You Say Pastrami, I Say Basturma


Lisa Elbert
Antoinette Bruno
Meyhane Snack Platter - Basturma Jerky (far left)
Meyhane Snack Platter - Basturma Jerky (far left)

Turns out, pastrami has a Turkish grandmother. It looks a lot like pastrami, but it’s neither smoked nor cooked, and it goes by the name of basturma. For Boston Rising Star Chef Cassie Piuma, it was love at first taste. She discovered the spice-cured and air-dried meat in Turkey and grew smitten in Lebanon with what she calls the Middle Eastern equivalent to bacon. “Most [Lebanese restaurants] have a version of a cigar borek that they make with crispy phyllo stuffed with basturma and cheese. Salty, crispy, and oozing with gooey cheese, I fell in love and couldn’t stop eating them.”

At her restaurant, Sarma in Somerville, Massachusetts, Piuma recreates those basturma-cheese rolls (think high-brow, spice-inflected Totino’s) for her meze platter. She sources the traditionally seasoned—cumin, garlic, fenugreek, paprika—basturma from Sevan Bakery in Watertown, Massachusetts, for $16.99 per pound. Piuma also makes her own basturma jerky, imprinting Middle Eastern flavors onto a more familiar format for her diners. “I use our house-made beef jerky primarily as a bar snack. I always encourage folks to order it with a fava bean pâté, some olives, and cheese, or maybe a salad.”

Through her revival of Pastrami's long lost ancestor, Piuma is spreading the love and expanding meat horizons.

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