Azerbaijani cuisine (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan mətbəxi) refers to the cooking styles and dishes of the Azeris in Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan. Many foods that are indigenous to the country can now be seen in the cuisines of other neighboring cultures. For the Azerbaijanis, food is an important part of their culture and is deeply rooted in the history, traditions and values.
Out of 11 climate zones known in the world, the Azerbaijani climate has nine. This contributes to the fertility of the land, which in its turn results in the richness of the cuisine.
Features of Azerbaijani cuisine
Shish-kebabs and dishes in tandyr were widely spread in the Azerbaijani cuisine. There are various drinks, sweets. A distinctive feature of the Azerbaijani cuisine is the use of lamb to prepare various dishes. To a much lesser extent, Azerbaijanis consume beef, poultry, and fish. The formation of Azerbaijani cuisine was influenced by the demands of Islam – as a result, traditionally it does not include pork dishes and dishes containing alcohol. Another peculiarity of Azeri cuisine is the sharp taste and unique aroma that gives the dishes all sorts of spices and herbs: bitter and sweet pepper, basil, cinnamon, cloves, dill, parsley, coriander, mint, cuminand many others. Especially it is necessary to stop on saffron and sumache.
The first of these is an indispensable component for the preparation of numerous pilafs. Sumy, as a rule, is served to different meat dishes. Widely uses Azerbaijani cooking vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and others), fruits (apples, pears, quinces, oranges, lemons), stone fruits (plums, plum, apricots, peaches). Also there are different kinds of dolma from eggplants, tomatoes and peppers.
Some dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine are prepared in special dishes. For example, soup piti – in pitišnica, plov – in kazanas, special boilers with a thickened bottom and special lids, in which hot coals are placed, so that the pilaf “rebukes” evenly. For a special type of meat assortment – Saja – use the same pan with a tiny brazier installed under it. For the preparation of kebab and lyulya-kebab, various skewers are used, for the first dishes – cups – for touching, for extinguishing meat – tas – small pots and other.
History and features of Azerbaijan national cuisine
Azerbaijani cuisine has spread through the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran Azerbaijan, old Azerbaijan territories (now included in Armenia) – Erivan khanate, Zangezur and Goycha provinces, in the territories of Georgia where Azerbaijani people have historically settled – Borchali, Dagestan, also including Derbent, formerly a centre of one of the old Azerbaijani khanates. Except using wild animals, birds, fish and plants, the production of agricultural products is required during further development of society. To do this, people must have a high culture of agriculture and animal husbandry.
Azerbaijan’s national cuisine is closer to Eastern cuisine due to taste and preparation of the dishes, as well as adding a dark spice and flavor additives. Contemporary Azerbaijan cuisine retains traditional methods of preparation of dishes while incorporating modern cooking requirements and preparations.
Azerbaijani dishes have traditionally been cooked with copper utensils in copper cookware. Copper bowls and plates are still commonly used as serving dishes.
Azerbaijani cuisine is full of different types of greens and vegetables such as aubergine, tomato, sweet pepper, spinach, cabbage, onion, sorrel, beet, radish, cucumber, green beans. Rice and products made from flour are widely used in national cuisine. It is famous for vegetables and greens used seasonally in the dishes. Fresh herbs, including mint, coriander, dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leek, chive, thyme, marjoram, green onion, and watercress are very popular and often accompany main dishes. The majority of national dishes are prepared of lamb, beef and poultry meat. Dishes prepared of minced meat are more prevalent. The sea, lakes and rivers of the Republic of Azerbaijan are abundant with different fish species, particularly white sturgeon. Sturgeon fish is widely used in preparation of national dishes. The Caspian Sea is home to many edible species of fish, including the sturgeon, Caspian salmon, kutum, sardines, grey mullet, and others. Black caviar from the Caspian Sea is one of Azerbaijan’s best known delicacies well sought after in other parts of the world, including former Soviet countries.
One of the most reputed dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine is plov from saffron-covered rice, served with various herbs and greens, a combination totally distinct from those found in Uzbek plovs. Azerbaijani cuisine includes more than 40 different plov recipes. Other second courses include a wide variety of kebabs and shashlik, including lamb, beef, chicken, duck and fish (baliq) kebabs. Sturgeon, a common fish, is normally skewered and grilled as a shashlik, being served with a tart pomegranate sauce called narsharab. Dried fruits and walnuts are used in many dishes. The traditional condiments are salt, black pepper, sumac, and especially saffron, which is grown domestically on the Absheron Peninsula. The third courses include soups which the types of this dish are more than 30 in Azerbaijan national cuisine. These include kufta bozbash, piti prepared of meat and dovga, ovdukh, dogramach, bolva prepared of greens and yoghurt. Some soups are served in national or interesting and unusually-shaped bowls.
