Armenia is one of the oldest states of Transcaucasia. Despite the difficult period of the country’s formation, its people preserved all their national values. This also applies to Armenian cuisine. Culinary traditions have been preserved since pre-Christian times and are still observed today.
General characteristics of the national Armenian cuisine
The successful geographical location of the state contributed to the formation of local cuisine. The fertile lands of the Ararat Valley, through which many large and small rivers flow from the Armenian Highlands, provided the country’s population with natural products. Armenians from antiquity learned to breed livestock and poultry. Their diet has always been rich in meat food.
Dishes of Armenian cuisine are a real find for any gourmet.
The development of agriculture has led to a variety of dishes from wheat, barley, lentils, various vegetables and fruits in the diet of Armenians.
Armenian cooking is considered the most complex and time-consuming. The process of cooking here since ancient times is treated with reverence. It takes a lot of time, several manipulations are carried out with each dish. It can be whipped, ground, stuffed, blanched, soaked, marinated. Then, when combining the ingredients processed in this way, exquisite and unusual taste combinations are obtained, which distinguish the national cuisine.
Armenian culinary traditions involve the use of not only a large amount of meat in the preparation of dishes, but also its competent combination with an abundance of vegetables, fruits and greens. Due to this, the body receives the necessary trace elements and vitamins.
The development of cattle breeding in Armenia provided its people not only with nutritious meat, but also with useful dairy and fermented milk products. They contribute to the timely digestion of food and the preservation of natural intestinal microflora.
The formation of Armenian cuisine began 2.5 centuries ago. For many centuries, Armenia has been subjected to the conquests of powerful neighbors. At different times, its territories were owned by Persia, Egypt, and Turkey. Despite numerous oppressions, Armenians managed not only to preserve the identity of national culinary traditions, but also to influence the development of other cuisines of the world. Already in ancient times, Armenian cuisine was distinguished by the complexity of cooking. The local population was one of the first to learn how to ferment dough and bake bread.
In Armenia, food is treated with special respect, and the process of cooking is considered an almost sacred ritual. Since ancient times, Armenians have cooked their food on fire. Then they came up with a special furnace – tonir. For her, a deep hole was dug in the ground and its walls were lined with stone. Tonir was used to make bread and pita bread, smoke meat, dry fruit and heat the home. Before the adoption of Christianity in Armenia, this oven was considered a symbol of the sun, it was worshipped by the mistresses of the house when they cooked bread in tonira.
Many national dishes are called the old dishes in which they are cooked, for example, tapak, putuk, kchuch.
Armenian cuisine carefully preserves its centuries-old traditions.
Basic methods of cooking
Most national dishes are distinguished by a complex cooking technology. This takes a lot of time: from several days to several months, especially when it comes to sweets and smoked meats.
The unique taste of local dishes is given by a multi-stage preparation. The same dish can first be fried in oil, then boiled in broth and at the end of the process – stewed in its own juice.
Use of spices
Armenian cuisine is bright and rich in taste variety. Seasonings, herbs and spices used in national cooking are grown and produced in Armenia. Mandatory components of local dishes are:
- various peppers (black, red, pink);
- bay leaf;
Spicy herbs are often added to meat and fresh salads. Without fragrant basil, cilantro, tarragon and mint, it is impossible to imagine Armenian dishes.
What is cooked in Armenia
Hospitable national feasts can not do without lavash, meat dishes, greens and sweet pastries.
They have a special specificity in Armenia, any feast begins with them. Snacks have a piquant pungent taste, because garlic, pepper and spicy herbs are often added to them.
Eggplant is often served as an appetizer. From them, rolls with garlic and dill are prepared, pickled, stuffed with meat and cereals.
Popular in Armenia and basturma – dried tenderloin from beef. It is prepared within 1.5 months. A special spicy taste of meat is given by fragrant Armenian herbs.
The abundance of vegetables, fruits and greens in Armenia allowed local cooks to diversify the national cuisine with recipes for all kinds of salads. They go well with meat dishes.
In one salad can be vegetables and fruits. Such harmonious combinations give these snacks a fresh taste, and spicy greens add piquancy and aroma. Vegetable oils with spices are used for dressing. Often salads are made from grilled or charcoal-baked vegetables. They go well with crushed nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Armenian cuisine is rich in various soups, which are prepared on the basis of meat, fish broths and fermented milk drinks. Often on the local table you can find sweet first dishes from fruits.
The national pride of Armenian cooking is considered to be bozbash – a hearty soup on a rich broth of lamb meat. Its peculiarity is the presence of chickpeas and chestnuts in the recipe. A lot of vegetables are put in the soup, from which it becomes thick. In Armenia, there are many variants of bozbash, which differ in a set of main components.
The first dish can be attributed to the category of exotic. It is made from beef tail. To get rid of a specific odor, the tail is soaked in water for several days. In addition to him, onions, peppers and tomatoes are added to the dish, and served with herbs and garlic.
