Erdoğan starts meaty debate over Turkey’s famed pastırma

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s commentary earlier this week on the country’s famed air-dried cured beef known as pastırma, has triggered a war of ownership over cold cuts between two Turkish provinces.

Delicatessen owners, officials and locals from the central Turkish provinces of Kayseri and northern province of Kastamonu are refusing to sit out on the Turkish president’s comments on Monday, saying pastırma was Kastamonu’s expertise while Kayseri excelled at the dumplings known as mantı.

"I would not personally want to eat the pastırma of Kastamonu, because they prepare it by trimming with a knife. Here in Kayseri, we slice the meat,’’ delicatessen owner from Kayseri told Turkey’s Habertürk.

Different cuts are used in the making of pastırma, which involves salting and rinsing the meat before it is dried and pressed. The cold meat, which is bursting with flavourful spices and garlic, is a coveted food item due to the painstaking process of preparation and the high cost.

One kilogram of pastırma currently goes for around 150 lira ($ 27), compared to ground beef sold at around 50 lira ($ 9).

Zeynep Yılmaz, a housewife from Kayseri, says her province’s pastırma is second to none because it is sun-dried.

"Our weather is conducive to creating the perfect pastırma. Even history book says Kayseri is the birthplace of pastırma,’’ she said.

The mayor of Kayseri, Memduh Büyükkılıç chimed in on the debate, taking to Twitter to say that his province is the address for the perfect pastırma.

Restaurant worker from Kastamonu, Şükür Yazıcı, begs to differ.

"We fully support our president. Our pastırma is more delicious and meaty than that of Kayseri,’’ Yazıcı said. "We’d like to invite him here to enjoy it.’’

Pensioner İhsan Sert from the Black Sea province that is home to over 380,000 people, says Kastamonu’s pastırma is entirely natural and hand sliced.

"I even sent a friend from Kayseri our pastırma and he was it was really delicious,’’ Sert said.

"Competition is always a good thing, though,’’ he added.

Sadly, nobody in either province cared to get behind mantı, a national favourite often referred to as Turkish ravioli served with garlic yoghurt and melted butter.