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You are watching: What Is Armenian Food
Armenian food is one of the most unique and traditional cuisines in the world. It has a wide range of dishes rich in flavor, prepared using techniques dating back thousands of years.
Join us on a culinary adventure through Armenia as we take a closer look at 25 dishes, appetizers, desserts, and drinks that will make your tastebuds tingle!
Armenian Food Introduction
Armenia recently made Forbes list of the ’10 underrated destinations to visit in 2020′. As more people visit Armenia, more will experience its diverse cuisine.
Each and every dish reflects a certain history of ancient Armenia, showing just how skilled Armenians were – and still are – in making bread, kebab, and other delicious recipes that require some serious techniques.
Armenia is a landlocked, former Soviet Union country bordering Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran.
Influenced by traders and conquers from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Eastern Europe, its cuisine features locally grown fresh ingredients that bring out a distinguished and unforgettable taste.
If you ever find yourself feasting with an Armenian family on home-cooked meals, you’ll see the table filled with a large variety of colorful dishes.
These dishes commonly contain vegetables (eggplants mostly), grains, and herbs.
There’s also an abundance of meat such as lamb, beef, veal, and pork as a result of ancient cattle breeding on the territory of modern Armenia.
No meal is ever complete without Lavash – a delicious flatbread, which is one of the essentials!
Make sure to stop by and enjoy the most delicious healthy snacks you’ll ever taste. Dried fruit is an Armenian food staple, that’s for sure.
Delicious Armenian Foods To Try
Here are the 25 most famous Armenian foods and drinks passed down from generation to generation.
1 – Dolma
Dolma is a delicious Armenian food consisting of minced meat and spiced rice wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves.
It requires some patience as the leaves are first carefully boiled and dried. The filling is a mixture of minced beef, onions, rice, and tomato paste.
For extra taste, fresh parsley, coriander, and dill are chopped and added.
After kneading the stuffing (usually done with hands to feel the texture), the dolmas are rolled up and filled, placed in a pan with some water, and cooked over a low flame.
They are often served together with matsun, a fermented milk yogurt, mixed with garlic.
2 – Boerag
A classic Armenian food, boerags are flaky puff pastries filled with a range of cheeses.
Whether homemade or store-bought, some people prefer puff pastry, while others swear by filo (phyllo) dough.
The former is softer and thicker, whereas the latter is lighter and crisper. It is also more delicate.
The dough is cut into small squares and filled with a mixture of feta, kashkaval, ricotta, and egg. Finally, it is baked or fried to golden perfection!
3 – Topik
Topik is best described as chickpea dumplings. It has a rich and diverse taste, and it is one of Armenia’s culinary delights.
The dough is made of cooked chickpeas, potatoes, tahini, with a dash of salt and sugar to balance the taste.
As with most Armenian recipes, there are different variations of the filling.
The most common filling consists of minced onions, dried blackcurrants, pine nuts, stirred tahini, along with cinnamon, sugar, salt, and ground pimento (allspice).
The dumplings are boiled and drained, to be served cold or at room temperature.
4 – Lavash
Lavash is referred to as the king of the Armenian breads, and it is a must-try Armenian food.
It is the traditional and national flatbread. You’ll commonly find it served on most Armenian dinner tables.
Despite the simplicity of its ingredients, basically consisting of wheat flour and water, the preparation of lavash requires great skill and effort.
The dough is first rolled into thin layers and stretched over an oval cushion. It is then slapped against the walls of tonir – an oven in the form of a deep round hole in the ground – to be baked for less than a minute.
These flatbreads are the bedrock of Armenian cuisine. They pair well with so many sides and meat fillings.
5 – Zhingyalov hats
Zhingyalov hats are a traditional fried flatbread from Artsakh, located in the southeast of the Armenian Highlands.
The dough, which is made of flour and sour cream, is filled with seasonal greens such as cilantro, parsley, spring onions, dill, spinach, lettuce, and beet tops.
It is then fried on a dry pan for about 5 minutes until both sides are golden. Zhingyalov is a great food to try in Armenia from street vendors.
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6 – Basturma
Basturma is an air-dried cured beef that looks like Italian bresaola. It is a popular delicacy, especially among the Armenian diaspora.
The main ingredients include beef or lamb filet, fenugreek powder (shaiman), allspice, cumin, turmeric, and red pepper.
It is usually bought from shops that serve basturma as a sandwich in a baguette, commonly with pickles and onions.
Making it at home will take more than two weeks, due to the drying process. However, this Armenian food is certainly worth the wait.
7 – Harissa
Harissa is a historical Armenian food that symbolizes the courage of Armenians during the Ottoman rule.
It is a filling dish made with two simple ingredients: peeled wheat and meat or chicken.
Cooking requires at least 4-5 hours. This is because the mixture is stirred until all the chicken or meat has dissolved together with the wheat.
