Armenian National Dishes
The glory of Armenian cuisine extends far beyond the country's borders. There is not a place on the post-Soviet territory (and even farther) where people do not know or love and cultivate Armenian cuisine. The juicy smoking shashlick emitting magnificent aroma, baked vegetables – khoravats saturated with the smell of coals; tender cooked without oil dolma melting in your mouth …delicious! All the dishes of Armenian cuisine are well familiar and loved by us. But what is the historical background of the culinary attraction of Armenia?
Armenian cuisine is as ancient as its history, as the land it is standing on. Armenian culinary traditions are over 2000 years old. The abundance of meat on Armenian tables is the result of the most ancient development of cattle breeding in Armenian uplands which led to such a variety of livestock and poultry. Cattle breeding was also the source of various dairy products – basically brine-ripened cheeses as well as sour-milk products which serve as the basis for traditional Armenian dishes and beverages.
Early beginning of agriculture in the fertile valleys of Armenia caused the application of various cereals in Armenian cuisine - spelt, millet, barley, wheat, rice; beans - string beans, beans, lentil, mountain peas to say nothing of great variety of vegetables and greens which are a must of Armenian feast.
Traditionally Armenians cooked food on fire. The clay furnace began to be called tonir and has retained this name. Armenians used clay kitchen ware too. Tonir was used for cooking bread, mashes, fish and poultry, vegetables, soups and other dishes. By the way, tonir was borrowed by all people of Transcaucasia becoming an integral part of their national culinary. Armenia in general has contributed a lot in term of cooking. Thus, many authentic Armenian dishes later became known in Europe thanks to Persians and Turks as the dishes of their national cuisines. (for example, dolma).In their turn the cuisines of Turkey, Iran and Arabian countries have enriched the culinary culture of Armenia.
Armenian cooking techniques are rather complicated. The most difficult to cook are meat, fish and vegetable dishes which require stuffing, whipping, puree and souffle making as it takes a lot of time and work. Armenians very much love dishes from chopped meat and all possible variants of stuffed dishes.
The thermal processing of dishes is labor-consuming too. One and the same dish or raw product, for example, meat, can be subject to roasting, boiling and stewing in tonir making some dishes of Armenian cuisine melt in your mouth.
Another feature of Armenian cuisine is a great number of greengrocery and spices in preparation of dishes. Armenian cooks use 300 kinds of wild-growing grasses and flowers which are used as seasonings or even as basic dishes.
The surprising fact is that Armenian cuisine practically does not use fats. The majority of dishes are cooked in drawn butter. It is used for soups, stewing and roasting of meats, poultry, fish and vegetables as well as sweet dishes. Vegetable oils are used in Armenian cuisine less frequently - for preparation of fish and some vegetable dishes (string beans, eggplants). Sesame oil is traditional.Armenian cuisine is in many ways similar to the ones of other Caucasian countries. But at the same time is different too. Georgians, for example, use a lot of ingredients to achieve complex variety of tastes. Armenians, on the contrary, most of all value the naturalness of taste. Meat is traditionally not fried and cut in large chunks. It is boiled, stewed or baked.
All these features make Armenian dishes unique, unrivaled, delicious and fragrant - a real treat for any gourmet and connoisseur of true culinary traditions.
Soups in Armenian cuisine are very popular; they are cooked so skillfully that you'll remember their taste for the rest of your life. Armenian housewives cook fragrant khash and high-calorie boozbash. Soups in Armenia are cooked using various recipes. There are soups with a sour-milk--egg base, separately prepared bozbash and difficult kinds of noodles.
Armenian Meat Dishes
There a special cult of meat dishes in Armenian cuisine. The most simple and ancient dishes are the famous shashlick, pastynery meat kchuchi and of course poultry dishes. They are cooked in the same way as they were 1,500 years ago.
Armenian Dairy Products
All dairy products are very esteemed by Armenians. They are valued like bread and consumed both as separate dishes and seasoning to other dishes.
Armenian Bread and Farinaceous Dishes
Traditional Armenian bread – lavash (unleavened wheat cake) – is loved all over the world. Armenian cuisine without lavash simply does not exist. Not without a reason the expressions meaning to eat, have dinner, have breakfast, have supper in Armenian are replaced with one – “to eat bread”.
Armenian Fruits and Vegetables
Armenians are very serious about using vegetables and fruits. Like everywhere in Transcaucasia they are eaten raw, dried, pickled and marinated; besides, they are obligatory ingredients for making soups and main dishes.
The rivers and lake of Armenia are rich in fish which is also present in the menus.
Armenian Sweet Dishes
The most known sweets are kyata and nazuk - original multilayered pies with stuffing. Each layer is soaked with drawn butter and sugar – as a result kyata and nazuk have such melting dough and mild taste.
Armenia highly appreciates the culture of consumption of traditional drinks. Among the Armenian soft drinks the most popular are local Jermuk mineral waters as well as matsun, an analogue of kefir. After an abundant repast the Armenians prefer to have “surch”, i.e. coffee. The most popular national alcohol drink is cognac made from selected grape varieties, grown in the Ararat Valley.