Varied and distinctive cuisine of Azerbaijan
Pilaf with fragrant saffron, juicy kebab flavored with sumac, buglama and levengi – fish dishes, shekerbur mince pies for dessert , a table overladen with fresh fruits and vegetables and near the end –sour-sweet sorbet as a soft drink – all these are various and original Azerbaijan food.
There is no lack of recipes and ingredients in the cuisine of the Azerbaijani peoples: the country’s mountain and subtropical climate excellently provides them with everything needed to cook delicious and healthy food – Azerbaijan is justly considered the country of the centenarians. Azerbaijani food is cooked with beef and mutton, poultry and fish, fruit and vegetables, with an indispensable addition of fresh greens, aromatic herbs and spices. Azerbaijani cuisine is very substantial, nutritious and rich in calories, so it is often jokingly called “male food”.
A special Azerbaijani dish is pilaf – rice dish flavored with saffron and enriched with meat or vegetable stuffing (shirin pilaf). There are also more unusual recipes of Azerbaijani pilaf – pilaf with milk, eggs or nuts, as well as Khan Pilaf, baked in dough. Azerbaijani pilaf differs with original way of cooking and serving: rice and its stuffing are cooked separately and mixed only when serving. Pilaf is usually washed down with sorbet – soft drink with fruit and berry juices, as well as with tea infused on seeds and buds of various plants.
Another famous dish of Azerbaijani food is juicy and flavored kebab, cooked of lamb or sturgeon, seasoned with sour spice – sumac and prepared on the grill or in the tandoor. The Azerbaijanis also love dolma – a dish also traditional for Armenia and Turkey. Dolma usually means minced meat wrapped in grape leaves– this classic version is called “yarpag”. There are also other kinds of dolma when minced meat is stuffed in tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.
Another popular dish in their cuisine is kutab, which is called Azerbaijani fast food – a palm-sized, crescent-shaped, thin patty stuffed with meat filling and fried in hot boiled oil. There is also a vegetarian version of this dish - a salmon, stuffed with spinach, coriander, fennel, pomegranate seeds and grated feta cheese. The Azerbaijani cuisine is also rich in soups: hot meat soup (piti), cold one with yogurt (dovga), with flour (umach), with ballotines (kyuftabozbash) and many other soups. The table is traditionally served with salads with fresh vegetables, greens and pickles as well as churek and lavash as bread.
The Azerbaijanis treat tea after a hearty meal with special love, so various sweets and jams are very popular there. The Azerbaijani sweet pastries include more than 30 varieties with poppy seeds, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, ginger, cardamom, etc. Among the most famous Azerbaijani sweets are baklava shekerbura, Baku kurabie. Every region of Azerbaijan has its own special recipe for baklava, it even has different shape: classic baklava is diamond, famous Sheki one –square, while in Gabala district it is triangular and called “uchgulag”. For tea the Azerbaijanis usually serve jam, made from watermelon, white dogwood, young walnuts, as well as so-called cherry-sized paradise apples. Azerbaijanis love to jam is so great that it is made even from olives. It is common to serve the sweet buffet with nuts, raisins, pressed sugar with different syrups. Sweets traditionally washed down with black tea poured in a special pear-shaped glass – armuda, which keeps tea hot very long. Do not be surprised if tea will be served before lunch – thus the Azerbaijani host expresses hospitality and cordiality to the guests.
Some Azerbaijani food is cooked in special utensils: thus piti soup is prepared in clay pots, pilaf - in special boilers with a thick bottom (kazan), kebab is planked on special skewers. Each Azerbaijani region is known for its “brand” food: chicken stuffed with nuts and cooked in the tandoor– in Lankaran, kutaby and dyushbara – in Ashperon , and gyurza, similar to Russian dumplings – in Baku.