Armenian cuisine is diverse and varied. The nature of Armenia has rich flora and fauna, by which the diversity of Armenian cuisine and variety of dishes are conditioned. According to many investigators Armenian cuisine acted as a donor for other eastern nations’ cuisines.
The singularity of Armenian cuisine also lies in the fact that connected with geographical environment in different provinces the same dishes have different tastes and compositions.
The Armenians in general have both ritual and everyday cuisine. If the latest includes everyday dishes, the ritual one is unique and original. Each traditional holiday has its peculiar dishes. The diversity of cuisine just excludes the doubling of those dishes.
In the past the Armenians even had a regulated system of dishes, which means that each day of the year had its own regulated menu.
Nowadays the Armenian cuisine is famous for its lavash, different dishes made of corns, barbecue, tolma, harisa, khash, matsoun, tan, wine, fruit vodkas, cognac… In general, Armenians were the first to make semi-manufactures for winter. Thousands of years ago our ancestors subjected products to heat treatment and made semi-manufacture, like dhal (ghaurma). Armenia is the land of wine and beer industry. Even today in Armenian villages many dishes and tipples are made in old traditional ways.
The Armenian cuisine is notable for its diversity and balance. There are many kinds of salads, appetizers, soups. Both meat and vegetable dishes are on the same level.
Armenians are the only nation in the world that in their mythology had a God of hospitality, Vanatour. That is why our nation is famous for its hospitality and for abundant tables laid for guests. Nowadays guests can see both traditional dishes and cooks’ modern treatments in Armenian restaurants and villages as well. The Armenians also have a special culture for eating, which was formed thousands of years ago and passed from one generation to the other.
Every year “culinary holidays” are held in Armenia. Especially huge events and festivals are organized during almost every national holiday.
The barbecue festival in Akhtala town of Lori region, festival of tolma in Sardarapat memorial of Armavir region, Navasard-holiday of tonir held in Tsakhkunk village of Gegharkunik region, wine festival in village Areni of Vayoc Dzor region have become traditional.
By visiting Armenia you will be able not only to admire the values made by the Armenians, but also to taste Armenian dishes. The taste is forgotten the latest, is not it?
Khash is an Armenian ritual dish. It’s a hot soup.
The name of this dish «Khash: origins from Armenian verb «khashel» which means to boil. Khash has been prepared for mass, ritual events and friend parties. It’s a seasonal dish, usually prepared from September till April (on those months. It’s a heavy dish, and is stodgy during hot months.
In ancient times Armenians used to go for pilgrim with whole community and big groups. In order not to spend much time and resources to feed such a big number of pilgrims, they thought of preparing a dish, eating which once in the morning, will make the pilgrims surfeit, and will not cause necessity of preparing food during the day. Khash is a such kind of fish. When sacrificing animals in the temples, Armenians used to prepare Khash from the feet and sometimes even entrails of the animals.
However Khash has been served for the parties with friends. Especially, it was a custom, to serve Khash on the next morning of a wedding party.
In order to prepare khash, it is necessary to clean the feet of the animal (usually cow, seldom pork or sheep), to put under a flowing water for 12 hours, them boil for 10-12 hours by twice changing the water in the beginning. Serve with salt and garlic.
Armenians eat it in the morning. The other obligatory thing served with Khash are: radish, minced garlic, greens, pickles and dried lavash (Armenian traditional bread), which is spalled into the soup until it becomes thick, and then eat with spoon, or with hands. Vodka shall be drunk with Khash. There is a special rule of proposing toasts when eating Khash. In Armenian the order of toasts starts with Good Morning. On Khash party, the first toast is for the participants, the second one for those who prepared Khash, and the third one is for the reason of party, or for the specific festival, for which the Khash is served.
KHOROVATS (ARMENIAN BBQ)
KHOROVATS (ARMENIAN BBQ)
Nearly all people of the world make and eat barbeque. Hence, the Armenians give a special place to barbeque. Originally being the ceremonial/ritual dish, today it becomes already the design at every single holiday table of each Armenian family. Apart from the holiday dish, the Armenians treat barbeque to their beloved guests. The Armenians are one of those few nations, who have hospitality deity in the person of Vanatour, and “ The guest is the God’s guest” phrase is well known in Armenian folklore. Probably, the barbeque, in the terms of the animals sacrificing, later on as a ritual meat roasting, used to be dedicated to Vanatour God.
