Sucuk, also spelled sujuk, is a Turkish national dish. Turkish sucuk is usually made with ground beef, though some butchers add a bit of lamb for more flavor. Sucuk is a semidried beef-based sausage made using a dry-curing process. Ground meat is mixed with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, cumin, sumac, and other common Turkish spices. The mixture is then piped into natural or plastic sausage casings and left to dry for several weeks. During this curing period, the salt and other spices ferment with the ground meat, creating a chemical reaction that changes the molecular structure, flavor, and consistency of the meat, and also acts as a preservation agent.
The result is a firm, flavorful sausage with a high-fat content that’s ideal for cooking, especially frying and grilling.
One of the best ways to enjoy sucuk is with a traditional Turkish breakfast. Slices of sucuk are pan-fried with no added butter or oil and served with Turkish cheeses, fresh white bread, black olives, honey, fruit preserves, and brewed black tea.
Sucuklu yumurta, sucuk and eggs, is another popular way to serve this spicy sausage at breakfast. Slices of sucuk are fried in a small, single-portion copper skillet called a sahan. When the sausage is crispy and has released enough fat, the eggs are broken on top. The eggs are typically left runny to allow for dipping crusts of bread in the mixture.
Sucuk is also a key ingredient in another national dish of Türkiye called kuru fasulye, a navy bean and tomato stew.
It is also a tremendously popular street food: if you ever find yourself in İstanbul or any other moderately large city in Türkiye, keep your eyes open for a food stand or truck, serving delicious sandwiches of sucuk crisped on a griddle, served on loaves of toasted bread with sliced onions and tomatoes.
Turkish sucuk tastes like highly spiced aged crumbled beef that is saturated with fat but not swimming in it, as if fried but well drained, leaving crispy, tasty little morsels of cured meat.
Pastırma is a form of Turkish cured meat with exceptional flavor, a delicate texture, and a lingering taste. The predecessor to the Italian pastrami, this delicacy originated before the Byzantine times, in the east of Türkiye in the town of Kayseri where it is still produced today. The story of its invention has to do with meat being pressed, bastırmak in Turkish, by the legs of horsemen as they rode with sides of meat hanging from their saddles.
Today, shanks of beef are cut from domestically grown beef, and dry-cured in the fresh air for a couple days. Next, the meat is covered in a paste called çemen, which is made from garlic, fenugreek seeds, and red peppers, and left to cure for another couple days. Connoisseurs will tell you that if your pastırma is cut with a machine, as opposed to manually with a special knife, it is inferior.