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Saturday, February 4, 2012


I like to see the salepi vendors in their white shirts, early in the morning. And I like the bronze samovars that they have on their small carriages.

"Salepi original~Charcoal fire ~ Constantinopolitan Kostas"
Photo credits: Anastasia Yannopoulou.

 In older days they carried large copper jugs or samovars on their backs.

Once they were fanatically patronized by early morning laborers and late - night revellers.

Once they were plentiful...


coffee occupies the most significant niche in the consumption of hot beverages.

salepi vendors are getting fewer and fewer....

Salepi has a long history in Greece though.

Before coffee spread, salep was extremely popular in Ottoman Empire. So, it was also available in the streets of the Ottoman occupied Greek cities. After the Asia Minor catastrophe (1922)  many Greek refugees found work as salepi peddlers as well.

This wonderful antidote to the cold days and nights  was mostly obtained from the pulverized tubers of Orchis mascula and Orchis militaris (among others). The term ‘Orchid’ has its origin from the Greek word ‘Orchis’ for testicle, referring to the paired root tubers of some species.  It doesn’t take much imagination to wonder why ancient Greeks and Romans ascribed medicinal and aphrodisiac properties to the tubers of orchid.

Today, Greek orchids are  threatened with extinction  due to overharvesting and destroyed habitats. They are protected by law, making it illegal to pick them or dig up their roots. Thus, most street vendors sell salep made from cornstarch, sugar, water and artificial flavor.

Of course, you can make it yourself at home. Buy salepi powder of cultivated orchids. Expensive but worth it!


1 tsp - 1 tbsp salepi powder ( it is said the thicker, the better)

1 cup of milk

1/2 -1  tsp sugar

ground cinnamon

ground ginger

Pour the milk and sugar into a pot. Heat the mixture and add the salepi slowly. Simmer for 6-7 minutes, stirring, until it becomes thick. Sprinkle with cinnamon and ginger and serve.

Nutritional value (per 100gr)

Calories: 387 Kcal
Fats: 11,7g
Protein: 20,9g
Carbohydrate: 49,87 g

Marianna Kavroulaki
Experimental archaeologist- independent researcher in Greek food history

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