On a recent trip exploring and wandering the lovely streets of Istanbul, stops for tea and coffee are inevitable, resting to re-charge the batteries and soak in the surrounding atmosphere and sights of a bustling city steeped in history and culture! Istanbul is a busy city all year round… literally heaving with people! Entering one of the many cafes, I noticed scribbled on a chalk board hot Salep on the menu and was told… “we make the best!” So ditching the usual Turkish Tea I ordered Salep! Who was I to argue whether it was the best, this was my first taste of this very popular Turkish wintertime drink!
A nice change from drinking a hot chocolate or a winter spiced latte, this hot thickened milky drink (the taste of semolina was the first thing that came to mind) was served with a dusting of cinnamon on top! Although a little overly sweet I did enjoy this warming drink and found Salep quite filling… thankfully there was no “would you like that grande or venti” when ordering!
Salep (Sahlab, Saloop,) is a nutritious starchy flour derived from the tuberous root of a certain species of Orchids. In Turkey export of pure Salep flour is apparently illegal, as over harvesting of their Orchids (Turkey known for the best Salep flour) has led to its decline! Salep is also used in the famous Turkish Dondurma ice cream!
Throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean, Europe and Asia drinks made using Salep were enjoyed for centuries and touted as an aphrodisiac (a botanical Viagra) and a restorative for the young and old. London’s industrial era served many a labourer Saloop (flour derived from British Isle Orchids ) in the early morning hours, a hearty drink flavoured with orange blossom and rose-water to kick-start a long and hard-working day!
Pure Salep flour is expensive and many use cornflour as a substitute or use a mix of both (both have thickening qualities) and say it tastes like the real thing! Some say Salep flour has little or no taste and others say it has a slightly floral taste! I can’t say I noted a floral taste when drinking Salep as the cinnamon was the dominant flavour! Maybe some Salep drinking experts can enlighten me on the subject!
Having purchased a box of flavoured salep/sahlab which contained the ingredients; sahlab, sugar, mastic, rose and orange blossom flavour to try… it turned out way too sweet and overly perfumed for my liking!
This is my way of making a faux style Salep (which tastes just as good) using glutinous rice flour as a thickener, preferring the creamy results it gave over the cornflour! However, cornflour may be used and here is another recipe and other information on Salep! Camping season has begun in Bahrain and the desert can turn very cold… so why not treat family and friends to this warming winter time drink!
Winter Warming Hot Salep
- 8 level teaspoons of glutinous rice flour (sweet rice) (found at asian supermarkets)
- 1 litre of full-fat or low-fat milk
- sugar or honey, to taste
Flavour Salep with:
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water OR rose-water, per cup
a light dusting of cinnamon powder
garnish with some finely chopped pistachio, if desired.
How to make: Add the glutinous rice flour into a medium saucepan, using a whisk, slowly mix in the milk until smooth. Bring the milk mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon. Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 3 minutes to thicken and cook through, stirring often. Sweeten with sugar to taste, add desired flavouring and pour into cups, serve hot! Alternatively, pour the unflavoured Salep into cups and let each person flavour their own! Serves 4
Have you tried Salep before or do you have a favourite wintertime drink?