Turkey has no paucity of desserts – the gooey chewy Turkish delight, the crumbly Kadayif, the sinful irresistible Baklava. But the most interesting of them must be the Dondurma, the local ice cream.
Dondurmasi, ice cream vendors can be found on all the streets of Istanbul, usually playing tricks on their unsuspecting buyer. Wikipedia tells me that Dondurma means ‘freezing’ in Turkish – Two qualities distinguish Turkish ice cream: texture and resistance to melting. Inclusion of the thickening agents salep, a flour made from the root of the Early Purple Orchid, and mastic, a resin, impart chewiness.
For, the Dondurma is that kind of ice cream – a trick dessert – thick and adhesive. The Dondurmasi takes out a scoop, puts it on the cone and then begins the fun and games. He turns the cone upside down, he takes it close to the buyer’s face, he rotates it round and round – and the ice cream just sits tight. He sometimes takes the entire stock of Dondurma out on a stick – it comes out like a lump of well-behaved dough.
Invariably, by that time, a crowd has gathered to watch. The audience is delighted. The buyer is bemused. A good time is had by all. Almost all.
Taste-wise, Dondurma is nothing to rave about – that sticky chewy texture needs some getting used to. But for entertainment value, nothing can beat it.