AskDefine | Define pastrami

Dictionary Definition

pastrami n : highly seasoned cut of smoked beef

User Contributed Dictionary



From Yiddish pastrame, from Romanian pastrama. That word is probably from pastırma, a variation of bastırma, "dried meat", from root *bas-, to press; the other possible origin of the Romanian word is the παστώνω (pastono, "I salt"), from (pastos, "sprinkled with salt", "salted"). The English spelling ending in -mi is probably from the influence of salami.


  • (UK): /pæˈstrɑːmi/, /p

Extensive Definition

Pastrami is a popular delicatessen meat made from chiefly red meat.


The raw meat is salted (through immersion in a thick brine), then partly dried and seasoned with various herbs and spices (such as garlic, crushed coriander, black pepper, marjoram, basil, allspice, cloves), and smoked. In the United Kingdom and the United States, beef is used and the meat is steamed after smoking, before serving.


The English word pastrami is derived from the (pronounced pastróme). Both the dish and the word were brought to the United States with a wave of the Jewish immigration from Bessarabia and Romania in the second half of the 19th century; it is a signature dish of the local Jewish cuisine of these regions. The word, however, as used in Yiddish and various languages of the Balkans (e.g. Romanian pastramă), which entered the Russian language as pastromá, is likely of Turkish origin, spread during the period of the Ottoman domination of the region. The authoritative dictionary of gastronomic terminology of the Yiddish language (by Dr. M. Schaechter) and the official etymological dictionary of the Romanian language, the Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române, derive the term from Turkish pastırma. Indeed the ancient Turkish word for it is "basturma" (which means "pressed") from which the words pastırma and pastrami have been derived. One legend recounts that Turkic horsemen of Central Asia used to preserve meat by placing slabs of it in the pockets on the sides of their saddles, where it would be pressed by their legs as they rode.
An analogous Armenian and Middle Eastern dish is known as basturma. Early references in English spelled "pastrama", while its current form is associated with a Jewish store selling "pastrami" in New York City in 1887. It is likely that this spelling was introduced to sound related to the Italian salami.
Unlike its Jewish and derivatively modern American counterparts (where pastrami is exclusively a beef dish), in the Romanian tradition, mutton was used and over time pork became the prevalent choice. Romanians distinguish between different kinds of pastrami, depending on the meat used. When not specified, pork is implied.
It usually is served as a cold cut in sandwiches, but it can also be heated and served as a side dish with various foods. One such example is fried pastrami, with corn mamaliga (similar to the Italian dish polenta) and green onions.
Traditional New York pastrami is made from the navel end of the brisket, which contains considerably more fat than the chest area. It is first cured in brine like corned beef, and then coated with a mix of spices and smoked. It is typically sliced and served hot in a rye bread sandwich, sometimes with cole slaw and Russian dressing. It is also commonly found in the popular Reuben Sandwich. In recent years, this version of pastrami has become hard to find, due to the scarcity of old-fashioned Jewish delicatessens.
Turkey pastrami is made by processing ground turkey in a fashion similar to red meat pastrami. Unlike certain other turkey-based deli meats, such as turkey ham or turkey salami, that are intended to simulate corresponding red meat deli products, turkey pastrami has a texture and flavor unlike that of red meat pastramis.
As with corned beef, pastrami was created as a method for preserving meat from spoilage in an age before modern refrigeration methods. This technique is now unnecessary, but its unique flavor still attracts many aficionados worldwide.

Cultural references

  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Blood", pastrami is described as "the most sensual of the salt-cured meats."


pastrami in Arabic: البسطرمة
pastrami in German: Pastrami
pastrami in Spanish: Pastrami
pastrami in French: Pastrami
pastrami in Hebrew: פסטרמה
pastrami in Malay (macrolanguage): Pastrami
pastrami in Dutch: Pastrami
pastrami in Japanese: パストラミ
pastrami in Portuguese: Pastrami
pastrami in Russian: Пастрома
pastrami in Swedish: Pastrami
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1