Jordan is smack in the middle of all the action. Bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south, and Israel to the west, this rugged land of desert, rock, and mountain largely slept through the Arab spring because it manages to be an oasis of stability amidst the shifting geopolitical sands of the region. By virtue of its coordinates, Jordan is also a land of refugees, from the native bedouin to the overwhelming majority of Palestinians (who make up about 70%), to the more recent influx of Iraqis and, now, Syrians, whose numbers are estimated to be above 500,000. In Amman, the Syrian presence is everywhere. They are out on the streets in force, selling tea, chewing gum, or whatever they can. Even Syrian institutions like Bakdash have made the move to Jordan.
Originally established around 1885 in Al-Hamidiyah Souq in the old city of Damascus, Bakdash is known for its pistachio covered Booza, a unique ice cream made of mastic, a resin from the mastic tree, and sahlab , a tuber flour that give it its elastic quality. Whereas most ice cream is churned, this frozen mixture of milk, sugar, rose water, and natural emulsfiers is literally beaten into shape with the aid of a huge wooden paddle. For a good 15 minutes, an able-bodied gent pounds a slab of this dessert in a frozen metal barrel. The resulting solid mass has the consistency of silly putty when you attempt to break a piece off. Rolled in a bucket of crushed pistachios this treat is ready to be enjoyed.
Syrian ice cream is not creamy and heavy like Haagen Daz or Ben & Jerrys, but lighter and not as sweet, which is one of the things I liked about it. But the thing I loved about it was its consistency. Elastic, stringy, gooey. I could have been eating strands of mozzarella off a pizza, but, no, this was unmistakably ice cream. Wait till the molecular gastronomists get a hold of this!
Seeing is believing. Peep the video…