In Turkey, when you a buy a fridge, they don’t tell you how many litres it holds. Instead, they tell you how much Turkish ice cream it can store. Not just any ice cream though. Called dondurma, literally meaning ‘freezing’ in Turkish, Turkish ice cream is made with two magic ingredients, mastic and sahlep, and Kahramanmahraş, in Eastern Turkey, is where the best ice cream comes from.
I went to Kahramanmahraş on a tour with fifty-two university students and five teachers, of whom I was one. It was four days and three nights of singing, dancing and eating on about twelve hours sleep in total. We ate at every opportunity, and when the bus came to a stop at three in the morning naturally we were outside an ice cream shop. On the point of closing for the night, the shutter was immediately rolled back up as we piled eagerly out of the bus. A man dressed in traditional black baggy trousers, a colorful sash that matched his waistcoat and a fez, came outside and stood in front of a large barrel. He started to mix the ice cream inside it with a large wooden paddle. When it was ready he smeared it on cones for us to eat. He offered one to a student. Once it was in her hand, the man snatched away the paddle, taking the ice cream with it. The mastic in the ice cream is a natural gum giving Turkish ice cream its unique chewiness. Sahlep, a type of flour made from orchids, adds the irresistible texture.
On our way back through the same town we had more real Turkish ice cream. This time it was served in slices sprinkled with pistachios and we ate it the traditional way. With knives and forks. We were in Yaşar Pastanesi, a shop established about sixty years ago. Although it was once again three in the morning we met the owner, who still worked eighteen hours a day. Which is lucky for ice cream lovers, because this is where the famous Mado ice cream originates from. You can find Mado cafes all over the country so there’s no need to travel as far Kahramanmahraş for a real Turkish ice cream. However, you’ll have a great time if you do!