Dondurma – A Tasty (and Chewy) Turkish Treat

Walk the bustling streets of Istanbul and you’re sure to come across a cart selling dondurma. This is what the Turks call their version of ice cream. (Dondurma means “freezing” in Turkish.) However, unlike ice cream made in America, in addition to milk and sugar dondurma contains salep (a flour made from grinding the roots of mountain orchids) and mastic (a resin from the mastic tree). These two additional ingredients give the frozen dessert a thick, chewy texture. Originally from the Kahramanmaraş region of Turkey, the denser consistency helps it to resist melting. Dondurma comes in all sorts of familiar flavors like chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and pistachio.

You’ll find dondurma street vendors all around town, churning the frozen indulgence with long-handled paddles to keep it malleable. The vendors I saw were all costumed in traditional white shirts, black pants and red vests embroidered with gold detailing. Some of them even wore matching red fezzes. This might have been more for the tourists’ benefit than anything else though. They put on an entertaining show, pummeling the dondurma in the vat and then pulling and stretching it almost like taffy. Once it’s worked into the perfect size and shape, they plop it into a cup or cone for you. They’re fun to watch and you’ll almost want to applaud their performance. I have to admit, at first it does seem unusual to actually be chewing your ice cream, but you get used to it after a few bites. On a hot Turkish afternoon, nothing hits the spot quite like a refreshing dondurma cone.

Fun Facts: 

The average rate of ice cream consumption in Turkey is 2.8 liters per person per year.

In the USA, it’s 18.3 liters per person per year.

The world leader is New Zealand at 22 liters per person per year!


For a list of my Top 10 Things to do in Istanbul, click HERE!

Dondurma (Turkish ice cream) sprinkled with pistachios

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