I’m seriously feeling two again … dreaming of the day where I dreamt of or wished for ice creams that don’t melt and drip all over my shoes and where I can grab the ball of ice cream off the cone and stuff it in my pockets without worrying about being caught at the sight of a brown patch whenever the “evil” grown ups who have the heck of showing up unexpectedly, shows up!
Naturally, those were one of my many childhood dreams …
Never in my wildest dream (realistically) I had thought such things existed. Well, I never grew up with such luxuries. Or rather I wasn’t a kid that hailed from the region of Kahramanmaraş, an eastern Anatolian town in Turkey which makes a magical ice cream that is sold in large, old (but classy), often wood-paneled ice cream parlours in slices on a plate with a knife and fork, that just doesn’t melt, and hence drips all over you!
I’m talking about Maraş dondurması (Maraş ice cream) – a gooey kind of ice cream that’s unique in Turkey made with goat’s milk, sugar, sahlep and a lot of hard work. The latter is literally true, as I immediately had flashbacks of scenes from Chainsaw Massacre when I spotted muscular men cutting huge blocks of ice cream with (I kid you not!) a chain saw to fit them into smaller containers at the back of the original Mado ice cream parlour in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey as I made my way from Istanbul, south eastwards to Harran stopping at Sanliurfa before making my way up north east to Doğubayazıt in the name of conquering Mt. Ararat.
With such grandiose plans in store, I could afford to be one of the many kids, circling the skilled dondurma (serving men) as they performed stuns on this magical ice cream. And so it was stretched, pulled, thrown about and twirled around while the men themselves twirl and twisted their arms in odd angles, before craftily “adhering” the yummy mass we’re all fixated on and mesmerized by then onto wafer cones. Needless to say, they broke sweat doing it, and likewise, I swear I burnt calories just cutting my slice with the knife as waiting it out to melt ain’t gonna happen with these magical ice cream withstanding room temperature for up to 72 hours!
So, what causes the magic? sahlep
Sahlep is a dried and powdered root of a particular orchid that grows in the area that is also used as an additive to chewing gum. But really, if you are craving Maraş ice cream, like I am, and plan to mix a bit of chewing gum into your regular ice cream, think again.
However, like the Life of Pi, I’m going to let you decide which story you prefer. The simple scientifically proven one of chemistry reactions causing this magical ice cream properties, or the legends which includes Maraş ice cream having aphrodisiac properties!
The colourful story goes on to explain that Maraş ice cream has magical abilities to endow one with babies (I suspect part of the aphrodisiac talk) is due to the fact that it is made from the milk of free roaming goats, which feed upon wild orchids, which apparently have remarkable effects in this department.
Personally, I am yet to experience any of the effects (knock wood on the genetic reproduction front!), but I have to say that the free roaming goats milk does make a difference. The Mado produce in Kahramanmaraş does taste better than those available in its shops around Istanbul.
However, it should be said that from a humble family business, Mado is now a mega ice cream empire busily exporting ice cream and setting up franchises throughout the world, especially tin Australia and Far East Asia (post here>>>). This makes it near impossible to have enough supplies from free roaming cows eating wildly sexy orchids in eastern Turkey.
Mado did however purchase the government-owned milk factory in 1989 and somewhat rebuilt it to ensure that the quality and supply of the ice cream it produces is retained throughout the year. And with improved cooling technology, it is now exported t 250 (or more by now) stores abroad.
Despite differences in taste, I was truly looking forward to the Mado outlet in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, having spotted construction works undergoing at least a year back. Little did I know, my dreamy Mado was force to give way to the crazy MRT constructions that was taking place … and I’m back to dreaming.