When we last visited Cemal Bey, he was sitting behind a desk in a small, bare office on the second floor of a decrepit building near the Egyptian Bazaar in the city’s old quarter (he has since moved). Three large burlap sacks filled with what look like jumbo-sized yellow raisins are all that adorn the room. That and a fax machine. The window behind him frames one of Istanbul’s many transfixing cityscapes – the Golden Horn stretching out under the Galata Bridge where it meets the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea, departing ferries churning the water white – but Cemal keeps his eye on a fax that’s coming in. A wholesaler of salep (dried wild orchid root, also spelled sahlep), which is pulverized into powder that’s mixed with heated milk and turned into a wintertime delicacy drink of the same name, Cemal counts among his clients some of the big shots in Istanbul’s ice cream world, as the powder is also used to thicken their product. They fax in an order and he sends them kilo-sized plastic bags of pure white salep powder. He chafes at the mere mention of the roving salep vendors who work the streets of Istanbul.
“Just because a man sells salep doesn’t make him a real salepçi,” he offers as a warning.
Read the rest of the review on Culinary Backstreets .