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.
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.
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.
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
Get to the heart of a country’s sweet spot and I think you’re well on your way to understanding the very soul of those people. The Greek sweets I’ve grown up with often come drenched in honey syrup and sprinkled liberally with cinnamon. Well we are sweet and intense people are we not?!
I have an extraordinarily strong sweet tooth. And a very robust dessert stomach. Both come in handy when travelling and eating a disproportionate amount of sweet treats.
Here is a taster of some unforgettable sweet moments; memorable as much for their provenance as their deliciousness.
Hungarian Dobos Torte
Dobos Torte: this Hungarian beauty was invented 130 years ago; that’s impressive staying power in the fickle world of dessert fads (take note cronuts). Five layers of sponge cake and chocolate buttercream are topped with a firm caramel glaze and crushed nuts. Patissier József Dobos pioneered the use of buttercream to extend the cake’s shelf life, a clever idea in the pre-refrigeration age. Pick up a slice from any patisserie or cafe throughout the country.
Europe’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour
Liquid nitrogen ice cream: cooking with liquid nitrogen is not exactly an age old technique but it has revolutionised ice cream production. Leading the charge is Chin Chin Labs, tucked away in London’s Camden markets. Pick your flavour and watch as the ice cream custard mixture is whipped into a frenzy with liquid nitrogen, delivering ridiculously smooth, dense and crystal-free ice cream to order.
Saffron and seasame seed ice cream with salty caramel sauce and pistachio crumbs
A myriad of curious flavours rotates regularly; try tonka pineapple one week and pumpkin cheesecake the next. They also get creative with their toppings (white chocolate coated potato chips anyone?).
Calissons, almost too beautiful to eat (but not quite)
Calisson: you can’t take two steps in Provence without tripping over a display of these stunning beauties. Each one perfectly almond shaped, they are made from candied fruit paste and marzipan with a thin layer of royal icing. The flavours represent the beautiful produce and colours of southern France. My favourite place to buy them is La Cure Gourmande. Why L’Occitane hasn’t developed a calisson flavoured range is beyond me. Read More