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Cuisine of Armenia

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Cuisine of Armenia

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Armenian cuisine includes the foods and cooking techniques of the Armenian people, the Armenian diaspora and traditional Armenian foods and dishes. The cuisine reflects the history and geography where Armenians have lived as well as incorporating outside influences. The cuisine also reflects the traditional crops and animals grown and raised in areas populated by Armenians.

The preparation of meat, fish, and vegetable dishes in an Armenian kitchen requires stuffing, frothing, and puréeing.[1] Lamb, eggplant, mayonnaise, yogurt, and bread (lavash) are basic features of Armenian cuisine. Armenians use cracked wheat (burghul) in preference to the maize and rice popular among their Caucasian neighbors (Georgia and Azerbaijan).

Overview

Armenian cuisine belongs to the family of Middle-Eastern cuisines, such as Turkish Cuisine, Persian Cuisine, and Arabic Cuisine. Historically, there have been mutual influences with all of the above-listed cuisines, though the exact nature of the influences is nebulous due to the dearth of research, political and nationalistic tensions, and the close co-habitation of the Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish, and Iranian people during the past seven centuries. In addition, the Armenian Genocide of 1915, with the ensuing large-scale transplantation of the survivors to the West, has further muddied the evidence.

Nevertheless, certain qualities may generally be taken to characterize Armenian cuisine:

  • The flavor of the food relies on the quality and freshness of the ingredients rather than on excessive use of spices.
  • Fresh herbs are used extensively, both in the food and as accompaniments. Dried herbs are used in the winter, when fresh herbs are not available.
  • Wheat is the primary grain and is found in a variety of forms, such as: whole wheat, shelled wheat, bulgur (parboiled cracked wheat), semolina, farina, and flour. Historically, rice was used mostly in the cities (especially in areas with a large Turkish population), and in the Southeast, close to Iran.
  • Legumes are used liberally, especially chick peas, lentils, white beans, and kidney beans.
  • Nuts are used both for texture and to add nutrition to Lenten dishes. Of primary usage are walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, but also hazelnuts, pistachios (in Cilicia), and nuts from regional trees.
  • Fresh and dried fruit are used both as main ingredients and as sour agents. As main ingredients, the following fruit are used: apricots (fresh and dried), quince, melons, and others. As sour agents, the following fruits are used: sumac berries (in dried, powdered form), sour grapes, plums (either sour or dried), pomegranate, apricots, cherries (especially sour cherries), and lemons.
  • In addition to grape leaves, cabbage leaves, chard, beet leaves, radish leaves, strawberry leaves, and others are also stuffed.

Typical Dishes

The "everyday" Armenian dish is the dzhash (Ճաշ). This is a watery stew consisting of meat (or a legume, in the meatless version), a vegetable, and spices. The dzhash was typically cooked in the tonir. Examples of dzhash are:

  • Meat and green beans or green peas (with tomato sauce, garlic, and mint or fresh dill)
  • Meat and summer squash (or zucchini). This is a signature dish from Ainteb, and is characterized by the liberal use of dried mint, tomatoes, and lemon juice.
  • Meat and pumpkin. This is a wedding dish from Marash made with meat, chick peas, pumpkin, tomato and pepper paste, and spices.
  • Meat and leeks in a yoghurt sauce.

The Armenian fast food is khorovatz (խորուած), also known as shish kabob. Khorovatz is typically served with either rice or fried potatoes, along with the traditional onion salad (sliced fresh onions, herbs, and sumac).

For more festive occasions, Armenians make any of a variety of the following dishes:

  • Festive stews, according to the occasion. Harissa (հարիսա), a stew of wheat and meat, is a particular favorite at Easter, Christmas, and the New Year.

Spices

Armenian cuisine uses spices sparingly. The primary spices used in Armenian cuisine are:

  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Red pepper (particularly Aleppo pepper, which is a spicier variety of paprika)
  • Mint (in Western Armenia)
  • Dill (in Eastern Armenia, the current Republic of Armenia)
  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Sumac (the powdered dried berry of the Mediterranean sumac bush)
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Mahlab (the powdered pit of the black cherry)
  • Rose water
  • Orange blossom water
  • Basil and bay leaves are used in certain dishes

Many regional recipes include additional local herbs whose use is almost completely forgotten today in the Diaspora; e.g., aveluk (wood sorrel), jingyal, etc.

