Peremech – a family feast

Today, our tearoom serves peremech (pärämäch, pärämäts) with tea! Are there any Tatars in the world who aren’t familiar with peremech or have not eaten it? I doubt it! Although Tatars, especially Mishar Tatars, know peremech very well, many people around the world still have not heard about this delicious dish. It has not yet spread across the globe like kebabs and pizzas have. But if you’ve had the opportunity to make friends with Tatars, chances are you’ve tasted peremech at least once and the chances are even higher that you’ll never forget the culinary experience!

During my childhood days, Tatar families would prepare and feast on peremech every weekend. As I reminiscence, I am taken to my childhood home, to the kitchen, where we are making peremech together with my parents. There’s my mother – she’s kneading the dough. My father talks loudly about this and that as he chops the onions and adds salt to the meat. As usual, he seasons and checks whether the salt is enough – once, twice and… one more time.

When the dough is ready and the meat is just right, my turn comes. Mum uses her favourite rolling pin to roll out small circles of dough, Dad spreads the meat out evenly, and one by one, I start pleating the edges of the dough to create each individual peremech. My mother used to look over and call out advice like, “Put a little more meat there,” or “Don’t make such a big hole!” and “Don’t leave the dough so thick around the edges of the hole.”

During the process, I received tips and tricks on how to perfect the fine art of pleating peremech. Some people naturally start pleating from one side and some from the other. Some make ugly peremech, some very beautiful ones – my mother has seen them all. “They’ll all look pretty once they come out of the frying pan!” my grandmother reminds us from the other side of the room.

Condiments such as hot buttery broth, mustard, yogurt, and pickled cucumber are traditionally served with peremech, but do as your heart desires! Peremech goes well with just about anything. In our family, there are people who like to eat peremech with lingonberry jam. This was an idea borrowed from the Finns. There are people around the world who like to eat peremech with all kinds of toppings. I know that in America they like to eat them with ketchup or soy sauce, and in Australia, sweet chilli sauce is often on the table when peremech is being served. But it would be nice to know who made the very first peremech!