Azerbaijan: Culinary gateway to the East

The people of Azerbaijan love tea. Here's how they like to drink it

Posted: Jun 28, 2019 10:30 AM
Updated: Jun 28, 2019 10:30 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
Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 34°
Kokomo
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 34°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 29°
Fowler
Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 34°
Williamsport
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 34°
Crawfordsville
Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 34°
Frankfort
Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 34°
Delphi
Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 35°
Monticello
Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 35°
Logansport
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 30°
A few showers, then much warmer weather is ahead...
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1084488

Reported Deaths: 17386
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1425562217
Lake705171220
Allen64347862
Hamilton49481481
St. Joseph48135639
Elkhart39011536
Vanderburgh33874494
Tippecanoe29863271
Johnson26876463
Hendricks25548379
Porter24683380
Madison20440444
Clark19785275
Vigo18609308
LaPorte16638260
Monroe16237217
Delaware16230286
Howard16181310
Kosciusko13763162
Hancock12644184
Bartholomew12544188
Warrick11889189
Wayne11794264
Floyd11792225
Grant11484233
Morgan10134188
Boone9576120
Noble8921121
Henry8917163
Marshall8792146
Dearborn875798
Dubois8673138
Shelby7958127
Cass7907126
Lawrence7861182
DeKalb7416106
Jackson738093
Huntington7280107
Gibson6922118
Montgomery6830122
Harrison680696
Knox6779113
Steuben641185
Miami6384106
Whitley631160
Putnam626582
Clinton614176
Wabash5958108
Jasper591991
Jefferson5617102
Ripley540892
Adams527881
Daviess4964116
Scott475978
Wells462998
White459967
Greene458399
Clay452162
Decatur4491109
Jennings434666
Fayette429094
LaGrange413890
Posey398344
Washington380654
Randolph3770107
Fountain364962
Spencer353446
Fulton352270
Starke343672
Sullivan342454
Owen341676
Orange320270
Jay315450
Rush293332
Carroll287037
Franklin283544
Perry281453
Vermillion277557
Parke244930
Tipton244664
Pike241744
Blackford213944
Pulaski203158
Newton176552
Brown169850
Crawford167129
Benton160517
Martin149219
Switzerland143712
Warren131416
Union115416
Ohio90513
Unassigned0581

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