But the origina of Romanian pastrama lie in the heritage of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Wallachia and Moldavia for hundreds of rather productive years, at least as far as Wallachia and Moldavia go. The Turks brought pastirma with them - slabs of beef covered in spice paste and then air dried in high mountain curing houses. The pastirma is wholesaled in huge meter long slabs.The paste today contains a lot of cumin and hot paprika, so the meat becomes quite spicy. Pastirma didn't taste anything like I had expected - understandable when you remember that my taste buds were trained on the grease-and-black-pepper pastrami of the Bronx. This was pastirma from Anatolia. It was a truly mediterranean combination of sour, salty, spicy, and savory. Kind of like what stuffed olives would taste like if olives had legs and said moooooo.
Pastirma is eaten as part of a meze course - appetizers that precede a meal or are simply set out to substitute for a cooked meal, especially when drinking raki. Subsequently, pastirma is not cheap. A kilo goes for about EURO 20, making it one of the most expensive of meze. But then, meze is how you inpress people, isn't it? And at Namli Pastirmaci in the market behind the Egyptian Spice market in Istanbul, impressing people comes easy. How about a bit of salad to go? Cold stuffed peppers?Or maybe some fish meze? Marinated anchovies? Smoked bonito? Octopus salad? Mussels?