Black tea is the national beverage, and is drunk after food is eaten. It is also offered to guests as a gesture of welcome, often accompanied by fruit preserves.
One of the most famous dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine is pilaf. There are several varieties of Azerbaijani pilaf: kaurma-pilaf (with mutton), turkey-kaurma-pilau (with lamb and sour fruit), chiy-dohama-kaurma-pilaf (with lamb, pumpkin and chestnuts), tuoh-pilaf with chicken, fried pieces), chicken-pilau (with chicken or stuffed chicken), chigyrtma-pilaf (with chicken stuffed with beaten egg), fisinzhan pilaf (with game, nuts, sour fruits and cinnamon), sheshryanch-pilaf (egg), syudlu-pilaf (milky) and shirin-pilaf (fruit sweet). Unlike other cuisines, rice is prepared separately here and separately the basis of pilaf (tare) is meat, fruit, etc., – connecting all this in one dish only when served on the table. Feeding and eating of Azerbaijani plov have their own traditions.
In the culinary arts of Azerbaijan, there are a lot of unique delicacies, which are divided into three subgroups – flour, caramel and candy. They contain a significant amount of additives and spices: poppies, nuts, almonds, sesame, ginger, cardamom, vanillin and others. To flour products are Shekberbour, Baklava, Sheker-Churek, Baku kuruba, kyata Karabakh , Baku, Nakhichevan and Ganja, Shumakhin mutaki, baklava Nakhichevan. National flour products number more than 30 items, and each region has its own special products. A special place is occupied by Sheki’s sweets. Shekina baklava, peshwank, bodies (terhalva), girmabadam, which produce rice flour, sugar, nut kernels, butter, egg whites and spices.
In March 2009, the culinary specialists of Ganja produced a miracle-baklava. The length of this confectionery product baked in honor of Novruz holiday is 12 meters, and width – four. The weight of sweets is about three tons. These indicators allowed the Azerbaijani baklava to set a record and get into the book of records of the CIS. In addition, this piece of puff pastry claims a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
The sorbets have a different purpose. Unlike the Tajik and Central Asian (here they are primarily sweet, dessert), Azerbaijani sorbets are soft drinks, and also play the role of drinking accompanying pilaf. As the main component in them, in addition to fruit and berry juices, infusions and distillates of aromatic plant parts such as seeds, kidneys and the like are also used, and the fruit base consists of juices of acid fruits and berries.
List of dishes
Kukyu from greenery
Kukyu from Kutum
Kukyu from walnuts
Fisinjan from lobio
Fisinjan from beet
Soups and broths
Piti The national soup of Azerbaijan made from pieces of mutton on the bone, cooked with vegetables in a broth; prepared and served in individual crocks.
Kufta bozbash A pea soup with lamb meatballs and boiled potatoes. The meatballs in kufta bozbash are large, hearty, and made of minced lamb and rice, sometimes with a zesty dried plum inside.
Sulu khingal Lamb soup with noodles.
Toyuq shorbasi Chicken soup
Dovga A yogurt based soup (matsoni) with sorrel, spinach, rice, dried peas, and small meatballs made from ground mutton; served hot or cold depending on the season.
Ovdukh A cold soup based on a matsoni–water mixture poured over sliced cucumbers, chopped boiled meat, quarters of hard-boiled egg, and greens (dill, coriander, basil, tarragon, and sometimes mint).
Dogramach Same as ovdukh, but without the meat.
Bolva Made with sour milk.
Dovga – yogurt soup with rice
Dogramaji (ovdug) – vegetable soup xolodny ayran
Dushbara – soup with small pelmeni (on the spoon it is placed from 8-10 pel’menis)
Kelle-pacha – a broth from the head and legs of a ram, as well as a mutton rumen
Piti – soup of lamb, potatoes and mutton peas
Soyutma from mutton
Toyug Shorbasy – chicken soup with rice and dried fruits
Hamrasi – noodle soup
Shilya – a mush of chicken and rice
Hash – Beef broth from the legs of beef
Types of plov
Plov is one of the most widespread dishes in Azerbaijan, with more than 40 different recipes. Plovs have different names depending on the main ingredients accompanying rice:
Kourma plov Mutton plov with onion
Chilov plov Bean plov with fish
Sabzi Qovurma plov Mutton plov
Toyug plov Chicken plov
Shirin plov Dried fruit plov
Syudli plov Rice cooked in milk
Sheshryanch plov Six-color plov, eggs cooked “sunny side up” on a bed of fried green and white onions.