Appetizers

Meals in Armenia often start with a spread of appetizers served for "the table".[2]

  • Various cheeses, such as Chechil (tel banir) – braided and pickled string cheese, similar to Georgian sulguni, chanakh, and others made from sheep or cow's milk.
  • Topik or topig is a large vegetarian stuffed "meatball".
  • Countless stuffed vegetables, usually vegetarian.
  • Pickles: cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes (ripe and unripe), cauliflower, carrots, grapes, garlic, etc.
  • Fresh herbs
  • Grain and herb salads
  • Bread dough or phyllo dough pastries called byoreks (boereg). These are either baked or fried.

Bread is "de rigueur", particularly flat breads such as lavash.

Salads

Some Armenian salads combine a grain or legume with tomato, onions, fresh herbs. Mayonnaise is used in Western or Russian-inspired salads (e.g., Salade Olivier). Examples of Armenian salads include

  • Eetch – cracked wheat salad, similar to the Middle Eastern tabouleh.
  • Lentil salad – brown lentils, tomatoes, onions, in a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped parsley. This salad has many variations, with the lentils being replaced by chick peas, black-eyed peas, chopped raw or roasted eggplant, etc.
  • Jajukh – there are several varieties of this salad, which resembles a dip or cold soup. The cucumber jajukh is made with diced cucumbers in a yogurt/garlic sauce. The Swiss chard version is made with blanched, chopped chard in a thick "sauce" of drained yogurt and garlic. This salad is traditionally served on Easter Eve. The Lenten version of this (called "ajem jajukh") substitutes tahini, lemon juice, and a little tomato sauce for the drained yogurt.

Byorek


  • Semsek, from the region of Urfa, is a fried open-faced meat byorek(like mini-pizzas).
  • A specific Lenten byorek is made with spinach and tahini sauce.

Grilled meats

Grilling (barbecue) is very popular in Armenia, and grilled meats are often the main course in restaurants and at family gatherings. Grilled meat is also a fast food.

  • Khorovats (or khorovadz) (Armenian: խորոված xorovaç) –the Armenian word for barbecued or grilled meats (the generic kebab in English), the most representative dish of Armenian cuisine enjoyed in restaurants, family gatherings, and as fast food. A typical khorovats is chunks of meat grilled on a skewer (shashlik), although steaks or chops grilled without skewers may be also included. In Armenia itself, khorovats is often made with the bone still in the meat (as lamb or pork chops). Western Armenians outside Armenia generally cook the meat with bones taken out and call it by the Turkish name shish kebab. On the other hand, the word kebab in Armenia refers to uncased sausage-shaped patties from ground meat grilled on a skewer (called losh kebab or lule kebab by diasporan Armenians and Turks). In Armenia today, the most popular meat for khorovats (including losh kebab) is pork due to Soviet-era economic heritage. Armenians outside Armenia usually prefer lamb or beef depending on their background, and chicken is also popular.
  • Gharsi khorovats (Armenian: Ղարսի խորոված) – slivers of grilled meat rolled up in lavash, similar to the Middle Eastern shawarma and the Turkish doner kebab; this "shashlik Ghars style" takes its name from the city of Kars (Armenian: Ghars) in eastern Turkey, close to the Armenian border.[4]

Soups


Armenian soups include spas, made from yogurt, hulled wheat and herbs (usually cilantro),[5] and aveluk, made from lentils, walnuts, and wild mountain sorrel (which gives the soup its name).[6] Kiufta soup is made with large balls of strained boiled meat (kiufta) and greens.

Another soup, khash, is considered an Armenian institution. Songs and poems have been written about this one dish, which is made from cow's feet and herbs made into a clear broth. Tradition holds that khash can only be cooked by men, who spend the entire night cooking, and can be eaten only in the early morning in the dead of winter, where it served with heaps of fresh garlic and dried lavash.

T'ghit is a very special and old traditional food, made from t'tu lavash (fruit leather, thin roll-up sheets of sour plum purée),[7] which are cut into small pieces and boiled in water. Fried onions are added and the mixture is cooked into a purée. Pieces of lavash bread are placed on top of the mixture, and it is eaten hot with fresh lavash used to scoop up the mixture by hand.

Karshm is a local soup made in the town of Vaik in the Shirak Province. This is a walnut based soup with red and green beans, chick peas and spices, served garnished with red pepper and fresh garlic.[8] Soups of Russian heritage include borscht, a beet root soup with meat and vegetables (served hot in Armenia, with fresh sour cream) and okroshka, a yogurt or kefir based soup with chopped cucumber, green onion, and garlic.

