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Salep – A Turkish hot winter drink

14th December 2013

If you happen to be in Turkey during the cold winter months then the traditional hot drink known as Salep will certainly warm you up. 

salep /ˈsaləp/: 1. a starchy preparation of the dried tubers of various orchids, used as a thickener in cookery and as the basis of a drink.

The basis of salep - wild orchid
The idea of creating a drink from wild orchid comes from Turkey and during the 8th century, a large majority of Turkish people converted to Islam and so, where forbidden from consuming alcohol. They where then inspired with the idea of ‘salep’ - a hot milky drink to warm you up during the cold winters.

How it’s made

Tubers of wild orchids are washed, boiled, dried and finally grinded into flour. This is the essence of this soft and warming, but also medical drink. The healing power of salep comes from glucomannan, which heals respiratory problems like bronchitis and cough. It empowers the heart and the mind, stops diarrhea and warms up the body. Especially if it’s consumed with ginger and/or cinnamon, its effect is amplified.

A delicious cup of salep
This precious flower grows almost everywhere in Turkey, and there are lots of varieties. Yet, some varieties are facing extinction. To get 1 kilo of salep flour, more than 1000 orchid tubers are pulled out of the soil. And it takes up to 7 or 8 years for the orchid’s tubers to grow sufficiently to use for salep production. Therefore, export of salep is prohibited. However, instant versions with salep flavor are exported.

How to make home-made Salep
For six people, mix 2 tea spoons of salep flour with 2,5 tea spoons of sugar. Slowly add 3,5 glasses of cold milk, and stir.
Finally boil the mixture while stirring on low fire for 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve hot in a cup dusting with grinded cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger on top.

Instant and Ready to Drink Versions
Or you can purchase the instant-ready versions. Warm a cup of milk, add the salep flour, stir and finally add cinnamon.

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