crowds. They will be passing the scoops of ice cream from cone to cone while the buyer tries desperately (and fails) for it.
Dondurma can be a great way to cool off on a hot Istanbul afternoon. After you have tried the creamy, sticky Turkish Ice-cream for the first time, I guarantee that you will be tempted to try more flavors (or perhaps your favorite flavor) throughout your stay.
Maras dondurma is the most distinctive type of Turkish ice cream.
Are you familiar with eating ice cream with a knife or fork?
Maras dondurma has more stick and thicker salep than the regular variety. This gives it exceptional resistance to melting. You can eat it with cutlery in cafes around Turkey.
Ice cream in winter
Don’t worry if you aren’t planning on visiting Turkey during the summer months. You can find dodurma all year. If you feel the thought of eating Turkish ice cream is too cold, you can have hot cup salep instead. It’s made with the same ingredients as Turkish ice cream, but it’s served hot with crushed hazelnuts. To accommodate winter customers who crave warm ice cream, many Turkish ice cream shops convert to salep cafés.
Something similar to dondurma can now be found in the U.S. in grocery stores rather than at bazaars.
Lezzetli Mediterranean Ice Cream has been in New York for some time. It announced today that it would expand its distribution in the Northeastern United States by adding four new flavors to its product line: Chios vanilla (made from Greek tree sap), chocolate-orange blossom, and spiced date.
Lezzetli describes its ice creams in terms of being inspired by dondurma from Turkey. Other versions of dondurma can be found in other countries like Syria or Greece. They are not thickened with endangered orchids but instead with natural gums.
In Turkey, sellp has been replaced by other thickeners like guar gum. Is it available in your area? Ask for it! You might find your grocer pliable.