Azerbaijani plov consists of three distinct components, served simultaneously but on separate platters: rice (warm, never hot), gara, fried meat, dried fruits, eggs, or fish prepared as an accompaniment to rice, and aromatic herbs. Rice is not mixed with the other components even when eating plov.
Distribution in Azerbaijan is made from rice, which is mainly used for cooking pilaf, numbering up to 50 species.
A great variety of dishes from meat. The most favorite meat is lamb. From fresh lamb and beef prepare basdyrm, from which they make shish kebab. The most common dish is piti and bozbash (thick mutton soup). Popular use of kufte bozbash (balls the size of an apple from chopped meat). Chopped mutton, dressed with rice and spices, wrapped in cabbage (this dish is called kelum dolmas), in salty and fresh grape leaves (dolmass yarpag), stuff eggplants and tomatoes. From the finely chopped lamb, mixed with onions and spices, prepare the lyule kabab. The most common dish from bird meat is chigarth.
Basturma – dried beef meat
Buglama from mutton
Beeham from beef
Jiz-byz – lamb-insides, fried with potatoes
Dolma from eggplant, tomato and pepper (“Badymdzhan Dolmasy”)
Dolma from eggplant with rice, peas and mint (“Daly-dolma”)
Dolma of grape leaves (“Yarpag dolmas”)
Dolma from cabbage leaves (“Calam Dolmasy”)
Dolma made of linden leaves (“Dolmasy’s Peb”)
Dolma from the bow (“Sogan dolmas”)
Dolma of fruit: quince and apple (“Ava dolmas” and “Alma Dolmasy”)
Dolma cucumber (Hiyar Dolmasy)
Kebab from vegetables
Gujrug kebab – from pieces of kurduk
Kyufta – stuffed meatballs
Arzuman-kyufta – meatballs from the back leg of lamb stuffed with a steep egg or butter
Tava kuftatsi – beef fried meatballs, fried in a frying pan
Tabriz kufta – lamb meatballs and beef stuffed with rice, dried apricots, albujara, raw eggs, greens and peas
Dishes from fish
The Azerbaijani cuisine uses fish species found in the Caspian Sea, especially kutum (kütüm), salmon (qızılbalıq), sturgeon (nərə) and herring (siyənək). Before the introduction of the moratorium on catching sturgeons and production restrictions, Azerbaijan produced more than 20 thousand tons of black caviar a year.
Buglama from fish
Dolma from fish
Kebab from fish
Guymag – sweet porridge made of toasted wheat flour
Gyurza – long-form pelmeni
Gyurza in Nakhichevan
Kutaby – stuffed bread
Kutaby with greens
Kutabs with meat
Kutaby from udder
Kutaba with pumpkin
Seeds halvasy – halva, cooked on the juice of germinated grains of wheat
Hashil – porridge of wheat flour with a meal (syrup from the boiled grape juice)
Firni – rice flour porridge
Yayma – fresh rice porridge
Chykhyrtma from eggplant
Chihyrtma from spinach
Sweet dishes and baking
Kyata – bread with sweet flour filling
Chicken – cookies from butter with jam
Mutaki – rolls with nut stuffing
Nan Azeri – sweet biscuits
Shekerbura – sweet pies with nut stuffing
Shor-gogal – a salty roll made of puff pastry with a filling of spices. It is also sweetened. Symbolizes the sun.
Zeyran – a large roll with yellow sugar filling from flour
In the diet of Azerbaijanis a significant place is occupied by bread. It is baked in various ways. In rural areas it was baked mostly on an iron slightly convex sage leaf. Widely baked bread was baked in tenders, which even nowadays exist in the districts and even the city centers of the republic. In the tenders baked mostly churek, often lavash. In spring and autumn, gutab is prepared – a kind of pies stuffed with meat and greens.
Tendir of the Kreraya
Various aromatic additives are present in many Azerbaijani dishes, but they do not dominate, adding the necessary flavor to the taste of the dish. Some of them are used in traditional drinks (see below).
See also: Azerbaijani tea culture
Typical Azerbaijani desserts are sticky, syrup-saturated pastries such as pakhlava and Shaki Halva. The former, a layer of chopped nuts sandwiched between mats of thread-like fried dough, is a speciality of Shaki in North-West Azerbaijan. Other traditional pastries include shakarbura (crescent-shaped and filled with nuts), peshmak (tube-shaped candy made out of rice, flour, and sugar), and girmapadam (pastry filled with chopped nuts).
Sweets are generally bought from a pastry shop and eaten at home or on special occasions such as weddings and wakes. The usual conclusion to a restaurant meal is a plate of fresh fruit that is in season, such as plums, cherries, apricots, or grapes.
In March 2009, Azerbaijani bakers achieved an entry in the CIS book of records for baking the biggest and heaviest pakhlava in the CIS, weighing about 3 tons. More than 7 thousand eggs, 350 kg of nuts, 20 kg of almonds, 350 kg of sugar, and the same amount of flour was used in the preparation of the pastry.
Pakhlava The name of this pastry is derived from its diamond shape, symbolizing fire, which is called pakhla by Azerbaijani carpet specialists. It is one of the festive sweets baked on the eve of the arrival of Spring- the Nowruz holiday to honour the sun.
Shekerbura Shekerbura (şəkərbura) is a popular Azerbaijani sweet pastry, filled with ground almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts. The ancient name for this crescent-shaped pastry is Sheker Burek, a Turkic word meaning ‘sweet patty’. In Azerbaijan, it usually involves the teamwork of relatives, friends and neighbors who congregate at someone’s home to make this. Nowruz delights. What really makes these look rather spectacular is the pattern on the dough produced by the traditional tweezers called maggash.
Samani halva Samani halva is made from malted wheat, and can be best described as a spicy, gooey, chewy treat. One samani halva tradition in Azerbaijan is to make halva communally, using flour from seven different homes.
Shor Gogal Another Novruz delicacy, Shor Gogal is a flaky pastry filled with turmeric, anise, caraway, cinnamon and black pepper. In ancient times, the yellow pastry represented the sun, while the crescent-shaped Shekerbura represented the moon. These rolls are time-consuming to prepare, but the process is not really complicated.
Guymag This is a simple, rich dessert, traditionally offered to women who have just given birth or to patients after surgery to keep their strength up. It is high in calories and easy to prepare. It is also served as a hot breakfast when the weather is cold.
Firni Firni is a dessert made from rice flour, which has a light texture and bland flavor, making it much lighter than British and North American baked rice puddings.
Badambura Badambura is slightly less sweet than pakhlava and has no honey so it is less sticky as well. It is filled with plain ground sugar, almonds (badam in Azeri language), cardamom and vanilla.
Different types of bread are baked in Azerbaijan like: flat, rolling, flat bread, lavash, səngək, xamralı, thick, thin, crepes, cakes, bread oven (tandoor bread).Tandoor bread is a type of bread baked in a clay oven called a tandoor. Mostly it is used for baking bread and cooking meat, but generally any type of food can be cooked in tandoor ovens. The secret of tandoor oven is process of heating up the oven. Wood is put on the ground and ignited. It is necessary to wait till it becomes glowing charcoal. By this moment the oven will reach temperatures of around 400*C. The food is basically cooked from the heat of the walls. High temperature ensures very fast cooking.In the Middle Ages, tandoor oven was one of the common facilities of the population lived in Old City (Icheri Sheher). This has been discovered during the archaeological excavations in different areas of Old City. During the meeting held in Ethiopia, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage decided to include lavash in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the organization.
Black tea is Azerbaijan’s national drink. Azerbaijani people usually prefer tea made in special equipment called samovar.
Ayran is a cold yogurt beverage mixed with salt.
An Azerbaijani sherbet (Azerbaijani: şərbət) is a sweet cold drink made of fruit juice mixed or boiled with sugar, often perfumed with rose water. Sherbets (not to be confused with sorbet ices) are of Iranian origin and they may differ greatly in consistency, from very thick and jam-like (as in Tajik cuisine) to very light and liquid, as in Azerbaijan. Sherbets are typically prepared in the following natural flavors:
Popularity and recognition
“The best cuisine I know in the world is Azerbaijani”. April 11, 2013 on the air of the radio ” Echo of Moscow ” the famous film director and KVNschik Yu. S. Gusman said: “Azerbaijani cuisine is the best cuisine. Chinese, Japanese, French, Georgian – a lot of good cuisines. But the Azerbaijani… “.
A fan of Azerbaijani cuisine is the popular Russian theater and film actor Andrei Chernyshov . “I tried a lot of different national dishes for my tour life, but it was this kitchen that made a strong impression on me. No one tastes as good as cooking lamb, as Azerbaijanis do “.
Source from Wikipedia