Once the consistency is thick, like porridge, it is served with melted butter on top. This is an utterly delicious Armenian comfort food, eaten throughout the country.
8 – Khash
Khash is a festive soup dish, made especially during the wintertime. It’s an Armenian food that soothes the stomach.
The name itself comes from the Armenian word ”khashel”, which means ”to boil”.
This is because its preparation requires boiling parts of cow or sheep, including the head, feet, and stomach.
Dried lavash is crumbled into the broth and served for – believe it or not – breakfast!
Khash is a truly unique food of Armenian culture, and very much a delicacy to try if you ever visit.
9 – Manti
Manti is one of those Armenian dishes that will make you come back for more. It is a dish of tiny little boats of dough, filled with meat.
The dough filling mainly includes ground lamb or beef, shredded onion, and parsley.
The mantis are roasted in an oven until golden. Red pepper and tomato paste are then mixed with water and used to baste the manti.
Finally, the dish is reinserted in the oven until the sauce is absorbed completely. This leaves you with an Armenian food rich in flavor and texture in abundance.
The dish is served with yogurt and garlic. It is so good, and a must-try Armenian dish.
10 – Lahmacun
Lahmacun is essentially an ”Armenian Pizza”. It is one of the country’s most loved comfort foods, and it is one you absolutely need to try.
The dough base is round and usually very thin. It is topped with sautéed minced beef, finely chopped onions, garlic, and peeled crushed tomatoes.
The dough is then baked in the oven until the crust is crispy. It is served with mint leaves and lemon, which must be squeezed on top of the dough before the first bite!
The combination of the crispy bread and the spicy beef make this an Armenian food with incredible flavor.
11 – Gata
Gata or ”kata’” is a sweet bread that can be found in different shapes, sizes, and decorations, depending on which Armenian town or region you are visiting.
This delicious mildly-sweet desert consists of a dough made of milk, heavy cream and eggs, and a filling of basically sugar and butter.
Gata is baked all year round and on every single important holiday in Armenia. It is a food loved by Armenians all over the country.
12 – Ghapama
This is an Armenian food that even has a song in its honor! Ghapama is a pumpkin dish very dear to the hearts of many Armenian families.
To make it, a medium-sized pumpkin is filled with cooked rice, dried fruit, raisins, chopped nuts, cinnamon, and sugar or honey, and it is then baked until tender.
It can even be enjoyed as a dessert, commonly served on New Year’s Eve and Armenian Christmas – which is on January 6th.
13 – Tjvjik
Considered a delicacy in some Armenian villages, tjvjik is a dish of fried beef liver. It is cooked with a large number of onions that are spiced and seasoned with salt and pepper.
The significance of this Armenian food in the country is reflected in a 1962 Soviet Armenian short movie.
Tjvjik is a very unique Armenian food that is difficult to find. But if you can befriend locals, they will know places to find it.
14 – Sujuk (Churchkhela)
Churchkhelas are sausage-shaped candy bars made from walnuts, strung on long strings, and thickly coated in fruit syrup.
The main ingredients are grape, apricot, pomegranate, and nuts. It is often eaten as a snack or dessert, and it has a rich and fruit-infused taste.
This Armenian food is considered healthy, as it is low in sodium and contains no bad fats or cholesterol.
15 – Armenian Eggplant
Armenian eggplant is a simple and flavorsome vegetarian Armenian dish. Many consider it a salad, but it can also be eaten as an appetizer or side dish.
Unlike most Armenian recipes, its preparation is quite simple. First, eggplant slices are fried until they turn golden brown.
A yogurt mixture consisting of sour cream, thick yogurt, grated garlic, chopped walnuts, is then spread on the eggplant slices.
Finally, these slices are rolled and garnished with pomegranate seeds and chopped dill. This is a rich and wholesome food to try in Armenia.
16 – Shashlik and Kebab Assortment
These Armenian style mouthwatering lamb kebabs are cooked with skewers on a grill, and they are truly delicious.
The lamb is cut into bite-size pieces and marinated overnight with onion, thyme, basil, and other herbs.
There are many variations, and you can try these kebabs from restaurants and street vendors across Armenia.
Some Armenian chefs don’t even marinate the meat! But one thing is for sure – making juicy shashlik that is grilled to perfection requires a lot of practice.
17 – Armenian Bulgur Salad
Armenian bulgur salad, called ‘’Itch’’ or ‘’Eech’’, is similar to the Lebanese tabbouleh. This refreshing and delicious grain salad can be enjoyed both for lunch and as a side dish.
It is made by sautéeing garlic, onions, green pepper, and tomatoes, then mixing the ingredients with cooked bulgur.
Once cooled, lemon juice is added, and the dish is then topped with green onion and fresh parsley.
18 – Kchuch
Kchuch is a rich meat and vegetable stew. It is cooked in a traditional Armenian clay pot called ”kchuch”, hence its name.