Nevertheless, many people of the world gave different names to barbeque, like shashlik in Russian, mtsvadi in Georgian, qyabab in Arabic, barbeque in English and so on. But these are mere dish names. Only the Armenians perceived barbeque or roasting as a thermally cooking special method. All the chefs of all over the World accept thermally cooking following methods: frying, steaming, stewing, boiling, baking, dry cure/smoking ( in the last case, the food on the whole has already been thermally processed). And only the Armenians perceived barbeque as a thermally processed separate method, and is being done only on an open fire.
The word «tolma» originates from Urartian word “uduli”, which means grapevine. The word “toil”, which means born from grape, also origins from “uduli”. In general, the traditional tolma is prepared with the grape leaf and lamb. Archaeological excavations proved that in Armenian highland from the ancient times, the most used meat was lamb. Then successively, they were using beef, goat, horseflesh and pork.
Usually when talking about the origin and the national identity of any dish, one should take into consideration 3 points: the origin of the name, utilization of that dish among the specific nation and the working tool, used to prepare the dish. We already talked about the origin of the name. Regarding the utilization, it is not a secret, that tolma is the one of the most favorite and popular dishes of all Armenians, and is a must dish of all festival menus. Tolma is also the formal component of Armenian identity.
There is no specific working tool, used to prepare tolma, but the cooking technology is complicated and nomadic nations couldn’t prepare it. Not to mention, that in order to get the main component of traditional tolma- the grape leaf, one shall get involved in agriculture. However the ancestors of our neighbors, being nomadic nations, could not do agriculture.
However, the culinary is not a static science, and during the centuries, it also has been developed. Due to geographic location and climatic conditions, there have been different types of tolma created. In Armenia, in the list of top 5 tolmas are: tolma with grape leaf, Ejmiatsin tolma (with cabbage and vegetables), Lent tolma, Yerevan tolma (almost same as Ejmiatsin tolma, with added quinces), Mush tolma, prepared with cut into small pieces meat and crushed wheat.
Ghapama is an Armenian ritual dish. It is mostly prepared for the New Year and the Easter. It is prepared for the festivals and parties, and is one of the obligatory dish of traditional Armenian wedding parties.
There are many ingredients used for preparing Ghapama. Those are rise, honey, dried fruits, raisins and nuts. All these shall be cooked together in advance. The nucleus of the pumpkin shall be removed carefully, not to damage the skin. The pumpkin then shall be stuffed with the rise with the staff, boiled in advance, and put into the oven or tondir.
Besides being a ceremonial dish, Harisa is also included into the daily menu of Armenian army. It is a cereal type dish prepared with meat (lamb or chicken) and groats.
Harisa is a ritual dish served on Navasard festival. It was served on the 1st of Navasard month (at present August 11), when Armenians were celebrating national holiday- The New Year. Harisa is also the daily dish in Armenian army, as it is very nutritious and has useful properties. The victories in Armenian army have been celebrated with Harisa. Up to now, Harisa is prepared in Mousaler community every year, to celebrate the victory on Turks on 1915 at Mount Mousa (Mousaler).
Besides the Navasard, Harisa has been prepared on other holidays and events as well; weddings, baptizing…. It is also often prepared and served in daily life.
The process of preparing Harisa is hard and time taking. Both the meat and the groats shall be washed gently and put together into the pan. Boil by stirring with a wooden spoon all the time, until getting a homogenous mass. So the name originates from this action of stirring all the time (hari-to stir, sa- this, stir this). Add a piece of butter when serving.
According to a legend, far back in 4th century, the first Armenian Catholicos- Grigorius the Illuminator, after the adoption of Christianity, organized a national holiday and personally prepared Harisa and served to the people.
In different regions of Armenia, the ways of preparation of Harisa vary. There is a famous type of Harisa- Qashika, which is prepared in tondir (Armenian oven) without stirring. There is a special meaning in this. Especially the New Year Qashika, shouldn’t be stirred, so that the New Year would go smoothly and peacefully.