By Jennifer Olvera
Ground orchid, masa and chocolate: do they have something in common? You bet, since they’re ingredients in hot drinks around the world. This time of year, that’s a real comfort when you’re traveling to bone-chilling destinations. Then again, there’s something downright soothing about a warm bev anytime.
Salep proved popular in the lands of the former Ottoman Turkish Empire. These days, it’s still prevalent throughout Turkey. It’s made using salep flour, from wild orchid tubers. With a flavor akin to liquid rice pudding, it’s often inflected with cinnamon, and it’s believed to be an aphrodisiac so watch out!
Get it while it’s hot: Over 1,000 orchid tubers yield just one kilo of salep flour. What’s more, it takes up to eight years for them to grow to size.
Where you’ll find it: Hop on a flight to Istanbul. Once there, watch for street vendors, who hawk the milky beverage during colder months. Note that you’ll see salep it in other eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries as well.
Dating back to pre-Columbian times, sugary chocolate atole (champurrado) may be porridge-thick. It may also sport a consistency similar to melty, runny ice cream or pudding. It’s made from masa and laced with vanilla and cinnamon, and it’s popular in Mexico and Central America. Atole is also a mainstay during Mexican holidays—like Day of the Dead and Epiphany.
In related matters: Keep your eyes peeled for fruit and pine nut (atole de piñones) versions as well.
Where you’ll find it: Street vendors ladle it from large steel pots throughout Mexico, including in Oaxaca. You’ll also find it at popular Tamales Emporio, a small tamale restaurant in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico’s bustling capital. That’s a good thing to know when planning your next Mexico City vacation.
Thick and redolent of cinnamon, cloves and orange peel, purple corn-based api morado dates back to Incan times. These days, it’s a breakfast staple throughout Bolivia. Order it with buñuelos (fritters) or empanadas for a perfect kick-start to days.
Good to know: It’s possible to replicate the drink at home—provided you can get your hands on ground purple corn. However, there’s nothing like getting it right from the source.
Where you’ll find it: Api morado is especially prevalent in the Andean highlands. Look for it in restaurants and at street stands alike, and consider it a good excuse to book a Bolivia vacation package.
Jennifer Olvera is a culinary travel writer, recipe developer and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago.