Why pastrami?

Pastrami is so good.

I would have it for breakfast, a couple of rashers fried up so that the fat renders out and the beef gets ruby red and crispy and a few eggs fried in the leftover fat on top of a thick cut piece of shokupan toast.

I would have it for lunch, slices steamed up until tender stacked on fresh and buttered white sourdough with a heap of sauerkraut, smothered in thousand island dressing.

I would have it for dinner, a hunk chopped up, and tossed in fettuccine with garlic and shallots, OH and butter, tossed through when the heat is off, to coat the pasta with a thin film of heart stopping goodness.

I would even eat it straight out of the fridge, just chew a piece and let the sweet and savoury flavour spread throughout the whole of my mouth.

Pastrami is so good.

You're really into pastrami huh?

My love of pastrami started at a really young age, I don’t exactly recall but probably 5 or 7. My father would travel frequently from KL to Johor for work and I would usually tag along as company. We would check into the Holiday Inn and without fail, get the breakfast buffet. Bapak was the military type so from a young age he would make it a routine for me to wake up early in the morning. It was much easier to do when food was involved, so we would get up and head down to the restaurant. The spread enkindled nostalgia, from french toast, baked beans and chicken sausages to hash browns, and pancakes but the one I sought after the most were the beef rasher “bacon” strips!

Malaysia is a Muslim country, but the nation itself was introduced to western culture. From its industry, entertainment and most importantly food. Pork products weren’t consumed by the Muslim population but its interest in small goods such as cured meats and sausages garnered enough demand for the citizens to seek out alternative products. Due to many western-style hotels catering to tourists visiting Malaysia, it popularised the typical American diner-style breakfast of eggs and bacon, beef rasher style.

Soon after being introduced to small goods, I moved to Australia and was introduced to the Jewish style pastrami, in the form of a sandwich, but I remember it clearest as its own dish and not an alternative to an existing one. I remember in my youth and days of study, going to local cafe Bowery to Williamsburg on Hardware Lane in Melbourne and trying a Rueben Sandwich. Rye bread, pastrami, sauerkraut, cheese, sauce, toasted and garnished with a big old pickle on the top, that was when I fell in love.

Woah dude, Wait, what is pastrami?

Pastrami, the piece of beef, usually brisket that is cured in a brine of seasonings and spices for a long period of time and then cooked until tender but not over the point where it loses its integral structure, sometimes even smoked to infuse more depth of flavour, what's not to like? The ability to create such a satisfyingly, mesmerizingly, succulent piece of beef with a handful of spices and time was something that I not only enjoyed eating but also, over time began to have interest in making.

How did you start making it?

I was introduced to the process of making pastrami and the Reuben through a colleague when I started working at Cumulus. At the time, I was working on the breakfast section and Zak had asked the head chef that he wanted to put the Reuben sandwich on the menu, he was an avid baker and loved the dish so much that he even created the bread himself! It was freshly baked rye bread, Russian dressing, sauerkraut, some sort of swiss or Emmental cheese and pastrami built into a sandwich and toasted, served with some quick pickled qukes that he mentioned were inspired by David Chang’s pickle recipe. It was so good!

When Younger Brother was born, I decided to make it again. Through much trial and error, I figured out the best way to cure the brisket, how long to leave it to brine and how long to cook. All of the mentioned processes required a balance to achieve what I think is a pretty great piece of meat. I'm not saying that I have made pastrami to rival Katz Deli, but the more I make this pastrami, the more I realise why I love making it and what I want pastrami to be when my friends and family, and hopefully you, eat it.

I'm getting pretty hungry! where can I get some?

I want to make it for the people in Melbourne who have heard of it but never tried it, and for the ones who have had it and enjoy good pastrami. If you feel like trying some your self just head down to the deli section of our website and order some to try!

Thanks for reading



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