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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.
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.
Azerbaijani cuisine has a number of light snacks and side dishes to open or accompany the main meals: a plate of aromatic green leaves called goy, pieces of chorek (bread), choban (a tomato and cucumber salad), and sometimes white cheese or qatik (sour yogurt). Cold snacks are generally served separately from the drinks.
Main dishes may include a selection of the following:
|Balıq||Fish, usually sturgeon, normally skewered and grilled as a kebab, is served with a tart sour-plum sauce.|
|Dolma||The traditional recipe calls for minced lamb mixed with rice and flavoured with mint, fennel, and cinnamon, and wrapped in vine leaves (yarpaq dolması) or cabbage leaves (kələm dolması). There are also sour sweet cabbage dolma (turş şirin kələm dolması) and eggplant dolma (qarabadımcan dolması).|
|Badımcan Dolması||Tomato, sweet pepper, and aubergine stuffed with minced lamb mixed with chickpeas.|
|Dushbara||Small dumplings stuffed with minced lamb and herbs, served in broth.|
|Lavangi||stuffed chicken or fish with onions, walnuts, raisins, albukhara and alcha seasoning. A speciality of the Talysh region in southern Azerbaijan, but very difficult to find common in restaurants.|
|Lyulya kabab||A mixture of mutton, herbs, and spices squeezed around a skewer and barbecued, often served with lavash (thin sheets of unleavened bread).|
|Qutab||A sort of pancake turnover stuffed with minced lamb, cheese, or spinach.|
|Tika kabab||Chunks of lamb marinated in a mixture of onion, vinegar, and pomegranate juice, impaled on a large skewer and grilled on the barbecue. In Russian, it is called shashlyk (шашлык), from Turkic shishlyk (literally, "for skewer").|
|Qovurma||Pieces of mutton or lamb on the bone (blade chops) stewed with onions, tomatoes, and saffron. There is also sabzi qovurma, a lamb stew with herbs.|
|Sogan dolmasi||The term dolma covers a variety of stuffed vegetable dishes, widespread in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Onion dolma are a tasty winter alternative to stuffed aubergines, tomatoes, and peppers.|
|Bastirma||The word "Bastir" comes from the Turkish: bastırma et ("pressed meat"), pastırma [pastɯɾˈma] in modern Turkish. It's cooked as a kebab, but before cooking it should be marinated in special sauce and herbs.|
|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.|
|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.
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.
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:
Locally made brands of bottled water include the following:
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