Bordering Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the region of South Caucasus is a haven for those who travel to eat.
In this gastro guide, local expert Anush Bichakhchyan from Georgia shares her tips on how eat your way around this truly unique European foodie destination.
Tip: If you are keen to explore new exotic tastes and cannot imagine your travel without exciting gastronomic experience, we’d highly recommend you combine your Caucasus trip with a tour through Central Asia – such as this delicious travel option here. You’ll have a real gastronomic explosion!
Traditional Armenian Dishes
Armenian cuisine is one of the most ancient in the South Caucasus region. Nutritious meat dishes prevail here. This fact has а historical explanation: in ancient times Armenians had to survive cold winters high in the mountains thus they had to prepare high-calorie satisfying meals. But nonetheless, there are some great dishes for vegetarians as well.
Read on to discover some of the must-try dishes of Armenia.
Khash is a thick Caucasian soup made with cow feet. There is an interesting story related to the origin of this dish. They say that in medieval Armenia the nobility used to throw their unwanted leftovers out, much to the poor villagers’ delight. They would steal these leftovers and cook them overnight, resulting in a thick and nourishing broth. And it’s this that became khash soup – the national dish!
Armenians tend to eat khash early in the morning during the cold season (mainly from September to April – check out this guide if weather is an important factor for you). Khash is served with garlic, radish, dried national bread lavash, and homemade vodka.
Dolma is one of the most popular Armenian dishes. It is made with minced meat wrapped in grape leaves. Besides this classic version, there are many other interesting variations. In summer the locals use seasonal vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants and peppers and stuff them with the minced meat – this dish is called summer dolma.
For vegetarians, there is a wonderful lean version – pasuts dolma. It is a traditional dish on the New Year festive table. Instead of meat stuffing, the locals use peas and lentils.
Dolma can also be found in other South Caucasian countries. However, recipes differ from the Armenian one.
Traditional Georgian Dishes
Georgia is also known for its hearty and delicious dishes. and has long been celebrated as one of the world’s greatest destinations for gourmet travel.
So, which dishes are worth trying in Georgia?
It is impossible to imagine a traditional Georgian table without khachapuri, a sort of tasty bread filled with different varieties of local cheeses. There are many types of khachapuri in Georgia, each of which varies from region to region. Make sure to try Imeretian, Adjarian and Megrelian.
Satsivi is a traditional Georgian winter dish made of chicken served in a walnut sauce. It is one of the main dishes on any New Year’s Eve table. Traditionally the chicken for satsivi is chosen months before the feast. During a certain period of time the poultry is fed only with corn, which is why proper satsivi meat has a slightly yellowish tone. The secret ingredient that makes satsivi so special is a creamy sauce made with walnut, spices, and greens.
And the last dish from Georgian cuisine that is sure to warm you up on cold winter’s day is kharcho soup. This super spicy meat sauce looks and tastes amazing. The main ingredient is either chicken or beef with rice. The deep spicy taste is the result of a mixture of seasonings: traditional tkemali and khmeli suneli that consists of dried blue fenugreek, basil, parsley, coriander, marigold petals, bay leaves, fennel, and red pepper.
Traditional Azerbaijan Dishes
This magical oriental country amazes with its vibrant colours and dizzying saffron aromas.
Azerbaijani cuisine has much in common with traditional cuisines of neighbouring countries Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, and Iran. You may see dishes that look like those you have tasted before but they will definitely differ by taste.
The exotic names of traditional Azerbaijan dishes often confuse travellers, so let us help you choose an authentic variety dishes to tuck into.
Dushbara is a traditional broth made with dumplings. The dumplings are boiled in clear water and then served with a hearty lamb broth and greens.
Pilaf is the most popular traditional Azerbaijani dish served on every festive table. There are more than 30 recipes of traditional pilaf with different spices and meats. Moreover, every province has its own secret ingredient to make their perfect pilaf, so you will always have something new to try and to taste.
Shah pilaf – or royal pilaf – is the king of Azerbaijan cuisine. The technique of cooking pilaf differs from other Azerbaijani pilafs. All the ingredients of the dish are prepared separately. The bottom of a large pan is first covered with a layer of pita bread soaked in oil. The filling is made of rice, meat, veggies, and dried fruits. The ingredients are then put in layers and covered with pita bread and cooked in the oven. It is then cut like a cake before serving.
It’s always pleasant to have hot soup on a cold winter day. Azerbaijani traditional cuisine has several tasty soups with meat and veggies, but if you’re looking for something vegetarian then erishte soup is the dih for you.
The most important thing about erishte soup is that the noodles should always be homemade. Of course, it takes time to prepare the dough and cut it into thin lines of noodles. Still, if you want to try a real erishte, it should be homemade. Ready erishte is mixed with onion, beans, and mash (small green beans).
Have you been to Georgia, Armenia and/or Azerbaijan? What were your favourite local dishes? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and experiences.