Salep - Gastro Obscura



A flour made from orchid roots makes for a popular Turkish drink.

If it’s a chilly night in Istanbul, many Turks will be curling up with a warm mug of salep. The wintertime drink consists of hot milk combined with spices and a rare orchid-based flour, which thickens the milk and gives it a coating, soothing effect. 

Salep flour is made from the tubers of a purple orchid and is used in a number of Turkish foods. One of its most popular uses is in the taffy-like Turkish ice cream dondurma, contributing to its famously malleable, chewy texture.

Popular within the Ottoman Empire, salep milk has traditionally been thought to provide a number of health benefits, not the least of which being increased virility (salep does come from the Arabic for “fox testicle”). It continues to be a beloved nightcap, often flavored with rosewater, cinnamon, and a sprinkling of ground pistachios. In fact, due to the high demand for the drink and ice cream, salep-producing orchids are in danger of going extinct in some areas. Salep might be good for the body, but might not be so great for the planet.

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