Fish

Main courses

  • Fasulya (fassoulia) – a stew made with green beans, lamb and tomato broth or other ingredients
  • Ghapama (Armenian: ղափամա ġap’ama) – pumpkin stew
  • Kchuch (Armenian: կճուճ kč̣uč̣) – a casserole of mixed vegetables with pieces of meat or fish on top, baked and served in a clay pot
  • Tjvjik (Armenian: տժվժիկ tžvžik) a dish of fried liver and kidneys with onions
  • Satsivi (Armenian: սացիվի sac’ivi) - pieces of roast chicken in walnut sauce

Meat products

Dairy products

  • Labneh – Strained dense yogurt made from sheep, cow, or goat milk; often served in mezze with olive oil and spices
  • Matzoon (yorgurt) (Armenian: մածուն maçun) – yogurt
  • Tahn (Armenian: թան t’an) – a sour milk drink prepared by diluting yogurt with cold water, similar to ayran
  • Ttvaser (Armenian: թթվասեր t’t’vaser) – sour cream in Armenian; also known by the Russian-derived word smetan

Bread


  • Lavash (Armenian: լավաշ lavaš) – the staple bread of Armenian cuisine
  • Matnakash (Armenian: մատնաքաշ matnak’aš) – soft and puffy leavened bread, made of wheat flour and shaped into oval or round loaves; the characteristic golden or golden-brown crust is achieved by coating the surface of the loaves with sweetened tea essence before baking.[27]
  • Paghach – flaky layered bread.[28]
  • Choereg (or choreg) – braided bread formed into rolls or loaves, also a traditional loaf for Easter.[28]
  • Zhingyalov hac (Armenian: Ժինգյալով հաց) - Not entirely a bread you would eat with your everyday meal. Zhingyalov hac is an Armenian dish that is made with dough, dried cranberry, pomegranate molasses,that go inside the dough, and 7 different greens which include spinach, cilantro, parsley, basil, scallions, dill, mint. There is a variety of combinations that can be used in the bread and these greens can easily be substituted for other greens. The greens are placed in the bread and the bread is folded like a calzone.
  • Barbari-(Bahrbahree)- a type of flat bread that is generally about a foot and a half long, and topped with toasted sesame seeds. Similar to matnakash but more elliptical in shape and with a layer of sesame seeds.

Sweets

These pastries and sweets are found in Armenian or Mediterranean bakeries. They can be purchased a la carte, in bulk, or by the dozen.

Ritual foods

  • Nshkhar (Armenian: նշխար nšxar)-- bread used for Holy Communion
  • Mas (Armenian: մաս mas) -- literally means "piece" a piece of leftover bread from the making of Nshkhar, given to worshippers after church service
  • Matagh (Armenian: մատաղ mataġ) -- sacrificial meat. can be of any animal such as goat, lamb, or even bird.

Drinks


Alcoholic drinks

  • )
  • Armenian brandy (Armenian: կոնյակ konyak) (popular brand names Ararat, Dvin)
  • Oghi (Armenian: օղի òġi) – an Armenian vodka, usually distilled from fruit;[31] also called aragh.[32] Artsakh is a well-known brand name of Armenian mulberry vodka (tuti oghi) produced in Nagorno-Karabakh from local fruit.[33] In the Armenian Diaspora, where fruit vodka is not distilled, oghi refers to the aniseed-flavored distilled alcoholic drink called arak in the Middle East, raki in Turkey, or ouzo in Greece.[34][35]
  • Pomegranate wine (Armenian: նռան գինի nṙan gini)– sweet and semi-sweet fruit wines made from pomegranate juice.
  • Apricot wine
  • Areni wines are red wines made from the Armenian Аreni grape (Vayots Dzor region, where the oldest known winery was discovered in 2007). While most Areni wines are dry, Vernashen is semi-sweet.
  • Mulberry Vodka (Armenian: թթի արաղ t’t’i araġ) A traditional Armenian vodka made from distilling the Mulberry, which is a berry grown all over Armenia, especially in the highlands and Artsakh.

Notes

General references

  • The Cuisine of Armenia by Sonia Uvezian, Dikran Palulian (Illustrator)
  • Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction & Folklore, Irina Petrosian and David Underwood

External links

Armenia portal
Food portal
  • , on-line Armenian cookbook based on a collection of recipes published by St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, Indian Orchard, MA
  • Armenian Cuisine LOLlogspot.com/ Armenian Food Blog]
  • ArmenianFood.ru — an extensive selection of Armenian dishes with recipes (Russian).
  • Armenian cuisine — hundreds of recipes organized by courses (Russian).
  • Armenian cuisine — a compact list of 79 Armenian dishes (Russian).
  • Armenian cooking — a general description of Armenian cuisine, including 90 recipes (Russian).
  • Armenian Food — Collection of Armenian cuisine recipes.

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