Armenian food is the staple cuisine that is cooked in Armenia as well as the Armenian Diaspora. Armenian Food has had several strong influences from the Mediterranean, Caucasus and Eastern European, Balkan and Middle Eastern cultures.
Historical and Cultural Influences on Armenian Cooking
Armenian food was invaded first by the Assyrians followed by the Persians. The tiny country was invaded by Alexander the Great, resulting in a Greek variant that was also incorporated. The major influence on Armenian recipes was by the Armenian King Tiridates III who converted to Christianity. This made Armenia the only Catholic state surrounded on all sides by Moslems. This fact also influenced food to a large extent. Pork was not cooked at all and there are no pork dishes in the Armenian repertoire just for this reason. This cultural influence also has shown up in the regular use of cracked wheat in dishes in direct contrast to wheat, maize and rice that is predominantly used in its neighboring Caucasian states of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Ingredients Commonly Used in Armenian Cooking
Pork is not used at all in Armenian cuisine but there is an extensive use of lamb and chicken. Dried fruits and nuts like apricots, dates, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts and cashews and fresh fruits like quince, apples, and oranges are more commonly used in cooking and in desserts. Pickled vegetables and meats are common. Spices are used sparingly and consist of mainly garlic, mint, red pepper, tarragon, rosemary, cumin, coriander, dill and other locally available spices. Chefs usually cook the meat or vegetables in the sauce of tomato, yoghurt, tahini, or pepper creating a thick stew. Small appetizers are common in the form of mezze which are an Arabian influence. Grilled meats and breads are common along with dips like tahini and hung curd.
Armenian Recipes and Cooking Methods Adopted by Armenian Cuisine
In the summer months, all fresh vegetables and fruits are available. Skewered meat was served with dips and flattened bread called as lavash. Mahdzoon or hung curd was a staple with food. It is used as a dip, as gravy, as a garnish or simply as a salad dressing. Preserved meat or kavourma are cooked and stored in a thick layer of fat.
Traditional Cuisine Recipes for Armenian Food
It’s very rare to find an Armenian cookbook. Most recipes for Armenian food are passed down from parent to child and it’s not unusual to find a large number of variations in a recipe. Traditional Armenia dishes that are usually found are as follows-
- Lahmajoun is a thin crust pizza with a minced meat topping
- Chechil is braided string cheese that is usually served with Lavash or flat bread.
- Caviar, trout or whitefish is commonly used as soups and curries.
- Cucumber jajukh is a good cold soup that is eaten all over the state. Several variations are used all over the state.