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Salep/ Sahlab: The Best Winter Drink, EVER

I was in Istanbul several years ago and had my first sip of salep/sahlab (the english translation varies). Basically it is a thick, foamy white drink made from the ground root of the orchid. The coffee shop I had it in whipped it up with an espresso foamer and it was heavenly.

I live in NY and thankfully can buy a mix from a specialty store on Lex Ave. I use 1 1/2 Tb mix to 1 cup milk. Whisk thoroughly while heating to eliminate lumps. Once it coats the back of a spoon it's done. I then like to add vanilla, almond extract, cinnamon and ground pistachios. Some people like to add rose or orange blossom water (but I find this makes it taste like soap). Next time I'll probably add some cardamom.

I'm wondering if anyone else loves salep like I do. Also, if you have any idea how to whip it to a foamier consistency without the aid of an espresso machine? Or, if you know of any place in the NYC area that actually sells it hot- I've been to almost every turkish restaurant I know and can't find it.

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  1. I haven't had this and I think adding all those things to plain old milk sounds pretty good. But regarding your whipping question, I recently started foaming my milk and hot chocolate using an immersion blender, and it works really well. Just do short pulses, and make sure to pour the drink into a tall container first (I use a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup for about 3/4 cup of liquid, and even then I have to be careful).

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pia

      Thanks for the suggestion. I have an immersion blender and refrain from using it because I end up with stuff all over my ceiling:} But if I can find a tall enough container, I'll definitely try it:} Just so you know, you will get similar results with milk and corn starch, though the consistency and flavor will be slightly different.

      1. re: NicoleFriedman

        I actually had an idea to add a marshmallow while I was whisking it in the pot- and it worked! The stuff stayed frothy for a long time; probably due to the stabilizers in the marshmallow. No immersion blender necessary:}

        1. re: NicoleFriedman

          Great idea! I'll try that with my hot beverages next time (at least the ones that I don't mind being sugary).

          I was so intrigued by your post -- salep sounds like something I would love. I googled it and found, among other things, this NY Times article about salep ice cream:
          http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/01/din...
          Might be a nice way to enjoy it in the summer too.

          1. re: Pia

            I've never had the ice cream version though the chewy texture does sound interesting. I wouldn't be too surprised to see it in NYC at some point; the formerly exotic is more and more becoming mainstream. I'm a teacher and a lot of my students are Bakharian Jews from Israel who are all familiar with salep but not so much with pumpkin pie.

    2. They also drink/eat it across the Middle East, so I would venture to Steinway Street in Queens or Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to check authentic Lebanese restaurants.......

      1. hey, where is the store on Lex? My father lived in Jerusalem and loved Sahlab, but was never able to find any in the states, and I want to get some for his birthday.

        also, what's in the mix?

        1 Reply
        1. re: harrisonl

          You could buy it at http://kalustyans.com/

          which is 123 Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10016

        2. we love sahlab like you. I have experienced the taste of sahlab in Beirut...have u ever researched in NY if your specialty store or any store carries the orchid powder? I like to know.

          1. Hi Nicole, I confess that I am not as found of the drink made from the orchid root, but very much like it as one of the primary ingredients in kaimaki or dondurma ice cream. Salepi really provides a special flavor to the ice cream and also acts as a thickener just like in the drink. I should try the drink mix again and try adding your other flavoring ingredients. It does sound really tasty.