Doundourmas or Kaïmaiki is something I never thought I’d hear discussed on British TV but QI Christmas show offered its guests dondurma ice cream asking them to identify the ingredient that gave it its unique flavour.
Doundourmas is a favourite ice cream flavour in Saloniki, Northern Greece, where I am from and originates in Turkey. There are many sweet shops in Thessaloniki that offer it freshly made. I adore its creaminess.
This ice cream is a marriage of flavours of the East, a clear example of the hybridity of our cultures. It is flavoured with salepi (σαλέπι), wild orchid flour, and mastic (Μαστίχα), resin of gum tree.
Mastic is simply a magical ingredient, the gift of gum trees. When I was growing up we mainly had natural chewing gums made from mastic. As an ingredient it is used to prepare many cakes and sweets in Greece, such us Loukoumia or tsoureki (a Greek Brioche cake). There are some beautiful liqueurs made in Greece with mastic, a recent favourite of mine is one also using cinnamon.
Salepi is an ingredient that is also used for a hot winter drink still offered by street vendors in Saloniki, and as I remember when I last visited the place, also in Istanbul. It is thirst quenching and warms you up quickly in the depth of winter.
The funny thing of course is that Salepi, as I found out just this Christmas, actually means ‘fox testicles’ in Turkish, as orchis in Greek actually means testicles. So the Turkish very cleverly adapted the name of the orchid used to make this flour.