Feel the taste of Armenia
«The same dish is never the same»
Armenian cuisine is rich in variety of tastes and dishes since Armenia has been saving them up for two thousand years. Throughout its existence and development Armenian culinary traditions have managed to significantly influence the cuisine of not only neighboring countries but also European ones.
Those who are familiar with national cuisine of the countries of the Caucasus and Asia and partly of Europe know that there are dishes in Armenian cuisine that are also found in Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Greece, and other countries. However, at the same time, all culinary connoisseurs will confirm that in every country these dishes have different tastes. Moreover, Armenian dishes are incomparably richer in range of their tastes and in appearance they are significantly different from the rest. The reason is the culinary secrets and secret recipes that were thoroughly developed, accumulated, and carefully stored for two millennia.
Of course today we will not reveal all the secrets to you, trying to keep intrigue and wishing to make you come and get acquainted with all the subtleties and tricks of Armenian cuisine on the spot. By the way, what are we talking about? All the subtleties and tricks will not be revealed even here, in Armenia.
The main ingredients of Armenian cooking are, of course, meat, vegetables, herbs, and cheese. The meat in this row occupies a separate place.
In order to arouse in you an irrepressible desire to get familiar with Armenian cuisine and our national dishes we decided to show and tell you about the most famous of them.
So let’s go!
Let’s look at the dishes in order of their “fame”.
Everyone knows perfectly well about decent old Armenian barbecue. However, we will reveal a secret: the most delicious and juicy BBQ is one that is cooked in a tandoor. Tandoor (tonir in ArmeniYan style) is a clay oven, traditionally located in the ground, and working on the basis of fire. By the way, in the modern world, there is a wide variety of tandoor, even portable ones. So, the taste of barbecue in the tandoor is incomparably saturated, and the meat is tender and juicy, just melting in the mouth.
Many people know (for some even by hearsay) Sevan trout, which we call ishkhan (meaning king), as if trying to emphasize the “royal” sort of a fish. Ishkhan meat is pinkish-red and has a particularly mild taste. The fish is called “Sevan trout” since it lives only in freshwater Sevan. The weight of the fish can reach up to 16 kg and more. This is the most expensive and most delicious local fish. Of course, there are many recipes for making ishkhan in Armenia, but we love to cook BBQ most of all. Our tourists always have an opportunity to participate in a master class on cooking ishkhan and get a unique recipe.
Original Armenian dolma rightfully stands at the head of Armenian culinary masterpieces! For those who is not familiar with this dish, dolma can be described as rolls with beef meat, cereals and spices, wrapped in grape / cabbage leaves.
In fact, in Armenia there are many varieties of dolma, and often when preparing dolma with cabbage leaves, the cook fills with a mixture of meat, cereals and spices eggplant, tomato, and sweet pepper, preliminary peeled from the pulp. We call such a dolma “summer dolma”: cabbage rolls and vegetables stuffed with meat.
However, there is another kind of dolma that is hardly possible to find in any other country (as you may know, many countries argue about dolma as a national dish) – dolma, the flesh of which is filled into onions and covered with lemon. The taste of such dolma is truly divine.
It is customary to eat dolma with sour cream or natural yogurt called “matsun” in Armenia.
Among national dishes of Armenia, the famous Echmiadzin kyufta occupies an important place. These are fresh beef meat balls. To make kyufta, ground beef is beaten with hands until the meat transforms to homogeneous mass and becomes fluffy. This dish is traditionally served with pilaf.
Rack of lamb and lamb in tandoor
In culinary Armenians pay special attention to lamb (especially young lamb), which requires great skill in its preparation. The most common dishes are rack of lamb and lamb in tandoor. Not far from Lake Sevan, in a cozy restaurant, we organize a master class on cooking lamb in tandoor, which is led by the chef of the restaurant, which is in an association for the preservation of Armenian culinary traditions.
