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Saturday, December 19, 2015


Turkey’s hot winter beverage 
is delicious and indescribable.

Americans on a National Press Club tour to Istanbul sample delicious salep at a sidewalk cafe in Kadikoy, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosporus   
Pillar to Post photograph

By Thomas Shess, Editor-in-Chief, Pillar to Post Daily Online Magazine

This time of year my taste buds somehow remind me they’re in the mood for a delicious cup of hot salep.  We discovered this hot beverage in Istanbul on the Asian side of the Strait of Bosporus.  Salep (often spelled sahlep) is only made in winter and is commonly found everywhere in Turkey.
We had left our tour guide to explore Istanbul’s eclectic Kadikoy neighborhood.  It was still early in the morning when we noticed a nice looking outdoor café with a long row of café tables covered in festive red cloths.  The waiter was standing next to a barrel sized metal container that we learned contained hot Salep.  He urged us to try the beverage, which was served in tea cups and at first looked like a warm cup of egg nog.

It was love at first taste.

Salep is as intriguing as Istanbul.  It’s an ancient drink that is made from a white powder extracted from the dried tubers of wild orchids found in the countryside.

Real salep, a hot drink served only in winter, is served all over Turkey, but precious few other places in the world.
Because real salep is so hard to make most buy powered salep—even the Turks.  But those hospitable cafes all over Istanbul serve the real salep and tasting we did.

Like I mentioned it looks like egg nog. Salep is creamy a bit thicker in texture than egg nog and not quite as sweet.  The liquid is grainy and served with cinnamon and bits of pistachio nuts (don’t over do the pistachios).  More words of description escape me.

When in Turkey find yourself a salep serving café and enjoy one of life’s great beverage adventures.

In America, salep power is retailed by the Mado brand.  It’s easier to order from

There are other brands of salep, including Nestle but my trials in making homemade salep always return to the round tin of Mado.

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