Food - Drink
The Unique History of Steak Tartare, Once A Snack of Warriors
By ABBY SMITH
Steak Tartare is one of those dishes you either love and crave, or would never consider eating. Although the name Tartare is used to denote a raw dish, such as Tuna, goat, and eel Tartare, Steak Tartare is a unique combination of raw red meat and raw egg yolk, with an interesting and surprisingly complex history.
There are two schools of thought on Tartare’s origin, with the most colorful tale telling of the Tartars, Turkish nomads who allied with Mongol leader Ghengis Khan in the early 13th century. According to this version of events, Mongol riders placed slabs of horse meat under their saddles and ate the pulverized meat raw.
A more plausible story claims ‌Tartare evolved from the French Polynesian tradition of eating raw meat, and was popularized by the French chef Georges Auguste Escoffier. Although today’s version is made with beef, the original dish was made with horse meat, because of the scarcity of beef in France during the 1870 Franco-Prussian war.
As the dish became popular, Steak Tartare was known as “steak à l'Americaine”, meaning “steak the American way”, perhaps because French chefs considered Americans barbarians who couldn’t even cook meat. And by presenting it as American, French chefs were able to use taboo ingredients like Worcestershire, tabasco sauce, and ketchup.