I just came back from a trip to Provence and had the most wonderful steak tartare I’ve ever had. Curious as usual, I was very eager to find out how did the name tartare come from. What does it mean? Is steak tartare originated from France? Is tartare a French word?
First, the meaning of steak tartare. A quick seach in Google, most definition sites give it a meaning of raw finely chopped beef served with onion etc. etc. I was convinced that the term “steak tartare” was used to refer to this type of serving of beef or other raw meat and tartare does not mean raw. After some more digging, most sources including Wikipedia refer to the origin of the word tartare to the nomadic Tatar (or Tartar) people, who are Turkic (a broad ethenic group including Turks and many Central and Asian people) from Northeast of Mongolia. The story goes that when Tatar people invaded Europe, for the convenience sake, they often ate raw meat.
There’s also another belief that tatar later on became tartar because it took on a Greek word Tartarus, meaning hell. Some source said that it negatively refered to the Tatar invasion.
If you go to the French Wikipedia site and search for tartare. Then use Google translation to English, you will see that one entry of tartare was translated to Tartarus.
No matter what, I believe that the origin of steak tartare came from the Tatar race, who ate raw meat, not because it was served with tartare sauce in the beginning as some sources quoted.
The earliest description of the steak tartare is in 1875 according to the French Wikipedia source.
Today, seasoning ingredients used include salt, pepper, capers, parsley and onion finely chopped with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco all linked with a raw egg yolk and good quality olive oil. Oh, the meat, it was sirloin I had. Fresh of course.
I was lucky to try the steak tartare in a logis in Menton (Provence) recently served with traditional mouth-watering chips. I took a video. The quality is not particularly good. But you get an idea. Très bon.
Making Steak Tartare in a logis in Menton, Provence, part 1 of 3
Making Steak Tartare in a logis in Menton, Provence, part 2 of 3
Making Steak Tartare in a logis in Menton, Provence, part 3 of 3