Harun Yalcin believes that Australia’s Turkish food is “pretty boring”.
“When I look at Turkish shops and cafes it’s always about kebabs,” he says, sipping a cup of organic Turkish black tea inside his new Northcote ice-creamery, Cuppa Turca Dondurma and Desserts.
Yalcin, a former tour guide in Cappadocia in central Turkey, arrived in Melbourne 18 months ago with his then-pregnant Australian wife, after tourism in Turkey spiralled due to terrorism, he says. Upon arriving he noticed a gap in our Dondurma offering. (The only notable exception being Sydney’s Hakiki).
So, Dondurma? Texture-wise, it’s a stretchy and slightly chewy ice-cream, said to be more heat-resistant than its European sibling. In Turkey, this is achieved with mastic plant resin as well as ground salep, a dried orchid tuber that produces a starchy glucomannan. Yalcin can’t bring these items into Australia, so he developed his own recipe.
“It took me almost six-and-a-half months to get an alternative formula,” he says as he beats his Dondurma with a large stick – an hourly ritual to keep it airless and malleable.
Yalcin combines his botanical ingredients with cow and goat’s milk (or coconut milk for the vegan option), a small amount of sugar and natural flavourings including halva, grape molasses and tahini, Anatolian pistachio and candied chestnuts. Dondurma is egg- and vanilla-free, too. Try the Traditional Plain flavour to get a sense of its most natural taste and texture.
The simple 35-seat space has been fitted out with recycled materials by Yalcin and his designer mate Benji MacDonald. He describes the space as “contemporary Turkish”, with a splash of Melbourne. Two walls confirm this: one side is covered with colourful floral wallpaper (Turkey), and another with zig-zag timber that Yalcin and MacDonald constructed from an old fence they got off Gumtree (Melbourne, obviously). Another nod to modern-day Turkey is the kumda kahve – coffee cooked in hot sand – prepared in a device that Yalcin has rigged up to a portable grill.
There are two types of ice-cream sandwich at Cuppa Turca, including a regular variety constructed with thin Koska wafers (in lieu of a waffle cone or cup), and another with halved slices of baklava. Yalcin calls the latter “Turkish Heaven.” He might be right.
Cuppa Turca Dondurma & Desserts
224 High Street Northcote
0422 288 161
Tue to Thu 10am–10pm
Sat & Sun 10.30am–11pm