Basturma is a spiced, air-dried meat that is fundamental to various cuisines in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus. In Armenia, it holds a special place as a favorite delicacy. It is often served as an appetizer or added to other dishes. The name “basturma” reportedly comes from the Turkish word “pastirma”, which means “pressed meat”.
The primary ingredient for making basturma is usually beef, but there are also variations using lamb or pork. The meat is first trimmed of fat, then salted and weighted down, resting in a cool place for several days. The salt and pressure cause the meat to lose much of its water, giving it a typically “flat shape”. After this initial drying, the meat is rinsed and coated in “chaman”, a seasoning paste made from a mixture of fenugreek, paprika, garlic, and other spices. This mixture is thickly applied to the meat, which is then left to air-dry for several more weeks. Many people make basturma at home, as shown in this video “How to prepare basturma at home”:
Basturma vs. prosciutto – differences
Basturma is somewhat of a non-European counterpart to Italian prosciutto, but with added spices. In both cases, it’s air-dried, aged meat consumed in thin slices. While Italian prosciutto aims to preserve the pure, unaltered taste of pork, basturma emphasizes enhancing the flavor of beef with a unique spice blend.
You can buy basturma in Armenian shops, and you can also find it in the Yerevan GUM market. My favorite way to enjoy it is in an egg omelette. In the Lavash restaurant, an omelette with basturma for breakfast costs 2,000 AMD (about 4.80 EUR) and its taste might remind you “ham and eggs”.