In the western world, ice-cream is a soft and velvety affair thanks to the advent of egg yolks, milk solids or cornstarch. Texture is often craved but only invited in the way of toppings or extra ingredients laced throughout.
But what if there was an ice-cream that was both textural and ice-cold? That was so stretchy you could skip with it and bizarrely, didn’t melt? Turkey’s dondurma is just that. It’s traditionally made using sweetened milk, mastic and salep, a flour made from the root of the purple orchid flower and responsible for its signature chew. Salep isn’t found outside Turkey and not permitted for export, which is what makes dondurma so elusive.
Thankfully, one Melbourne man has come up with a salep substitute after more than six months of experimenting, bringing this springy sweet to Northcote.
“We had to study and find an alternative way to make real Turkish ice cream without salep,” says Harun Yalcin, owner of High Street’s Cuppa Turca. “We tried a lot of plant-based alternatives for a long time but only one reacted well."
Despite Cuppa Turca’s swift notoriety in the art of dondurma, ice-cream was not Harun’s first calling card. Before he was beating dondurma with a long metal stick (the method traditionale), he was running tours in Cappadocia, a tourist hotpot in central Turkey, which was also how he met his now Australian wife. But when visitor numbers waivered, the pregnant newlyweds uprooted to Melbourne.
“After moving here, I saw the Turkish community was demanding the ice-cream and no one was making it. So we had to study to find a way to make it.”
With the exception of Sydney’s Haikiki, Cuppa Turca is the only ice-creamery filling the dondurma void in the country. Its texture is almost identical to the one wheeled around the streets of Kahramanmaras, its original home, but Cuppa Turca’s flavours vary from their traditional counterparts.
“I have to give it a point of difference to compete with the gelato shops – there’s a few around me,” Harun says. As such, he’s pairing grape molasses with tahini, and feta with melon, in his dondurma.
“Grape molasses and tahini are in our cuisine – we use it a lot – but people wouldn’t use it in an ice-cream flavour.”
Then there’s the vegan rose version, made using coconut milk and rose petals; Turkish pistachio (the nuts are imported from Turkey and pounded by hand); a halva variety; and a traditional mastic flavour. The stretchy scoops come in a cone, cup, in a wafer sandwich or in between baklava – the house special.
Soon, Harun will be rolling out new flavours like fig, date, Turkish coffee and baklava, staying true to dondurma’s Turkish roots. The 35-seat space handmakes other Turkish sweets and coffee, but it’s not Turkish coffee as you know it.
“I make the coffee on hot sand, so I heat the sand and put a copper pot in the sand and I brew coffee in that.” Harun says his brew is superior as the sand allows the heat to distribute more evenly throughout the pot. It arrives with a handmade Turkish delight, the rightful mate of this popular ritual.
Cuppa Turca is open Tues - Thur 10am - 10pm; Fri 10am -11pm; Weekends 10:30am - 11pm. 244-288 High St, Northcote VIC