Khurjin is another unique Armenian dish. Translated from Armenian, this word means “tomcat” (pouch). The dish got its name due to its appearance: khurjin is calf meat stuffed with onions, bell pepper, tomatoes, and baked inside Armenian bread lavash in the form of a bag.
Garni Yarah – a dish very much loved by Armenians and easy to prepare; tasty and without any troubles. Garni Yarah is a frequent guest at dinners of any Armenian family. In fact, these are stuffed eggplants cooked in an oven.
The dish of the Tavush region borani is considered to be “the pride of Tavush”. Borani is a dish of boiled beef meat seasoned with dried prunes, chestnut, herbs, and fried onions. This is not like anything else you can try in Armenia. Unforgettable taste…
Ghapama is a fragrant and spectacular autumn dish, the main ingredient of which is pumpkin. In it the whole secret of success of the dish is, since it is pumpkin that provides the main flavor range of the dish. The pumpkin is cleaned of pulp; rice, dried fruits, and walnuts are pre-brewed and put in it. Afterwards, the pumpkin should be baked in the oven – and the most unusual dish of your life is ready to surprise you!
A rather peculiar dish – khash is a rich broth-based on beef shanks. Khash is not just a dish for Armenians but a whole meal which has its own special ritual. For khash lavash is dried in advance which is then ground into broth; there should be pickles, cheese, herbs, radish, garlic, and most importantly vodka on the table. Khash is rather “heavy food” that’s why it is surely followed by vodka. For the same reason it is customary to eat khash in cold season and early in the morning. In Armenia khash season officially starts on October 1 (though in Yerevan it is hot, in the regions it is already pretty cool) and lasts until the end of March.
Greens play a big role in Armenian cuisine. It gives taste and smell to any dish. However there are types of greens that themselves are full-fledged dishes. One of such dishes is a salad of local greens avelouk (mountain sorrel) which is greatly loved by Armenians. And if at least one Armenian lives somewhere on the planet he will certainly bring avelouk to this land.
Another dish based on greens is zhengyali bread (“bread with greens”). This is a bread cake filled with various kinds of finely chopped greens. In spite of the fact that zhengyali bread is prepared in all regions of Armenia, however, the traditional zhengyali bread is the one that is prepared in Artsakh and includes 7 types of Artsakh greenery.
National bread lavash is something without which it is impossible to imagine any Armenian table. We wrap cheese and greens, meat snacks, eggs with tarragon in lavash, thus getting incredibly tasty brduchi (brduch is an Armenian sandwich in lavash); we dry and grind lavash into various broths and, in particular in khash; we prepare meat and vegetable rolls. Or simply, with absolutely nothing, eat freshly baked lavash that crunches like chips. A master class on baking lavash (whose history originates in ancient times and which is included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of mankind) we include “by default” in any program.
Basturma and sujukh
Armenian basturma and sujukh are national meat snacks made from beef meat. Basturma and sujukh can be excellent snacks for alcohol, good ingredients for sandwiches with butter and brduchi (lavash sandwich), can be stored for a long time due to the technology of drying.
Cheese is an inseparable part of Armenian culinary. There are more than 40 types of cheese in Armenia; everyone will find cheese to their taste: starting from seasoned in salt water (with varying degrees of salinity and hardness),then with fresh and ending with blue cheese. Since Armenians love cheese many people know how to cook it themselves. And if we add up love to wine and cognac to the love of cheese we will get cheese aged in wine and cognac, degustation of which we will organize for you near Lake Sevan.
And of course, we just can’t ignore Armenian dessert. Mmm tasty!
Gata – baked with sweet filling which is prepared in all regions of the country. Naturally, each region has its own “gata” with various fillings and additives such as raisins, dried fruits, fresh fruits, nuts, etc. However, traditional gata is the one prepared in Garni.
Pakhlava – baked from puff pastry (with many layers), walnut, and honey. It is believed that the more layers and walnut in it the tastier it is.
Shaqar Choraki national shortbread cookies.
So? Did we manage to whet your appetite?
In case you’re interested in gastronomy tour to Armenia you can look through our vine and dine tour program following this link.