Armenian Cuisine

The preparation of meat, fish, and vegetable dishes in an Armenian kitchen requires much stuffing, boiling, and pureeing. Lamb, eggplant, yoghurt, and flatbread (Lavash) are basic features of Armenian cuisine. Armenians use cracked wheat (burghul), in preference to the maize and rice popular among their Caucasian neighbours.

One of the main dishes of a traditional Armenian dinner table is “Tolma”. Primarily it was made by wrapping grape leaves around a centre mixture and was originally called “udul”. The name derives from Urartian word udul which means, 'leaf of grape'. Similar to Dolma (the Greek variety) any true Armenia will say their version is superior.

The Ararat valley is considered, by some,  to be as a cradle of vineyards and consequently tolmas evolved. The festival of Tolma is held in the Ararat Valley near the Sardarapat Ethnographic Museum, on or about the 10th of July. Armenians claim up to 60 varieties of Toma and you can be sure to taste many of them during such a festival  Recent years on the 10th of July Armenians are exhibiting the 60 types of Tolma. From 2014 the festival will be coincide with the annual “Golden Apricot” Film Festival.

Cheese, herbs and lavash (traditional bread) are the prime components of the Armenian table. Armenians worldwide long for traditional lavash.

Lavash is baked in what is known as a ‘toneer’ which is a round shaped clay oven set into the ground. Lavash has an oval shape and is 2 to 3 mm thick. Armenians use lavash to wrap up herbs, cheese, khorovats and other of food.

Alexander Dumas was very impressed with the Armenian khorovats (BBQ) during his trip to Caucasus. He recommended his French friends to sample it. The meat is specially chosen, marinated and then cooked on metal skewers. A whole lamb or goat can be stuffed with rice or cracked wheat and hung in a toneer oven.

Another famous dish of the Armenian traditional cuisine is kyuftah which is prepared from minced veal. Dolma (Tolma) is prepared from ground meat which is wrapped up either in grape leaves or cabbage. In summer they also use eggplants, tomatoes and peppers as the case to stuff. Grape leaf dolma is served with madzoun and garlic. 

Armenian cuisine has a few dishes related to the winter season using smoked meat and fish. One of the most popular winter dishes is Ghavurma which is fried veal or lamb cooked inside terracotta jars under a soil cover.

From ancient times Armenian Cuisine is famous for its fish dishes. Lake Sevan is especially known for local varieties, Ishkhan, Bakhtak, Sig, Beghlu and Koghak.

Madzun (yogurt) is an indispensable item on an Armenian table. Madzun is used for making Spas and Tanapur (traditional soups) and to marinate meat.

Armenia is famous for its fruit - pomegranates, apricots, grapes, peaches, pears and figs. Armenians are superb winemakers and aside from traditional wine from grapes they make a Pomegranate wine. In addition, Armenian cognac has been world famous for many years. Winston Churchill was known to be fond of an Armenian tipple!

Here are some other typical Armenian dishes:

Harisa – porridge made of wheat and sodden fibered chicken

Basturma – dried beef in spicy covering (caraway, garlic, red pepper)

Dolma (or tolma) – ground meet wrapped in grape leafs

Qufta – tender meat balls made of stewed beef

Lavash – national unleavened wheat bread

Zhengyalov Hats - a baking stuffed with greens, typical for Republic of Nagorno Karabagh

Lahmajo – patties with ground meat, tomato sauce and pepper

Spas – soup made of tan (yogurt) and wheat

Sujukh – thin dried sausage

Ghaurma – boiled and fried meat, covered with butter

Khash – national soup made of macerated beef shins

Khashlama – boiled beef in broth

Khorovats – barbeque

BBQ Food Festival

Akhtala city, which is located in Lori region, has become the centre of attention for many people who love to eat Armenian food, especially the barbeque (khorovats).

The day is special as there is a chance to see in how many different ways Armenians BBQ their food. Translated from Armenian you have, “Barbeque in the fireplace”, “Barbeque on the horizontal bar”, “Barbeque in the hole” (shepherd barbeque), “Barbeque in ground oven”, etc. Visitors to the festival will get an opportunity not only to taste the food, but also attend concerts of Armenian folk songs and dances.

About 15 restaurants will participate in the festival this year. One of the purposes is to make this region attractive for tourists. There are many cultural and historical monuments around Akhatala.

Venue: Akhtalla, Lori Region

Date: 7, 8 and 9 September each year plus or minus a day

Competitions for "The best taste", "The best look", "The best idea", "The best traditional barbeque".