Editor's note: This story was originally published Sept. 21. We're bringing it back today in observance of Ice Cream Day!
NEW YORK (CIRCA) — The first thing you notice about booza is its elasticity.
It stretches out like a giant rubber band while being made, or even as you pull a spoon through it.
"The elasticity is interesting, there's something ineffable about it. To the eye it suggests a chewiness or a gumminess," said Michael Sadler, co-owner of Republic of Booza, which opened in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, in June.
"We have customers come in and ask us what makes it so chewy, what makes it so thick, what makes it so gummy," he said. "But the looks are deceiving. The elasticity translates into creaminess, not chewiness on the palate."
The elasticity of booza comes from two factors.
The second is the technique for making booza, which requires alternately pounding the booza with a large, wooden pestle and stretching it by hand.
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"The key point being that, instead of churning booza, it is actually pounded and stretched. And that is part of what gives it its super creamy, soft, elastic-like consistency," said Sadler.
Booza originated in the Levant around 500 years ago and is claimed to be the oldest form of ice cream. The Levant is an area of the eastern Mediterranean made up of Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey.
Sadler first encountered booza on a trip to Damascus, Syria, while he was studying abroad in Amman, Jordan. He visited Bakdash, arguably the world's best-known booza shop.
"[I] fell in love with it as soon as I tasted it. It was the best form of ice cream I'd ever had. But the one thing that really struck me was, it was only available in one flavor," explained Sadler.
At Bakdash, the only flavor served was qashta, or "candy cream." Sadler, who grew up in Cleveland, was used to American ice cream shops selling as many flavors of ice cream as possible.
That got the wheel turning in his head, to combine an American obsession with flavor variety, with the format of booza. The result is Republic of Booza.