Turkish ice-cream tricksters: a panoply of videos

July 24, 2019 • 2:15 pm

Although I’ve been to Turkey several times, if you asked me what “Turkish ice cream” was this morning, I wouldn’t have known the answer.  Looking it up just now, I see there is a Turkish form of ice cream called dondurma, which has both mastic (a form of resin) and salep (flour made from a specific orchid bulb). It apparently has a unique texture and elasticity, and now I’m sorry I didn’t ever try it.

And perhaps it’s that texture and elasticity that’s made “Turkish ice cream vendors” on YouTube the masters of tricky serving: keeping the cone away from the customer by turning it upside down, removing the bolus of ice cream from the cone right before serving it, and all kinds of clever tricks that must amuse the customers while also frustrating them.

I found the first video below, from Turkey, which delighted me: you get a show along with your cone. And these guys are really good at their tricks: frustrating the customer for a long time before handing over the merch (yes, I said it). Why do they do  these tricks? Well, besides the possibility that the texture dondurma allows this (I can’t see American ice cream behaving these ways), it may attract buyers who want to see the show. It also may challenge buyers to see if they can actually wrest the cone from the seller. And it may also make a somewhat humdrum job into something dextrous and interesting.

Regardless, apparently Turkish ice-cream vendors throughout the world do these tricks. I watched the first video below, and, as YouTube is wont to do, it segued to a second video of a different Istanbul vendor doing different tricks (look at how he puts the cone inside the customer’s pants!). And then a Turkish ice-cream vendor in Singapore, doing similar tricks. And then one in Taiwan, and then one in India! There may be a gazillion similar videos on YouTube. I didn’t look for more, but I do regret never having sought out Turkish ice cream. Watch at least two of the videos below.

And if you’ve tried dondurma, tell us about it.

In Turkey:

Also in Turkey:

In Singapore:

In Taiwan:

. . . and in India:

6 thoughts on “Turkish ice-cream tricksters: a panoply of videos

  1. Turkish pastries and confections are usually nice — but I would discourage anyone travelling there from consuming ice cream and confections containing salep.

    The salep orchids [orchis spp, and probably related genera like Serapias] are wild-dug, in the hundreds of millions. Although some Orchis spp remain abundant, many others are declining, and this commerce is certainly having some effect on biodiversity of this group, just as bulb-collecting decimated many crocus, tulips, etc, for decades before the Dutch bulb trade got their act together.

    Finally, all orchids are red-list. If you want to consume them, don’t point fingers at Asians who love their baked pangolins.

    1. Ditto what Loren said: Salep is made of the underground parts of native orchids, which are never cultivated (as far as I know), which means they are all dug from the wild. This is an enormous threat to the survival of Turkish orchids. And as Turkish orchids are now becoming rare thanks to this trade, millions of orchids are now being collected in Iran for the Turkish market. It is a disaster of the highest order.

  2. I’m Turkish. “Dondurma” in Turkish simply means ice cream. It is not a form of ice cream but a generic name for all kinds of ice cream. The one you see in the videos is called “Maraş dondurması” (Maraş ice cream) named after the city of Maraş. The next time you go to Turkey ask specifically for Maraş ice cream, not for “dondurma”, or you’ll get a regular ice cream. I think the reason they call it Turkish ice cream is that people otherwise wouldn’t understand what Maraş means. Calling it Turkish probably makes it easier to explain what it is.

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