Armenians like to cook sweet soups from fresh and dried fruits with the addition of cereals. They are often served for dessert.
Armenian cuisine cannot be imagined without meat dishes. The main place is occupied by barbecue. There are more than 20 varieties of cooking, marinating and roasting meat. Only men are allowed in this case.
Among the second courses, a lot of space on the hospitable table is occupied by stuffed vegetables and fruits. Sweet peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, pumpkin, apples are stuffed with meat, cereals, seasoned with special sets of herbs and spices to give a bright and memorable taste.
The main bread product in Armenia is lavash, an integral element of national culture, a part of many ancient rites. It is a thin unleavened flatbread made of wheat dough. It should traditionally be kneaded by the oldest woman in the house. The daughter-in-law rolls out the dough. Pita cakes are made thin and long, sometimes more than 1 m.
Some regions of Armenia have preserved the ancient custom of harvesting lavash for the future. Ready cakes are dried and stacked in a dry place. Before serving on the table, such lavash is simply sprinkled with water and covered with a towel so that it acquires a fresh look. And on the easter holiday, it is consecrated in churches along with the cakes.
In addition to lavash, in Armenia they bake lush bread with an appetizing ruddy crust – matnakash. It has the shape of a round thick flatbread. It has a porous, airy flesh, because yeast is used to bake it and is made only from wheat flour.
Armenians know how to cook delicious, and most importantly, unusual desserts.
Armenia is an eastern country and is famous for its sweets. For example, gata is a favorite national dessert. This is a rosy puff pastry pie with a sweet butter filling. Or shakaratz – shortbread cookies of round shape with characteristic cracks, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
The development of cattle breeding provided Armenians not only with meat, but also with dairy and fermented milk products. The traditional national drink is matzoon. It is made from the milk of sheep, cows and buffalo. Everything is mixed, put on fire and allowed to boil. Part of the yogurt is added to the slightly cooled milk and left to ferment until a product with a thick consistency and a specific sour taste is obtained.
Matsun is used to churn out ghee – karag, which is the main component for making dough. Women do this at home, as they did many years ago: by hand in a clay churn or jug. The resulting whey after churning is drunk as a tan soft drink, added to soups and used as a seasoning for dolma.
A special place in the diet of Armenians is occupied by cheeses. For example, sheep’s and cow’s milk make brine extract cheese chechil. It consists of dense fibrous threads that are collected in a ball or pigtail.
Traditional dishes worth trying
Armenians are hospitable people. The first thing they will do when a relative, guest or stranger appears on the threshold of their house is to feed him deliciously. Most of the dishes that are prepared in the home kitchen or in local restaurants are dishes adapted to modern conditions according to national ancient recipes.
This is a type of kebab. It can always be found on the menu of Armenian restaurants and at a family feast. Khorovac is always cooked only by men. The choice of meat depends on the place of residence: in Armenia itself, barbecue is often prepared from pieces of pork and lamb on the bone, outside it – from beef and chicken, using only the fillet part.
There are 2 ways to prepare khorovac:
- Karssky – the lumbar and dorsal pulp of lamb is used for it. The meat, cut into pieces, is marinated for several hours in a mixture of salt, pepper, cloves, onions, vinegar and cognac, then cooked on skewers over hot coals. In the process of roasting from pieces of kebab, it is necessary to constantly cut thin slices of meat.
- Khazani – for him choose selected steaks, which are cooked in a frying pan in oil with the addition of salt, pepper and onion rings.
Khorovac is eaten with a side dish of vegetables baked over coals: eggplants, tomatoes, bell peppers. The best piece of kebab according to the national tradition is offered to the younger guest.
Khorovats and kufta are the national meat dishes of Armenians.
Armenians borrowed this dish from Turkish cuisine and made it their national dish. Kufta in Armenia is prepared only from beef. For meat meatballs, selected pulp is used, juicy minced meat is made from it, small balls are formed and boiled in boiling water. Kufta is served with melted butter and hot pepper, which is called tsitsak.
This is an ancient dish of the national cuisine of Armenia, which has survived since pagan times. Harisa is a hearty porridge of wheat and chicken meat. In ancient times, it was prepared for offering to the gods. The dish was cooked all night in special cauldrons and served in the morning. Harisa is cooked over low heat with constant stirring. The porridge turns out to be homogeneous, rich. The aroma is given to it by spicy herbs, which are also added to the dish.
The Armenian people respect the culinary traditions of their ancestors. Therefore, the process of cooking harissa has not changed, and it now takes about 5-6 hours.
This is the name of the Armenian fermented milk soup. It consists of 3 ingredients:
- Dzavar is a special variety of cereals, small-grain mountain wheat. Its seeds are first boiled, then dried and cleaned of films. Sometimes the zavar in the soup is replaced with rice.
