Pastırma or bastirma or basturma is a highly seasoned, air-dried cured beef of Anatolian origin which is now part of the cuisines of the former Ottoman countries.
Wind-dried beef has been made in Anatolia for centuries, since at least Byzantine times.
There are various stories about the origin of pastirma, none well documented. One story gives its origins as the city of Kayseri in Anatolia, where there was supposedly a dish called pastron; but this is not supported by standard Greek dictionaries.
Preparation and Usage
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.
The Lebanese-Armenians introduced pastirma to Syria and Lebanon in great quantities, and it is usually served as a mezze in thin slices, usually uncooked, but sometimes lightly grilled or added to eggs for breakfast. It may be added to different dishes, the most famous of which is a bean dish, and various pies. The traditional Armenian pastirma strictly uses beef as the meat and this remains as the most common usage.
Even though beef is the most common meat today, various meats are also used depending on locality, including camel, lamb, goat, and water buffalo, with camel being the most prized especially in Syria, a big pastırma producer.
In Turkey, where it is eaten as a breakfast with eggs and as a meze with rakı, there are more than 22 kinds of pastırma. Generally speaking, the mainstream spiced version from Central Anatolia, often called Kayseri pastırması, is most common. The less-common Rumeli pastırması “Balkan pastırma”, is simply salted and dried.
In Egypt, pastirma is used for breakfast, with fried eggs. It is also used as a topping for pizza, and a filling for a variety of oven prepared stuff dough dishes, whether they are made from regular bread like dough, or a flaky multi-layered puff pastry like dough.
Availability and Substitution
- Generally available at major supermarkets and local markets