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Turkish Ice Cream
Part 3

In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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This 'beaten' batch of Maraş is ready for serving, or
for hanging on a hook 'til the customer is ready.
Maraş Ice Cream -- a batch ready for serving, and eating with knife and fork...
From our collaborative book
'World Food -- Turkey'
Thanks to Greg Elms, the photographer
and Lonely Planet Publications

The 'cold and delicious' ice cream
of Kahramanmaraş

Because of its sinewy texture, Maraş Ice Cream (which is nicknamed after the southern central province of Turkey where it was born) is frequently hung on meat hooks when it is first prepared -- in the ice cream parlours of its 'home town'. And, customer orders are filled using a butcher knife -- and a full-measured whack that results in a generous chunk of the 'cold and delicious'... which the customer then eats with a sharp knife and fork!

Turks like to say that the Maraş-style ice cream is unique in the world and, I suppose, it's hard to argue the point -- though, from the standpoint of texture at least, Hershey's Ice Cream in the States has a curious resemblance to it. But since Turks have been making Maraş in Anatolia a lot longer than Hershey in Pennsylvania (about 300 years longer, by any reasonable estimate), I only mention that curiosity in passing.

The 'beaten' ice cream of Kahramanmaraş is made with salep, finely ground dried tubers of locally-found wild orchids -- the ingredient that provides creamy smoothness and that makes the ice cream chewy. It also causes the ice cream to be enormously dense and slow to melt. So it's very flexible until frozen -- at which point it becomes as hard as a rock.

You can find Maraş in it's best and purest form by visiting the province of Kahramanmaraş -- and eating it on the spot where the stuff actually originated. If you can do that, you'll enjoy an ice cream-lovers treat that's enhanced by the ambiance of the colorful cultural setting.

But, if you don't mind the loss of 'birthplace' ambiance, you can also find Maraş these days in all the big Turkish cities -- made from ingredients sent in from Kahramanmaraş, of course. It's available in independent ice cream parlours and from ice cream parlour chains, such as the Mado chain of parlours (headquartered in the namesake city of Kahramanmaraş) -- which has franchised parlours throughout the country.

And also these days, you can often find it locally, in boxed form, in the frozen-foods section of many Turkish supermarkets -- produced by companies like Algida.

But, we'd recommend that you give the boxed variety a miss -- unless you're really hard up to try it. It's a wholly unsatisfactory product.

In the first place it's in hard-as-rock form when you buy it -- and you can't eat it with gusto until you thaw it for at least 20 minutes.

But, boxed like that, it doesn't thaw evenly. So if you set it out before you want to eat it, you end up with melted mush on the outside, still rock-solid on the inside. (The one attempt I made to microwave it into submission, ended in a god-awful soupy mess -- when I  accidently 'overcooked' the box.)

Secondly, the flavors of the boxed Maraş that I've tried (like Maraş Usulü Sade (a sort of Vanilla) and Maraş Usulü Antepfıstığı (Pistachio and Vanilla mixed) are quite unremarkable -- disappointing renditions of the original recipes. They even taste a little perfume-y... which spells doom for an ice cream flavor in my view.

So if a trip to Kahramanmaraş isn't on your current itinerary, your next best bet is to make your way to a reputable 'big city' Maraş Ice Cream parlour. I think you'll be glad if you do... even if you're not ice-cream-mad, like I am.

Next: The 10 Best Independent Ice Cream Parlours in Turkey, 1-by-1
In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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