Holding up a cone of dondurma.
Holding up a cone of dondurma. LWYang / CC BY 2.0

In Turkey, ice cream is a little different. Dondurma, the local variety, can be firm enough to cut with a knife and fork, and making it is a process that requires stretching, pulling, and manipulating the mixture almost the way one would with dough. It results in a cold dessert that’s chewy instead of smooth.

What makes dondurma different is the addition of salep, known as powdered orchid bulbs. Confectioners often include mastic sap, a pine resin, which helps make the ice cream more malleable, too. Beating it with a mallet or a metal rod can make the mixture even more elastic.

A huge part of dondurma’s magic is the salesmanship its stretchy, sticky properties enable. Vendors often delight in teasing customers; the gentleman in the above video has mastered the art of visual trickery. Just when customers think they’re finally going to get their dondurma, he snatches it out of their hands and says “bye!” It’s a delightful show, and one that also defies the old adage that you shouldn’t play with your food.

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