Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chaimen Dip

I know you’re familiar with basturma – the dried, spice-covered meat cut paper thin, and served with pita bread or lavash as an appetizer. But, did you know the basturma spice mix can be used to create an unusually tasty dip? Well, it can, and I’ll tell you how.

Chaimen Dip
I found a brochure called “Basturma Made Easy” in my collection of recipes that was dated 1976. I don’t know if this came from a company or an individual, but an address indicated it was from Cold Spring Harbor, NY. I’m guessing my late mother-in-law, Sylvia Kalajian, sent away for it. How she found out about it, I’ll never know.

The brochure explains how to make basturma in the refrigerator (perhaps an item for another time). In addition, there are several recipes including one for Chaimen Dip.

Since I wasn’t about to make basturma, I chose to make the spice mix and try the Chaimen Dip recipe.
The original spice mix recipe yields a lot as it’s supposed to cover a two pound cut of meat. Since I was only making dip, I cut the ingredient amounts by one fourth, but I’ll provide both recipes.

The original Chaimen recipe from the brochure:
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ cup paprika
¼ cup chaimen (ground fenugreek)
4 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder, optional
1. Sift the ingredients together into a bowl. Stir until well blended.
2. To make a paste for basturma, gradually blend 1 cup of water into the spice mix. Stir well adding more water, one tablespoon at a time, until a loose paste is formed that will spread easily on the meat.

Chaimen spice mix
Chaimen Dip ingredient proportions, my version:                      
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. chaimen (ground fenugreek)
1 tsp. allspice
1/2  tsp. black pepper
1/2  tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. nutmeg (I used freshly ground nutmeg)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. garlic powder

Spice Mix Directions:
Sift the ingredients together into a bowl. Stir until well blended. Store in a tightly covered container, but use within one month or else the flavors won’t be as bold.

To make the Chaimen Dip:
2 Tbsp. chaimen spice mix (add more if you dare!)
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup light sour cream

In a mixing bowl, blend together the yogurt, sour cream, and spice mix. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving. NOTE: You can use all yogurt or all sour cream, if you prefer.
Serve with cut vegetables, your favorite chips, pita bread or lavash.

Our Verdict: The dip tasted just like basturma - without the meat!


  1. Hi - this looks like a fun recipe to try. Did you leave out the allspice for any particular reason? Just curious.

    1. Oops, my mistake. I used 1 tsp allspice. I'll correct the recipe. Thanks!

  2. Hi, Robyn. I love this site and find myself visiting when I'm missing my Armenian family in New England. I came here when I was on a quest for homemade basturma. But every recipe I find requires hanging in a breezy, shaded spot. Since we don't have such a thing that I would consider safe from animals and toxins, I am intrigued to see that your mom somehow came across a recipe that cures in the fridge. Is it possible for you to share the recipe you found on your mom's mystery brochure? Thanks :)

    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for writing! I'm traveling right now, but when I return, I'll look into this for you.

    2. I'm back, but am having trouble locating the recipe brochure. My search continues ...

  3. Thank you, Robyn. Enjoy your travels.

    1. Hi Stephanie, Just found the brochure! Since the recipe is too long to do as a comment, I'll write this up as a separate post - after Christmas. Perhaps others will find this of interest, too! Be on the look-out for it.