Ask Mehmet: Turkish ice cream

  • Published
  • By By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to Then, look for an answer to the question on the 39th Air Base Wing's official website at and Incirlik Air Base's Facebook page.

Mehmet, I love ice cream, and I was fascinated with the Turkish ice cream I had in a shop in Adana last weekend. I was told, it was special. What is the specialty of it?

The ice cream or dondurma you talk about is originally from Kahramanmaras, a city north of Adana. Ice cream is mainly consumed in the summertime in Turkey. The shop you visited is owned by the Kambur family and is the only one that sells ice cream types year-round.

Ice cream making has been a family business of the Kambur family for the last four generations in Kahramanmaras. Their ice cream is known throughout the country, and in recent years they began exporting ice cream to some European countries. They have shops in major cities, including Adana.

Turkish ice cream comes in several varieties and can be different each time it is made. Goat milk is mixed with sugar and sahlep, which is made from ground orchid roots, then boiled until the consistency is right. After it sits, it is mixed in a copper pan before chilling.

Mehmet Sait Kambur, the leader of the Kambur family, says there is no precise formula. Instead, experience is needed to judge how much of each ingredient should be used. The milk must be taken from goats which have grazed on the pastures of Ahir mountain eating sage, milk vetch and orchids, which lend their fragnance to the mlk's thick consistency. The sahlep must be of the finest quality and is obtained from orchid roots growing in the fertile soil and fresh air of the same mountain.

Knowing just how much time is needed for each stage of preperation is a test of skill and experience. The Kambur family carefully guard their secrets of ice cream making, passing them down from generation to generation.

Mehmet Kambur tells a story of how his ancestors created dondurma, or ice cream.

"Once upon a time, my ancestors used to pack snow gathered from mountainsides into holes and caves and cover it with brushwood so that it would not melt. When summer came, this snow would be mixed with fruit juice, in particular the local grape molasses, and carried from the city on a mule back to make refreshing ices."

This cooling confection was probably one of the ancestors of the ice cream made in Kahramanmaras. With rich milk thickened with sahlep, sugar to sweeten and snow to cool, the result is the delicious ice cream that is famed across Turkey. The traditional way of eating Kahramanmaras ice cream is with a knife and a fork on tinned copper plates, accompanied by sweet pastries with ground pistachios.

If you go on a picnic or to a place with no freezer and would like to have ice cream, the shops can pack your ice cream to last up to a few days using dry ice. The ice cream will not lose its taste at all.