On the corner of Lexington and 28th, situated on the east side of Manhattan’s Flatiron district, lies a small specialty food store called Kalustyan’s, housing an extensive variety of Middle Eastern food products. This multi-level store with aisles of spices, grains and legumes can be a tad overwhelming. But once you reach the small deli counter upstairs, you cannot help but notice the house-made basturma, thinly sliced and ready for your next order.
Originating in Armenia, basturma is a cured beef that has been air-dried and heavily seasoned with aromatics, such as cumin, garlic and fenugreek. It can be served with bread or simply on its own. But at Kalustyan’s, they are serving up this delicacy on pita bread with a slather of yogurt sauce, ripe tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and a drizzle of olive oil. The combination of cool, tart yogurt and salty, smoky basturma is an enticing balance of flavor.
Because of its similarity to other cured meats, basturma can be used in many ways. For example, finely chopped basturma would add the perfect salty note to pork meatballs in a bright tomato sauce. Better yet, how about basturma ramen? A basturma beef broth, slow poached egg, beansprouts, and ramen noodles would be tasty to slurp up. Whether traditional or inventive, the possibilities are endless with this palate-pleasing product.