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salep-replacement copy

I have known salep all my life. I have had it in ice cream and in the eponymous winter drink which we used to buy on the street in Beirut after late nights out on the town, to have with croissants or ka’keh (sesame galette). Still, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally saw what salep looks like in its un-powdered form. I was walking through the bazaars of Safranbolu, in Turkey’s Black Sea region with my great friend, Nevin Halici, when I noticed lovely necklaces of dried translucent objects hanging outside several shops. I asked Nevin what they were and she said salep (dried orchis tubers that are ground into a fine powder which acts as a thickening agent). And inside the shop we entered, there was a very large jar of the salep in powdered form.

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Back from Gaziantep and already missing its colourful bazaars and all the delicious food we ate there. Too much of it mind you, but there is one thing we all agreed on, and this was that we couldn’t have too much of Ozgüler’s ice cream.

ozguler ice cream copy 2

Turkish, as well as Syrian and Lebanese ice cream is very different from regular gelato or western ice cream. For one thing, it never has any eggs in it. Instead, it is thickened with salep, a powder ground from dried orchis tubers that not only thickens the ice cream (and a milk drink called salep or sahlab in Arabic) but also makes it stretchy and chewy. A strange texture that I love but that some people simply don’t care for.

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