The ice-cream that doesn’t melt and other sweet stories

Fresh, hot churros in Mexico City

I’ve written about my favourite sugar highs before, but that was never going to be the end of the story. Given the amount of sweets I eat (in the name of research of course) there was always going to be a follow up. And a follow up of the follow up. The sweetest series of them all.

I’ve had Mado Café on my radar since the days I worked at foodie magazine Australian Table (sadly now closed). I mentally bookmarked a feature about Mado and its unique Turkish ice cream and it only took me a dozen years or so to actually make it to Auburn in Sydney’s west to give it a whirl.

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Mado’s famous dondurma

Stepping into Mado is like stepping into a souk; carpets, antiques and trinkets drape every surface. The unassuming ice cream display is right at the front and belies the exotic flavours within. Dad and I stop here for lunch and order some dips and meat but what we’re really after is the famous stretchy ice cream made from wild orchid tubers known as salep and mastic resin. Its Turkish name is dondurma and the café gets its name from this word combined with Maras, the city where the ice cream originated.

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Dondurma and Turkish coffee

The white maras ice cream is the signature. Made on site it’s thick (thanks to the salep) and stretchy (due to the mastic) with a slight vanilla flavour. The thick texture means it doesn’t melt and can be eaten with a knife and fork, although habit saw me eat it with a spoon. The sour cherry and pomegranate flavours are imported from Turkey and come in vibrant crimson shades with a delicious tang to them. These flavours work a treat with the intensity of a black Turkish coffee.

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Kazandibi, a sticky sweet Turkish milk pudding

There is a long cabinet filled with unusual sweets but it’s the kazandibi that catches my eye. Slabs of this Turkish milk pudding are lined up and oozing with a creamy mass. Kazandibi means “burnt bottom of the pot”, referring to the charred and caramelised crust that appears in the base of the pot during cooking. This sweet is like a stretchy rice pudding (sans rice), thickened with salep. It’s served sprinkled with pistachios and cinnamon and incredibly moreish.

Fresh mango and coconut sticky rice are a perfect match

One of my all-time favourite desserts actually does contain rice and that’s coconut sticky rice with mango or khao niaow ma muang. This ubiquitous northern Thai dessert tastes good just about anywhere but especially when you’re enjoying it at a roadside stand in the depths of Chiang Mai. It’s also delicious when made with black sticky rice and contrasts beautifully with the vibrant orange of the fresh mango. Read More

Hungarian Kürtőskalács

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A Hungarian kürtőskalács

Kürtőskalács

Not the easiest word to pronounce. The literal translation of ´chimney cake´ is a little easier on the palate.

These quirky cakes were created in the 15th century by Hungarians living in the Szeklerland region. This historic area is in the centre of present day Romania and still heavily populated by Hungarians, so both countries lay claim to this unique pastry.

Freshly cooked

Freshly cooked kürtőskalács

Kürtőskalács are a popular street food snack in Hungary and a mainstay of festivals. The word is getting out and anyone from Sydney will probably be familiar with the chain Kürtősh which also sells these beauties.

Kürtőskalács Festival in Budapest

Kürtőskalács Festival in Budapest

Kürtőskalács are so revered in Hungary that they get their very own festival which travels around to the major cities. I thought I was dreaming when fellow kürtőskalác aficianado Neven and I stumbled across the festival in Budapest one sunny Saturday.

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Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest

The festival was held at the stunningly beautiful City Park, in front of the Vajdahunyad Castle which was designed to look like a Transylvanian gothic castle.

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Lines for a kürtőskalács stretched across the park

It was the queues I spotted first. Despite there being at least eight individual stands selling kürtőskalács, the line for each was at least 100 strong. 

We were in our queue for 90 minutes! I don’t think I´ve even waited that long for a baked good.

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It did give me plenty of time to observe the production process though. Each one is handmade, taking at least ten minutes from start to finish and requires dexterity and patience.

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Dough is wrapped around a cylindrical wooden mould

A soft dough made from flour, milk, yeast, sugar, eggs and butter is rolled out and cut into wide strips. The strips are then wrapped around a cylindrical mould in an overlapping spiral motion. The wooden mould has been brushed with butter to keep the dough from sticking.

Kürtőskalács are spit roasted over the coal fire

Kürtőskalács are spit roasted over the coal fire

The pastry is brushed with more butter, rolled in sugar and placed on a rotisserie to cook above charcoal cinders.

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Pimp up your kürtőskalács with cinnamon, nuts, coconut or vanilla sugar

Each kürtőskalács takes around five minutes to cook through and achieve a glossy, caramelised crust. Once cooked to perfection, it will be finished off with your topping of choice; cinnamon, nuts, coconut or vanilla sugar. I´m always torn between cinnamon and nuts, both work beautifully with the pastry.

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Was this one worth the wait? I was a little disappointed to be honest. Due to the massive queues, the staff (understandably) were rushing the cooking process so ours was perfectly crisp on the outside but doughy and verging on uncooked on the inside. I basically stripped away the uncooked inner layer to focus on the outside layer and I was happy.

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The entire festival had a wonderful convivial feel and under every tree in the park was a family or group of friends devouring a kürtőskalács or two between them, tearing each one apart strip by strip.

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It was also the day of the Budapest Marathon so a couple of enthusiastic runners demonstrated just how how much they love these prized local treats by dressing in kürtőskalács costumes.

Has anyone tried a kürtőskalács outside of Hungary?