Armenian cuisine wonderfully combines many diverse tastes and smells. It occupies its unique place in the mysterious Oriental cuisine. Various spices and greens, fish, dairy products form an inseparable part of the delicate Armenian cuisine.
Armenian cuisine dates back to the roots of Armenian nation. It combines the food and cooking techniques of both Eastern and Western Armenians now represented mostly by Armenian Diaspora. The traditions of Armenian culinary are over 2000 years old, and a person who has ever tasted Armenian cuisine never forgets the flavor of the food. The taste of Armenian traditional dishes relies on the freshness and quality of the food rather than spices. Nowadays Armenian cuisine is known throughout the world and loved, that's why many people abroad influenced by the Armenian Diaspora scattered all over the world learn the techniques of cooking and canning the food. The latter is an integral part of summer activity for Armenian housewives.
However, what makes the food especially delicious is that it is made with love, which is the main secret in culinary science. Another reason is that, despite the modern advanced technology, Armenians especially in rural areas prefer using a clay furnace called "tonir", which keeps the fragrance of fire in the food, thus making it unique and extremely tasty.
Meat is the integral part of our cuisine, which is the main product for the famous Armenian khorovats (barbeque), though it is also made of tomato, pepper and eggplant.
Armenian cuisine is rich in different types of fragrances. The major spices used in Armenian cuisine are: lemon, garlic, onion, thyme, basil, parsley, tarragon, paprika, cumin, coriander and bay leaves that are used in certain dishes.
For the sweet dishes cinnamon, vanilla, cloves are generally used.
Khash: it is a thick broth made on cow hooves and tripe. Traditionally men cook this dish all night long and eat it with dried lavash and pieces of garlic mainly in winter. The beginning of winter is considered to be khash season.
Spas: soup mainly made from tan (Armenian yoghurt drink) or sometimes from matsun (Armenian variety of plain yoghurt) with sour-cream
Katnov: rice boiled in milk, sometimes with sugar.
Dolma: minced meat with rice and spices rolled in cabbage leaves or in the leaves of grape vine
Khorovats (barbeque): grilled meat, mainly lamb or beef, chicken is also popular. Khorovats is the most popular Armenian dish. It is the “decoration” of all holiday tables, as well as a good fast food for a weary and hungry person.
Basturma: a highly seasoned air dried raw beef similar to pastrami
Sujukh: a spicy beef sausage called sujukh
Kufta: meatball comes in many types such as Hayastan kufta (meaning Armenian kufta), Ishli kufta etc.
Tjvjik: a dish of fried liver and kidneys with onions
Matsoun: a fermented milk product, very similar to yogurt
Tan: a sour milk drink prepared by diluting matsun with cold water
Kamats matsun: strained matsun, similar to and tastier than sour cream
Chechil panir (tel panir): string cheese similar to Georgian suluguni.
Lavash: a soft, thin flatbread, the staple bread of Armenian cuisine
Matnakash: soft and puffy leavened bread made of wheat flour and shaped into oval or round loaves
Choereg (or choreg “Armenian Easter bread”): braided bread formed into loaves also a traditional loaf for Easter
Jingyalov hats: traditional bread in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh). It is made of many types of local herbs in bread.
Ghapama: an Armenian stuffed pumpkin dish, often prepared during the holiday season. It is prepared by removing the guts of the pumpkin and stuffing it with boiled rice and a variety of dried fruits such as chopped almonds, apple, cornel, apricot, prunes and raisins
Alani: pitted dried peaches stuffed with ground walnuts and sugar
Anoushabour: dried fruits stewed with barley garnished with chopped almonds or
walnuts, a traditional Christmas pudding
Bastegh or pastegh: homemade fruit “leather”
Ttu lavash: thin roll-up sheets of sour plum puree (fruit leather)
Gata: an Armenian pastry, similar to a coffee cake. There are many variations of gata and typically specific towns or regions will have their own version. It can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes and may be decorated or left unadorned.
Nshkhar: bread used for Holy Communion
Mas: literally means "piece", a piece of leftover bread from making of Nshkhar, given to worshippers after church service
Matagh: a lamb or a rooster slated for sacrifice to God, a ritual which has continued from the pagan past. In many regions of Armenia today, this pagan-Christian synthesis is very much alive in the regular slaughter of chosen animals in front of churches.
Jermuk: a brand of mineral water from Jermuk area
Tarkhun soda: tarragon flavored drink
Tan: Armenian yoghurt drink may be still or carbonated. Tan is very useful in case of high arterial pressure.
Wine: Wine and grapes have for centuries been reserved in a significant place in social and economic life of Armenia. The oldest winery unearthed in the village of Areni proves the above mentioned fact.
We associate red wine with Jesus’ blood and the revival of Humanity. Holy Bible says Armenia is the place where the Humanity was granted the second birth on Mount Ararat: “Noah, the tiller of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within the tent." (Genesis 9:20-21)
Today due to our sun and favorable conditions for growing vines, Armenian viticulturists grow more than 200 sorts of vines. The majority of the sorts are typically Armenian such as Kishmish, Muskat, Haghtanak. The large list of sweet, semi-sweet, dry wines of grape as well as fruit wines made of cherry, quince, and pomegranate decorate every holiday table in Armenia. High content of sugar in Armenian grape varieties allows to produce high quality dessert wines.
Except wineries, we have a long tradition of making homemade wine of high quality.
Cognac: the fame of Armenian brandy is widely spread in the world. There are more than 10 cognac distillers in Armenia but the most famous brands are being produced by Yerevan Brandy Company.
An undocumented anecdote claims that during the Yalta Conference, Winston Churchill was so impressed with the Armenian brandy Dvin given to him by Joseph Stalin that he asked for several cases of it to be sent to him each year. Reportedly 400 bottles of Dvin were shipped to Churchill annually. This brandy was named in honour of the ancient capital Dvin, and was first produced in 1943.
Vodka: the most interesting thing is that despite of delicate and high quality brandy and wine, Armenians mostly use vodka.
That’s because the homemade vodka made of mulberry is even useful. The most famous type of vodka is Karahunj vodka made of mulberry. The homemade vodka is quite strong and unusual enough for someone not used to it. Mulberry vodka is the most favorite one, but grape and cornelian cheery vodkas are also widely used.