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Pastırma (bastirma, basturma)

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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 salted.

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