I’ve travelled to the Middle East many times before, but have never tried Turkish ice cream, also called dondurma, as I was never up for dealing with the tricks performed by these sellers when serving it.
In contrast, 20-year-old entrepreneurial ACCA student, Azareil, enjoyed dondurma during his travels so much so that he developed a craving for it while back home in Malaysia.
Yet, the availability of Turkish ice cream here is lacking and does not have as stretchy of a texture as the ones he’s tried in Turkey.
Being a self-proclaimed first mover and early adopter, he saw this as an opportunity to spread the joy of stretchy ice cream to Malaysia. Along with his neighbour, 17-year-old Elmira, they dove into R&D in their home kitchens to launch Krem Tarik (directly translated to pulled cream from Malay) on August 28, 2021.
Just 3 months in, they’ve already collaborated with a steakhouse in Shah Alam, Baqara Fine Meat to sell their products. Furthermore, they’ve also made a total revenue of roughly RM27,000 since launching.
But first, a market survey
Before launching, Azareil and Elmira wanted to ensure that there was in fact a demand for stretchy ice cream in Malaysia. To suss out if people were even open to the idea of it, they released a questionnaire for 3 weeks on social media, which gained quite a number of positive responses.
“This gave us the confidence to take the next step to move forward,” Elmira told Vulcan Post.
A total capital of RM3,000 was put into the business. It was bootstrapped by Azareil’s previous ventures when he was 18, where he sold ballpoint pens and worked for his father selling a green technology-based fuel additive called Perfect-T.
Then came R&D, which involved making dondurma every day for 3 months.
It came to him in a dream
The original recipe for dondurma calls for sahlep and mastic, the key ingredients responsible for the stretchiness of the ice cream. Sahlep is derived from orchid roots and mastic is a plant resin from the mastic tree.
“Unfortunately, sahlep is super rare and expensive, and is also currently endangered,” Elmira shared. “As a result, the Turkish government banned their export, so our Turkish-inspired ice cream is created with a recipe wholly crafted by us.”
Information on how to create dondurma with alternatives to the 2 vital ingredients was limited. Despite multiple trials and errors, the duo’s dedication to finding alternatives for sahlep and creating the ice cream’s perfect stretchy texture never broke.
“After many tries, Azareil was so frustrated that he went to sleep and miraculously received a dream of what to use. He saw that as an answer, so he immediately woke up and bought the ingredient,” Elmira recalled, assuring that it actually happened although it may sound made-up.
It was also Azareil’s motivation to continue on with the business.
Pulling, beating, and scraping
Made with fresh milk, natural ingredients for flavourings, some food colouring, and their secret ingredient, the duo claims that their recipe is self-invented and cannot be found elsewhere.
Milk is first heated to thicken the mixture, where Elmira and Azareil will “pull” the cream to enhance its stretchiness. The cream will then be transferred into a freezer drum and splashed onto the frozen sides of a bowl.
As the mixture freezes and hardens, they will scrape its sides and repeat the splashing and scraping process until a frozen ball is formed.
Then comes the fun part for the duo: beating and hand stretching the ice cream. “We manually craft our ice cream by beating it with a pounder to break down further ice crystals and allow the ice cream to bind together,” they added.
Hand stretching allows air to be incorporated in the ice cream; it’s the final, yet most important part of the process to ensure its stretchiness.
Edible slime, anyone?
Krem Tarik sent me a tub of their dondurma to try, and while I enjoyed the Milk & Cereal flavour, I was taken aback by the texture of the ice cream. For lack of a better descriptor, it feels closest to the texture of cheese fondue.
Sharing my thoughts with the team, they told me that they’ve also gotten comments from customers stating that the ice cream felt like edible slime, but creamy and smooth at the same time.
But the duo doesn’t see that as something negative. “Our aim is to spark curiosity and motivate people to be open to trying out new things,” they stated.
Krem Tarik has also received feedback that their products taste exactly like the authentic dondurma with the benefit of more variety in flavours, such as Blue Comet, Matcha, and Milk & Cereal. Each pint could cost RM27-RM33, depending on the flavour.
Though I’m not particularly fond of the ice cream’s texture, that’s not any fault on Krem Tarik’s part. I’ve never been a fan of chewy desserts in general, like boba and mochi, so it’s mainly a personal preference.
Pulling in sales
Krem Tarik sparked the interest of a customer base that ranges from kids to the elderly. “We noticed that young ones typically go for the sweeter side like chocolate and Milk & Cereal, meanwhile the older customers side with flavours that are less sweet, like pistachio, matcha and coffee. Our ice cream has attracted and is loved by people of all races,” Elmira added.
One particularly good day during Krem Tarik’s first week of launching saw the brand selling 150 pints in a day, bringing in a total revenue of RM4,500.
Elmira and Azareil were also contacted by Baqara Fine Meat that same week, where they secured the collaboration deal a month later to sell their dondurma in-store.
Currently, the brand has been selling an average of 20 pints per day, amounting to an RM600 revenue each in return. On top of that, 2% of the revenue from every pint sold goes to charity, and the remaining goes back into funding the business.
Still operating Krem Tarik from home, the duo hopes to further expand the business by opening stores in various states. This is in relation to their current struggles in turning down customers who requested for their products but were outside their delivery area of the Klang Valley.
Opening up a store would likely be in Krem Tarik’s favour, as stretchy ice cream, from looks alone, doesn’t appear very appetising. A store front or even a pop-up store in a bazaar would be able to help solve this issue as customers can come by and have a taste of the ice cream to make a more informed decision.
In the near future, Krem Tarik will expand by collaborating with more restaurants first.
It’s worth noting that there were brands like Booza and Mado Café that sold Turkish ice cream at their respective physical outlets in Fahrenheit 88 and Jalan Bukit Bintang in the past. Both closed about 2 years ago now.
Given the traction that Krem Tarik has seen in its infancy, this could indicate that customer preferences have since changed, which the brand is now able to leverage as a small business with better customer engagement.
As the team has already seen interest from customers from different states looking to purchase their products, the duo has a bright future ahead in expanding Krem Tarik to become a larger brand for Malaysian made dondurma.
- You can learn more about Krem Tarik here.
- You can read about more Malaysian F&B brands we’ve covered here.