Harun Yalcin, a former tour guide in Cappadocia in central Turkey, arrived in Melbourne in 2016 with his then-pregnant Australian wife, after tourism in Turkey spiralled due to terrorism. Upon arriving, he noticed a gap in our Dondurma offering.
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.
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.
Yalcin and his designer mate Benji MacDonald fitted the simple 35-seat space with recycled materials, mixing Turkish and Melburnian influences. One side is covered with colourful floral wallpaper (Turkey), and another with zig-zag timber 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.