In Istanbul as well as the rest of Turkey you can find Dondurma (Ice cream) which is sold by small street vendors in tourist dense areas such as Taksim. Turkish Ice cream is very stretchy and they usually toy with you as shown in the video below! The ice cream servers have a very fun slight of hand trickery about them.
The video below shows a friend of ours being played with. Not sure If I’ve ever seen teasing like this before!
This ice cream comes from the Kahramanmaraş region of Turkey, otherwise known as Maraş. Turks will say quite proudly that Maraş Dondurma is the best Ice Cream! The seller or vendor who sell this type of ice cream are called “Kahramanmaraş Dondurmacısı” but the ice cream is called “Kahramanmaraş Dondurması“. This is quite difficult to pronounce/ understand for someone who has not studied the basics in Turkish language so Dordurma which means Ice Cream should suffice for your trip!
Why do Turkish Ice Cream Sellers Perform Tricks?
In short, it is a form of marketing. As you, a tourist, unwittingly approaches one of these vendors for a refreshing Ice Cream, he hands you the dessert only for you to realise he actually gave you an empty cone with slight-of-hand and still has the full cone in his! He will continue in this fashion perhaps even giving you a little smidgen of Ice-Cream on your face before finally he hands you your dessert! This proves very entertaining especially to someone who isn’t expecting it & attracts crowds from around who laugh at your struggle! Just remember it is all in good fun and lots of laughter comes from it.
Luke’s first experience of Dondurma! (Trick by Demee). Video by Explore Istanbul
Where to find Turkish Ice Cream?
You will be able to find this delicious and entertaining snack in many places in Istanbul, I will list some of the locations.
Why is Turkish Ice Cream Stretchy?
Dondurma is made from Salep (Ground dried Orchid Root), a flavouring called mastic (Pine Flavoured Resin from the Mastic Tree) as well as milk & sugar. Both Salep & Mastic contain polymers that thicken and cause a gelatin consistency (think corn starch which thickens gravy). Because of this and the work done by the seller who continuously mixes the ice cream, Dondurma is made elastic to the point where allegedly people have used it to play skipping rope with! (Not entirely convinced by this story though..)
Note: Not all Dondurma is made with Mastic as this has a very distinctive flavour. Be careful not to confuse Mastic flavoured ice cream with Vanilla as they visually look quite similar. Mastic will be displayed as “Damla Sakızlı” and Vanilla as “Vanilya”. Some Dondurma like chocolate, raspberry etc does not include Mastic as this would alter the taste.
~ Explore Istanbul