Flavors of Fresno: Basturma

by Phillip on September 13, 2011

Basturma on Armenian Cheese Bread

I’ve heard Lahmajoun called “Armenian Pizza” before but check this out!  This is Armenian cheese bread that I topped with my favorite new discovery, a seasoned, cured meat called Basturma.  (It’s also spelled Pastirma or Bastirma or many other variations depending on what country is talking about it, but in the Armenian places in town I’ve most frequently seen it “Basturma.”)  Now that looks like pizza.  Granted, this probably isn’t anything that the people of Armenia would necessarily do with these ingredients but it sure was good.

Basturma on Armenian Cheese Bread

I’ve been told Basturma is sort of like Armenian Pastrami and I’ve found, in fact, that the two words can be traced back to the same Yiddish root, though the two meats are very different.  Basturma is traditionally made by salting and wind-drying the meat, pressing the blood out, and then adding a paste consisting of cumin, fenogreek, paprika, and garlic.  The flavor is incredible and potent.  (In comparison, Pastrami is usually brined, dried, seasoned, then smoked and steamed.)

I first had Basturma in a sandwich from Royal Market & Deli on Bullard and Marks, but when our exploration into Armenian food took us to DD Karabakh Deli on First and Barstow, I was very excited to see that they had it in their deli case ready to be sliced fresh.  I took some then and went back for more today. While I was there I had a chance to talk to the owners and their family and found them to be helpful, friendly people.

Cheap Spices at DD Karabakh International Market

The prices they had on a great selection of spices seemed to be too good to be true.  I saw a half-pound of Paprika for $2.  I don’t need any right now but almost bought some anyway, unable to deny the bargain.

This is a really nice store with a variety of hard-to-find ingredients, from whole smoked fish to sour cherry preserves.  We even found fresh sour cherries there last time, although there were no more when I went today.  The cheese case stocks different national varieties of feta as well as other cheeses, including the traditional braided string cheese.  The deli meat case stocks both lean and fatty Basturma and multiple varieties of Soujouk, a dry, spicy sausage.  And there’s much more to see.  The bottom line: this is a great market with lots of fun ingredients to discover.

And now I’m getting hungry again.  All this talk of food has kicked the sweet tooth into gear and I’m craving dessert!  Good thing I also made a run to Nina’s Bakery this morning and got a tray of beautiful pastries.

Sweet Treats from Nina's Bakery

Nina’s comes highly recommended in town.  These pastries were delicious.  To find out for yourself head over to 2022 W. Shaw Ave (behind the strip mall).

What are some of your favorite stops for Armenian food?