It's sushi, meat-lover style.
A Turkish entrepreneur from the central Anatolian province of Kayseri has come up with a unique combination of foods that combine her native's famed spicy pastrami with Far Eastern culinary elements to create "pastırmalı sushi." The sushi is wrapped in pastırma instead of seaweed and contains a custom "rami" sauce, spices and pastırma pieces.
Dilek Albayrak, manager of Kayseri Loft Hotel, came up with the idea after her husband had jokingly suggested they try it as part of her efforts to introduce new tastes to her customers. After a year of sushi training, the kitchen staff at the hotel brought to life this creation, quickly garnering a positive response.
"We tried it and thought it was very interesting. After our customers said they would want to come back for more, we decided to continue doing it," she said.
"They say it has a different taste. Our guests enjoy it because we've added something to it from our own culture. We wanted to make eating enjoyable," Albayrak added.
Albayrak said that their creation has also helped to quell prejudices against sushi for containing "raw fish" by making it more accessible and suitable to Turkish palatal delight.
"The Japanese invented the sushi out of a need and then Americans added their own interpretation which made it into (culinary) literature. We'll hopefully be the second country to interpret this flavor," she said.
Also called Turkish pastrami or halal bacon, pastırma is a traditional delicacy that has adorned dinner tables since Turks lived in Central Asia.
Pastırma's origins come from Asia's Turkish horsemen, who used to preserve meat by placing slabs of it in pockets on the sides of their saddles. Getting pressed by their weight as they rode, the meat would then be cured with salt to help it last, a necessity for nomadic tribes. The Huns are believed to have made the first pastırma.
Though nowadays no horses or travel is required and the process has become mechanized, pastırma is still produced according to its original recipe. Once the meat is pressed and dried after salting, it gets covered in a paste of ground spices known as "çemen," which is how you'll see it today in supermarkets. This spicy perimeter is key to stopping the meat from going too dry and preventing raw meat from catching too much air and spoiling. It is also the element that gives it that characteristic taste that many associate with Kayseri.
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