Pastırma or bastırma is a highly seasoned, air-dried cured
beef in the cuisines of the former Ottoman countries.
Left: Armenian basturma.
The name pastırma is from Turkish: pastırma et
(pressed meat). Pastırma is a noun derived from the verb pastırmak (bastırmak
in modern Turkish), which means "to press". The word is used with minor variants
in the various languages of the region. The word
pastrami, although used for a differently prepared type of meat, also goes
back via Yiddish: פּאַסטראָמע (pastrómeh) to pastırma.
Wind-dried beef has been made in this region for centuries.
Pastırma itself is usually considered Turkish, though it is produced and
consumed in a wide area of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. One legend
recounts that Turkic horsemen of Central Asia used to preserve meat by placing
slabs of it in the pockets on the sides of their saddles, where it would be
pressed by their legs as they rode.
Though beef is the most common meat today, various meats are
also used, including camel, pork, lamb, goat, and water buffalo, with camel
being the most prized.
Pastırma is prepared by salting the meat, then washing it with water and letting
it dry for 10-15 days. The blood and salt is then squeezed out of the meat which
is then covered with a cumin paste called çemen (lit., 'fenugreek')
prepared with crushed cumin, fenugreek, garlic, and hot paprika, followed by
thorough air-drying. Depending on the variety of the paprika, it can be very
spicy but not quite as hot as, for example, hot chili.
Palestinians eat the pastirma sliced in thin slices and fry it in olive oil
before serving it. The pastirma which is known as bastirma among the
Palestinians is served not only in the mezze table but also as breakfast food
eaten with newly baked Palestinian pita bread.
The Lebanese-Armenians introduced pastirma to Lebanese cuisine, and it is
usually served as a mezze in thin slices, usually uncooked, but sometimes
lightly grilled. It may be added to different dishes, the most famous of which
is a bean dish, and various pies.
In Turkey the spiced version, often called Kayseri pastırması, is most
common. The less-common Rumeli pastırması "Balkan pastırma", is simply