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Saturday, February 28, 2015


Hot, hearty & Delicious Sahlep served at Koftecisi Cafe, near Istanbul's iconic Spice Market
Photo: Phyllis Shess, Pillar to Post, January, 2015
SO IT ISN’T COFFEE--Sahlep or Salep isn’t coffee or is it tea, but on a cold day after putting on ten miles walking around Istanbul’s Spice Market, the hot drink, a winter favorite in Greece, Lebanon and Turkey, was just the ticket.

"Sahlep or Salep?
Istanbul or Constantinople?"

Sahlep (I’m going with the spelling from the outdoor café where we first tasted this delicious concoction) is made from crushed tubers of wild orchids that are found all over Turkey.  The drink is non-alcoholic, which falls in line with the teachings of Islam.

Served from a brass samovar, we tasted Sahlep on both sides of the Bosporus adding a bit of intercontinental research to our trip.  If not smothered in cinnamon or other like spice for flavoring my Istanbul Sahleps had a hint of rice pudding and tapioca flavoring. 

Photo (top) was taken at the outside small table, lower left
corner of Beceren Koftecisi cafe, Istanbul
I’m told Sahlep is ladened with glucomannan, which reportedly cures everything except war, especially coughs.  Our Sahlepper (why doesn’t that sound right?) said the drink stops diarrhea adds zip to the heart and puts a buzz in your soul.

Having returned home I’ve discovered online libraries filled with Salep (Internet spelling) recipes and brands of instant good stuff.

Online, I ordered four packettes of instant Salep powder to see if I could recreate the magic of 25 degree weather in 70 degree San Diego.  Somehow it wasn’t quite the same.  But, if you close your eyes and play the right music the aura of Sahlep or Salep can be recreated.

For six people, mix 2 teaspoons of sahlep flour with 2,5 teaspoons 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.

Other Sahlep related images from the web:

Image by Yigal Schleifer

Proving Sahlep isn't just an outdoor
Sahlep vendor, Istanbul, circa 1890s
Sahlep vendor near the Blue Mosque

Classic tourist image at a Sahlep counter in Istanbul

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