The word comes from the Turkish: bastırma et (pressed meat), pastırma in modern Turkish. The word has been borrowed by other languages of the region: Albanian: pastërma, Arabic: بسطرمة (basterma), Armenian: բաստուրմա (basturma), Azerbaijani: basdırma, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian: pastrma, Bulgarian: пастърма (pastărma), Greek: παστουρμάς (pastourmás), Hebrew: פסטרמה (pastrama), Macedonian: pastrmajlija and Romanian: pastramă. The word pastrami, although used for a differently prepared type of meat, also goes back via Yiddish: פּאַסטראָמע (pastrómeh) to pastırma.
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 multilayered puff pastry like dough.
- Zubaida, Sami & Tapper, Richard. A Taste of Thyme. I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 1994, p. 35 & 39.
- TDK dictionary
- Andrew Dalby, Siren Feasts, p. 109, 201
- Ash, John (2006). A Byzantine journey ([2. ed.] ed.). London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks. ISBN 9781845113070. "Having inherited pastirma from the Byzantines, the Turks took it with them when they conquered Hungary and Romania,"
- Underwood, Irina Petrosian ; David (2006). Armenian food : fact, fiction & folklore (2. ed. ed.). Bloomington, Ind.: Yerkir Pub. ISBN 9781411698659. "In Byzantine times, the city was called Caesarea Mazaca. There and throughout Byzantium, the technique called pastron was an accepted salt-curing tradition. Turks reintroduced pastron as pastirma."
- Sax, David (2009). Save the deli : in search of perfect pastrami, crusty rye, and the heart of Jewish delicatessen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 25. ISBN 9780151013845. "Its origins, which may date back as far as Byzantium, can be found in Turkey, where basturma was a form of pressing spiced meat."
- Wright, Clifford A. (1999). A Mediterranean feast : the story of the birth of celebrated cuisines of the Mediterranean, from the merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs : with more than 500 recipes. New York: William Morrow and Co. p. 742. ISBN 9780688153052. "Cheese, horek, and pastirma were all known to the Byzantines"
- Irina Petrosian, David Underwood, Armenian food: fact, fiction & folklore, p. 112
- Babiniotis and Andriotis dictionaries, s.v. παστουρμάς
- Turkish Cuisine
- Kaneva-Johnson, p. 62
- Turkish food, cuisine & culinary tours. Cooking workshops in Turkey
- Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
- Maria Kaneva-Johnson, The Melting Pot: Balkan Food and Cookery, Prospect, 1995. ISBN 0-907325-57-2.
- Media related to Pastirma at Wikimedia Commons