- Matsun is the national fermented milk drink. It is added to the dish in a form diluted to the desired consistency.
- Chicken eggs. They are mixed with flour, then pour matzoon and water and already cooked porridge from zavar.
Spas is served with fried onions, herbs and spices. In winter, it is consumed hot, and in summer – in chilled.
This is a hot hearty soup, refers to the old recipes of Armenian cuisine. In ancient times, it was used as a remedy for fever and colds. To prepare hash, it will take more than a day. It contains few ingredients. These are beef or lamb legs, rumen and garlic. Hot soup is served with lots of greens and grated radish.
Khash is a thick Armenian soup, which is cooked today all over the world.
National Armenian delicacy. It is a crumbly fragrant cookie made of puff pastry. By tradition, it was baked at Easter for the festive table. This pastry can be prepared with different fillings. Each Armenian hostess has her own recipe for nazuk, which is inherited in the family.
This is the name of the Armenian wedding dish, which is prepared specifically for this celebration as a symbol of abundance. Hapama is a stuffed pumpkin. It is stuffed with boiled rice with various dried fruits and nuts, seasoned with honey and sugar. The container in which this delicacy is prepared is the pumpkin itself. A pot is made from it: the pulp and seeds are cleaned, the top is cut off and used as a lid. The prepared pumpkin is smeared with butter, the filling is laid out and covered with a lid. Hapama is baked in the oven. Cooking time depends on the size of the pumpkin.
This fragrant dessert is made from peaches. The fruits are first dried in the sun, then the stone is removed and instead of it a filling of crushed walnuts mixed with sugar, cinnamon and cardamom is laid. Dried fruit must be stuffed carefully so as not to damage it and the nut mixture does not fall out. After the peaches are slightly squeezed and strung on a thread. Store the treat in a dry and dark place to protect against moisture.
Without this dish, it is impossible to imagine any Caucasian cuisine.
In Armenia, barbecue is an indispensable attribute of a home feast, it is often ordered in restaurants and street eateries.
The first thing that begins cooking is the choice of meat:
- pork – ham, shoulder, loin;
- beef – neck, ridge entrecote;
- lamb – lumbar part, ham, shoulder blade, ribs.
Then the meat is cleaned of excess fat, veins and films and cut into portioned pieces. Tender and soft kebab is obtained only from well-marinated meat. To do this, you will need onions, salt, pepper and herbs. Sometimes dry wine is added. The finished meat is strung on skewers, alternating with quarters of onions. The traditional garnish for Armenian kebab is baked vegetables and a lot of fresh herbs.
This is the name of a special dessert that is prepared in Armenia for the Christmas and New Year’s table. This is a sweet soup of dried fruits and cereals (bulgur, dzavar). The fragrant aroma of the dish is given by spices: cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon. When served on the table, ashura is decorated with nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Sevan is a large beautiful lake in Armenia. This freshwater source of drinking water is under state protection. Sevan has a rich fauna, among which crayfish are especially famous. They live in other reservoirs, but in this lake they reach record sizes. In Sevan, crayfish grow up to 30 cm in length (the size of the river crayfish is 16-18 cm). Their meat is tender and contains little fat, so it is considered not only a delicacy, but also a dietary dish. Crayfish are boiled in water with salt and spices and served with herbs.
An analogue of cabbage rolls, only instead of cabbage, the filling is wrapped in grape leaves. About the authorship of this dish there are still interethnic disputes and research is being conducted. Tolma or dolma is prepared in the countries of Transcaucasia, on the Balkan Peninsula, in Central Asia and even in North Africa. Each national cuisine has its own recipe and technology for cooking these cabbage rolls.
The most delicious dolma is prepared in Armenia.
In different regions of Armenia, not only grape leaves are used for tolma, but also various vegetables, fruits: eggplants, sweet peppers, apples, quince. They are stuffed with minced meat, rice and stewed over low heat. The meat filling absorbs the aroma of leaves and vegetables and becomes tender and appetizing.
This is an old lean dish of lentils and dried apricots. It was prepared in the city of Van (the territory of modern Turkey). In the local dialect, “mshosh” is an apricot, the main ingredient of the dish. It is hearty and easy to prepare. Lentils should be washed and boiled almost until ready. Onions are finely chopped and fried in oil, crushed walnuts are added to it. All components are combined in a pan with lentils and boiled, stirring, for about 15 minutes.
In Armenia, this is the name of horse sorrel. Plants from the foot of Mount Aragats are especially appreciated. Local residents collect sorrel and harvest for a whole year. To do this, long pigtails are braided from young leaves and dried in the fresh air. Sorrel is fermented, all the bitterness goes away, and the leaves acquire a spicy taste. It turns out to be an aveluk. Soups and salads with egg, cheese with matzoon dressing are prepared from it.