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Cuisine and Cooking: Traditional Azerbaijani Dishes

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Azerbaijani cuisine is a reflection of the country’s rich culture and history. It is largely influenced by the various civilizations that have flourished in the region, including Persian, Turkish, and Central Asian traditions. This mouth-watering cuisine features a variety of flavors and spices, utilizing fresh ingredients that result in delectable dishes. Let’s explore some of the traditional dishes that make Azerbaijani cuisine unique.

Plov
Defined as a rice dish that is seasoned with herbs, spices, and typically combined with meat, dried fruits, and nuts. Plov, often referred to as the crown of Azerbaijani cuisine, is not merely a staple but a ceremonial meal as well.
At the wedding, they served a rich and aromatic plov garnished with apricots and raisins.

Dovga
This is a traditional yogurt soup cooked with a mixture of herbs and sometimes rice or chickpeas. It can be served hot or cold and is particularly popular in the summer months.
On that hot July afternoon, the cold dovga was a refreshing and soothing appetizer.

Qutab
Qutab are thin pancakes that are filled with ingredients like minced meat, spinach, pumpkin, or cheese and then folded, giving them a crescent shape. They are typically cooked on a flat skillet and often served with a sprinkle of sumac on top.
I couldn’t get enough of the crispy qutab stuffed with savory ground lamb.

Kebab
Kebabs in Azerbaijani cuisine are made from chunks of meat, commonly lamb or beef, skewered and grilled over an open flame. Seasoned to perfection, they are a popular dish in Azerbaijani restaurants and street food scene.
The scent of chargrilled kebab from the street vendor was irresistible.

Dolma
Dolma refers to vine leaves stuffed with a tantalizing mixture of rice, meat, and herbs. This dish is also made using vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants filled with the same stuffing.
For dinner, we had a flavorful plate of dolma accompanied by a tangy yogurt sauce.

Baklava
Baklava is a sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with honey or syrup. It is a widely enjoyed dessert in Azerbaijani celebrations.
The crunchy, sweet layers of baklava were the perfect end to our Azerbaijani feast.

Sheki Halva
A unique variant of halva that hails from the town of Sheki, it’s a multi-layered pastry filled with nuts, syrup, and spiced with cardamom or saffron. It’s a rich and complex dessert representing the sweet side of Azerbaijani cuisine.
When visiting Azerbaijan, make sure to try some authentic Sheki halva; its taste is simply unforgettable.

In conclusion, Azerbaijani dishes are a true testament to the country’s diverse and storied culinary landscape. From savory plov and succulent kebabs to sweet, syrupy baklava and the distinctive Sheki halva, the gastronomy of Azerbaijan offers an array of flavors to entice your palate. Whether you’re enjoying these dishes in the comfort of your home or traveling through Azerbaijan, each bite gives you a deeper appreciation for this vibrant culture.

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