Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The best Turkish ice cream

Turkish ice-cream, or dondurma, is a treat as unique to the region as the better known "Turkish Delight" (thank C.S. Lewis for that one).  Unlike gelato, which can be found in lesser manifestations almost anywhere in the world, dondurma has stayed close to its roots (with some minor exceptions). 

Dondurma is composed of all the normal ice cream elements (cream, milk, sugar, etc) with a few odd-balls, namely salep (a flour made of Purple Orchid Root) and mastic (a resin).  I'm not sure what the salep does, but the mastic is immediately distinguishable in true turkish ice-cream by its tell-tale "gummy" character.

Unlike gelato, ice-cream, sorbets, sherberts, and other scoopable frozen concoctions, dondurma is chewy.  It takes a second to get used to it, but this girl finds it a delightful summer refreshment. 

Dondurma is most often served by street-vendors who offer a sort of entertaining show.  Because of its gumminess, vendors can flip and steal a cone topped with the stuff with great ease, to the amusement of all passerby, for whom the same joke (mysteriously) never gets old.  However, the flavors that come with the show are usually pretty generic (lemon, chocolate, nondescript pink, and plain).

For this reason, we were surprised and gratified to find a dondurma place in Eski Foca serving a panopoly of flavors to rival any gelateria.

 We were at first drawn to this shop by the unceasing lines at all hours of the day (they're open til 3am in the busy season).  The wait isn't terrible - they move people along quickly and while you wait you may be lucky enough to watch an elderly man with the charm and demeanor of a retired mafioso (raspy voice, kind to children, gruff appearance) make waffle cones.

First run: on the left, lemon atop black mulberry.  On the right, cappacino and pistachio.
Second go (we may or may not have gone twice in the same day): on the left, cherry astride apricot capping yogurt.  To the right, mint and dark chocolate, capped with a dark chocolate shell.   BAM.

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