Stretchy, Middle Eastern ice cream hits the U.S.

In recent years, there’s been an influx of ice cream trends taking off around the world, from rolled Thai ice cream to Japan’s taiyaki, a fish shaped cone. Now, U.S. consumers have a new frozen treat to try: taffy-like ice cream that hails from the Middle East. The traditional dessert is captivating people for its stretchy and chewy texture, and demonstrates a growing demand for Middle Eastern-inspired desserts.


The latest hotspot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is none other than an ice cream shop. The Republic of Booza serves 17 flavors of its namesake treat, which the co-founders describe as “gelato on steroids.” Booza, which was developed about 500 years ago in Syria, is made by mixing liquid ice cream with Arabic gum and the ground roots of orchids, and using a pounding technique to freeze it. This causes the shape to hold longer than traditional ice cream and melt at a slower rate. Throughout the course of a day, employees at the shop stretch the treat, providing Instagrammable fodder for customers.


New York startup Lezzetli is the only pint brand of chewy ice cream sold in the U.S. When traveling in the Middle East, the company’s founders became inspired by dondurma, a traditional frozen dessert similar to booza, and decided to bring the taste and stretchy quality stateside. Lezzetli is a creamy all-natural version that boasts less sugar, fewer calories, and lower cholesterol than typical American ice cream. Currently sold at select grocery stores on the east coast in flavorful varieties, including Spice Date, Chocolate Orange Blossom, and Tart Cherry, the creators plan to expand in the northeast.


Stretchy, chewy ice cream has also made its way to the west coast at Le Mirage Pastry in Anaheim, California. The shop’s owner, Maher Nakhal, grew up in Syria where he ate booza regularly at the most famous ice cream parlor in the Middle East. Missing his childhood staple, Nakhal decided to bring it to the U.S., particularly as his store is in one of the largest Middle Eastern enclaves in the country. Le Mirage Pastry mostly serves the treat in traditional flavors with toppings such as Turkish pistachios and rosewater, but is considering making booza in flavors like pineapple and mango to create wider appeal.