Azerbaijan: Culinary gateway to the East

In Azerbaijan, people love to grill. Here's how they barbecue, from preparing kebabs to making mangal salad

Posted: Jun 28, 2019 11:00 AM
Updated: Jun 28, 2019 11:00 AM

Azerbaijan's history with flavor goes back more than 2,000 years.

Poised between East and West, in a prime location on Silk Road routes, traders passed through here for centuries, bringing spices, ingredients and culinary influences.

Today, the cuisine of Azerbaijan has an Eastern edge, rubbing shoulders with dishes from its neighbors Iran and Turkey. The local takes on the kebab and pilaf are rich and satisfying, but there is also an abundance of fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables to be enjoyed.

Here's our guide to food and drink in Azerbaijan.

Tea

It might seem counterintuitive, but in the summer heat Azerbaijanis love to drink hot tea, which is believed to help the body cool off naturally.

Even amidst the country's blooming coffee culture, most Azerbaijanis still start their day with tea.

In the regions, tea is almost always prepared with keklikotu (oregano) or cinnamon and while the water is boiled on a samovar, heated by the burning tree branches, the water is infused with the unmistakable aroma of the woods.

Azerbaijani breakfast

While meal preparation may vary around the country, with local twists often added to the usual interpretation, breakfast is pretty identical in all part of the country.

A wide variety of colorful components orbit around the star of this show: freshly baked tandir bread.

Whether it's honey and qaymaq (a thick cream), goat's cheese, butter or scrambled eggs with tomato, the crispy bread is a welcome companion to all those food combinations.

When preparing scrambled eggs with tomato, the finely minced tomatoes are fried first, until the pan's sizzling with juice. Only then are the eggs added, and the dish is taken off the stove with a consistency more liquid than regular scrambled eggs.

Served in a small pan, the dish is eaten by dipping the tandir bread into the savory combination of egg and tomato. The saltless goat cheese on the side is there to take down some of the saltiness and balance out the palette.

Alternatively, kuku is a pie-looking omelette, a great option for those who like greens. Fresh coriander, dill and green onions are finely minced and mixed with five or six eggs and then fried in the pan until crispy.

Qutab

When it comes to street food, Azerbaijan is well-known for doners -- Turkish-style meat sandwiches -- but qutabs are a lighter option.

Made in lavash (a thin flatbread), the classic qutab is filled with minced meat; the vegetarian version may include pumpkin or fresh herbs such as spinach, cilantro, onions and dill, folded in a moon shape and fried on a flat pan without oil.

The soft-centered and crispy-edged qutabs are then sprinkled with sumac, the bright berry-colored tangy spice, and fresh pomegranate seeds (when in season). Both meat and herb qutabs are served with ayran, a foamy sour milk mixed with water and salt. For true gourmands there is also a smaller-sized variation of qutab filled with minced camel meat, called jorat qutab.

Mangal salad

Particularly deserving of attention among salads is mangal salad, the name originating from the way the main ingredients -- eggplant, bell pepper and tomato -- are roasted on a mangal, a Caucasian-style grill.

After the roasted vegetables are chopped, onions, cilantro, dill, olive oil and purple basil -- a specialty in Azerbaijan -- are added and mixed together. The salad is usually served cold as a side to the meat kebab and is believed to help with the digestion of the heavy meats.

Dovgha

This sour milk-based soup, which can be served both hot and cold depending on the season, also contains rice, a handful of chick peas and a variety of finely minced greens.

While it's straightforward in terms of ingredients, the preparation requires the chef to constantly stir the ingredients to stop the rice from sticking.

Levengi chicken

Levengi chicken may resemble a standard grilled chicken on the outside, but it hides a delicious secret.

Inside, the stuffing consists of fried onions, roasted walnuts, raisins, dried plums, dried pitted Cornelian cherries are all minced and mixed into a paste. The richness of the walnuts and the tanginess of the plums make it a must-try combination.

Levengi stuffing can also be used in fish.

Dolma

While Azerbaijani culinary books are abundant with a variety of dolmas, yarpaq, (grape leaf) and uch baji (three sisters) are the two most noteworthy.

The first -- made from minced meat wrapped in grape leaves and cooked on a slow fire -- is served with qatiq (plain natural yoghurt) and garlic.

The uch baji version consists of the trio of aubergine, tomato and bell pepper, stuffed with minced meat and prepared in their own juices. It's very common to include qatiq with dishes that are on the heavier side, since its probiotic properties support digestion.

Dessert

Azerbaijan's most beloved pastries are traditionally baked during March, the month of the Novruz spring festival.

Pakhlava, a diamond-shaped pastry found across the Middle East, is among the favorites.

The Azerbaijani version, especially the Sheki variety, tends to be softer and oilier than other versions.

Shorgoghal, a flaky spice-filled crispy bread, can be made sweet (with white sesame seeds at the top) or savory and salty (with black sesame seeds at the top).

Shirin chorek, sweet bread filled with nuts and dried grapes, is another top pick.

Walnut preserve is perhaps one of the most surprising Azerbaijani desserts served with tea.

Collected from the trees while still green and soft, the walnuts slowly darken during the preparation process, finishing up a very dark brown. The texture of the nut and the sweetness of the syrup makes it a highly memorable delicacy.

Finally, the most unusual combination of foods the country looks forward to all year has to be watermelon, goat cheese (the saltier the better) and tandir bread.

Although they may look, and sound, like the most outrageous foods to combine, there's no way back once you try them together.

West Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 42°
Kokomo
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 37°
Rensselaer
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 39°
Fowler
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 42°
Williamsport
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 41°
Crawfordsville
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 41°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 37°
Delphi
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 35°
Monticello
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 35°
Logansport
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 38°
Windy & warm weather will give way to cooler conditions & rainfall...
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1107189

Reported Deaths: 17621
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1446032234
Lake718651243
Allen66280881
Hamilton50567487
St. Joseph49217645
Elkhart39818546
Vanderburgh34458496
Tippecanoe30484274
Johnson27431465
Hendricks26064382
Porter25355386
Madison20880450
Clark20071278
Vigo18905309
LaPorte17019261
Howard16577313
Delaware16575299
Monroe16463220
Kosciusko14118166
Hancock12984185
Bartholomew12813190
Warrick12113190
Wayne11987268
Floyd11939226
Grant11845241
Morgan10324191
Boone9770121
Noble9181122
Henry9093167
Marshall9002147
Dearborn8900100
Dubois8778139
Shelby8178129
Cass8099127
Lawrence7989184
DeKalb7693108
Jackson758393
Huntington7548111
Gibson7045118
Montgomery6986123
Harrison6905100
Knox6884115
Steuben661988
Miami6530111
Whitley651460
Putnam638384
Clinton622177
Wabash6137111
Jasper607392
Jefferson5760104
Ripley553093
Adams537981
Daviess5042117
Scott485780
Wells4787103
White472869
Greene4661100
Clay460562
Decatur4576110
Jennings445767
Fayette442894
LaGrange423190
Posey405444
Randolph3872107
Washington387056
Fountain370464
Fulton361673
Spencer359247
Starke351574
Owen349677
Sullivan346654
Orange326572
Jay323950
Rush304332
Carroll291839
Franklin289544
Perry287153
Vermillion282058
Tipton249465
Parke248530
Pike245544
Blackford219744
Pulaski207559
Newton180652
Brown174250
Crawford168329
Benton165517
Martin152119
Switzerland146812
Warren133916
Union120516
Ohio92113
Unassigned0588

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events