Armenian Fish Dishes
Although the waters of Armenia’s Lakes Arpi and Sevan (Gegham Sea) have seen a decrease in marine life in the past 30 years, they nevertheless remain well populated with an array of fish from which delectable local dishes are regularly prepared.
Among Armenian fish dishes the most famous are made from ishkhan (Sevan trout). “Ishkhan” means “prince” in Armenian, and just as the name suggests this trout is considered a royal fish. Winter and summer bakhtak, bojak and gegharkuni are all different types of ishkhan. Also swimming through the lakes and rivers of Armenia are many salmon, catfish and carp.
Armenian fish dishes are usually prepared from ishkhan in one of two ways. For the first method, the fish is cut into pieces and fried with potatoes and tarragon. In the second method the trout is cut into small pieces and boiled in a saucepan, after which potatoes and tarragon are added. It is also customary to marinate the fish in its own juice or in water or wine. Fish is never placed in a saucepan without a stand of wooden sticks or pebbles, which prevents the fish from coming into contact with the bottom of the pan as it cooks.
Ishkhan khorovats is fish on a spit. Trout are cleaned from the inside without cutting the abdomen, rubbed with salt and pepper, placed on a thin skewer and fried on coals while periodically being greased with butter. The finished dish is flavored with pomegranate juice and served with vegetables and herbs.
Ishkhan in wine is a dish with a delicate taste. Trout, green onions, tarragon and spices are placed on the bottom of the pan. White wine (and occasionally red) is poured over it and the dish is left to sit covered for 20-25 minutes.
Ishkhana (trout balls) is made by passing fish through a meat grinder twice and then mixing it with a raw egg and spices. Balls the size of an egg are formed and boiled in salted water. Separately, a gravy is made from onions, tomatoes and flour. The finished balls are laid out on a plate and covered in a sauce.
Ishkhan in lavash. Trout is cut into small pieces and stewed with tarragon and spices. When finished, the fish is wrapped in lavash (Armenian bread).
Ishkhan in oil. The pan is greased with butter and spread with pieces of trout which are then doused with oil. Tarragon is added and the dish is simmered over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
Ishkhan hashats is a stewed fish which has been cleaned of the entrails, cut into small pieces and soaked for 15 minutes in water with tarragon. Before serving, the fish should be covered with a damp cloth and set in a cool place.
Fish cutan (kutap) is a large fish which has been gutted and stuffed with boiled rice, raisins and crushed ginger. The top of the fish is rubbed with salt and baked in the oven for 1 hour.
Dolma (tolma) are popular in Armenian cuisine. Young grape leaves are ideal for this dish, but as these are only available in spring then salted varieties may be used at other times of the year. A low-fat fish is minced and mixed with boiled buckwheat, spices and finely chopped onions. The ingredients are wrapped in grape leaves, which are placed in a thick saucepan, covered with water and stewed for about 40 minutes.
Fish kchuch. The word "kchuch" refers to a clay baking pot. The pot is greased with butter and filled with layers of finely chopped onion, paprika, tomatoes and coarsely chopped fish. Vegetables are placed on top of the fish and seasoned with salt, pepper and tarragon. A small amount of wine is poured on top and the dish baked in the oven for about 40 minutes.
Fish kebab. Catfish or other fatty fish are used for fish kebab. The fish is cut into small pieces, cleaned of bones and marinated. Each chef has his own secret marinade, but it usually involves a mixture of spices. The marinated pieces of fish are put on skewers and cooked over coals.
Whitefish with vegetables. Whitefish is cut into small pieces and boiled in salted water while onions, carrots, garlic and tomatoes are fried separately. In a thick saucepan flour is fried until golden brown and combined with the fish broth and fried vegetables. As soon as it has boiled it is immediately removed from the stove. Whitefish with vegetables should be served in a deep dish by spreading the fish on the bottom of the plate and pouring the broth over it.
Kogak tapaka is an Armenian food consisting of fried fish, fried potatoes and herbs.
Hashlama in Sevan is a stewed dish consisting of large pieces of trout layered with tomatoes, potatoes, onions and herbs.