Usually, it is made of a combination of seasoned pieces of lamb meat, and chopped vegetables such as onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
The dish is finished with garlic, spices, and herbs, all drizzled with some robust Armenian wine. It is a simple but truly delicious dish of Armenian cuisine.
19 – Armenian Coffee
Millions of Armenians drink coffee at least three times a day; during breakfast, after lunch, dinner. And they certainly drink it when a visitor comes over for a quick chat.
You’ll find traditional Armenian coffee in every single restaurant and coffee shop.
If you’d like to make some at home, simply simmer dark roast coffee, finely ground, using a jezve over medium to high heat.
It is a rich and delicious beverage, and it fuels a nation of Armenians every single day.
20 – Chikofte – Armenian Steak Tartare
Among many US-based Armenians, this dish is often referred to as the ‘Armenian steak tartare.’
“Chikofte’’ are meatballs made of ground lamb, beef, or goat, mixed with bulgur, onions, spices, and tomato or pepper paste.
The meatballs are then topped with lemon and olive oil. Finally, they are served alongside a fresh mixture of chopped tomato, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper.
This is a truly unique Armenian food that is worth tasting, that’s for sure!
21 – Kefir
Kefir, also known as ”tan”, is a beverage made of fermented milk, similar to yogurt.
It is very popular among local Armenians. This thick beverage is seen as a tasty treat, especially on hot summer days.
Armenians in Lebanon always drink this when eating a lahmacun (number 10). It is a delicious Armenian treat for all the family to enjoy.
22 – Fasulya / Lobahashu – Bean Soup
Fasulya/lobahashu is a dried bean soup, served mostly during wintertime. The dish originates from Lori, an Armenian province bordering Georgia in the north.
The main ingredient is dried red kidney beans. These rich beans are cooked, mashed, and stirred with a tomato and pepper paste mixture.
Once the consistency is thick, spices, herbs, garlic, and walnuts are added. The dish is commonly served with bread, and is definitely not your average soup!
23 – Armenian Lentil Kofte (Vospov Kofte)
Vospov kofte is ideal for vegetarians visiting Armenia. It is very light, nutritious, and simple to make at home.
Vosbov kofte is essentially a patty made of red lentil and burghul. Both ingredients are separately cooked and then mixed with sautéed onions, butter, and salt.
Once cool, the mixture is kneaded with wet hands until well mixed. The dish is usually served alongside a refreshing summer salad, with a generous helping of cumin.
24 – Armenian Rice Pilaf
You’d think that it won’t be necessary to mention a dish as simple as rice in this list, but think again! Nothing ever too simple when it comes to Armenian recipes.
Armenians love to inject plenty of spice and flavor into even the most basic foods. Armenian rice pilaf is very much testament to this.
This creamy and rich rice dish is simple enough to make. First, you melt butter in a saucepan and stir in vermicelli until golden brown.
Once the base is ready, you add rice to the mixture, along with chicken broth and bouillon cubes.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed: Yummy!
25 – Dried Fruits
Armenians are well known for naturally drying all sorts of fruits. Figs, prunes, peaches, apricots, cherries, and plums, are just some of many fruits enjoyed by Armenians.
Drying fruits is a long-time tradition, and it’s all about quality. In the capital of the country, Yerevan, you’ll find dried fruit stands at almost every corner.
Armenian Food Summary
And that brings us to the conclusion of our guide to Armenian food. From appetizers to desserts, together we’ve covered a wide range of delicious Armenian dishes.
All these foods bring their unique flavor and fascinating history to the table in a variety of forms.
Armenia has a deep connection with food. It is an important part of the country’s culture.
Armenian food is alive with spice, heat, and flavor. It perfectly sums up the flair, passion, and love Armenians have for their food and culture.
So, before we go, one final time here’s the full list of all foods covered in the article.
Be sure to have this list of Armenian food handy when you visit, so that you can try one or more of these delicious foods from a street vendor, at a restaurant, or from a bakery.
1 – Dolma2 – Boerag3 – Topik 4 – Lavash5 – Zhingyalov Hats6 – Basturma 7 – Harissa8 – Khash9 – Manti10 – Lahmacun 11 – Gata12 – Ghapama13 – Tjvjik14 – Sujuk (Churchkhela)15 – Armenian Eggplant16 – Shashlik and Kebab Assortment 17 – Armenian Bulgur Salad18 – Kchuch19 – Armenian Coffee20 – Cig Kofte21 – Kefir22 – Fasulya / Lobahashu23 – Armenian Lentil Kofte (Vospov Kofte)24 – Armenian Rice Pilaf25 – Dried Fruits
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Contributor: Narod Haroutunian is an Armenian designer and content writer, living in Lebanon. She has written for various publications on a number of political and cultural topics, and is eager to share more Armenian cuisine and culture through her writing.
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