Armenian Cuisine

Armenian cuisine is one of the most impressive things visitors are offered to explore in Armenia. While many people might think that the cuisine of a certain country is just a means to feed oneself and quench the hunger, the idea of the cuisine extends far beyond that.

On this score, it should be said that the Armenian cuisine is one wing of its nation’s history, part of its culture and the interpretation and the expression of its way of thinking. Armenians are a nation the history of which dates to hundreds of years ago, and therefore they are the carriers of a huge culture. The geographical territory of historical Armenia has in its turn contributed to the development and enrichment of the Armenian cuisine, since constantly appearing in a new environment Armenians have created a new cuisine relying on the old and combining it with the new. As a result, they have created such rich dishes, which would make any cuisine stand out and be proud of.

Armenian Cuisine: Peculiarities

Armenian cuisine has a myriad of peculiarities, which are explained by various historical, geographical and climatic factors. Several peculiarities:

  • Very often it might take much time and efforts to make Armenian national dishes.
  • Stuffing is peculiar to Armenian national cuisine.
  • The separate parts of one and the same dish are cooked separately and only afterward mixed.
  • Armenian foods are highly spiced and feature a high level of bitterness. Among some of the most widespread spices are pepper, garlic, condiment and so on. As to the greens, basically coriander, mint, tarragon, basil and thyme are used.
  • Much salt is used in Armenian foods.

Armenian Cuisine: National Dishes/Foods

  • Samir – Samir is an Easter dish. It is made of cracked wheat and cream and is served with cinnamon and thick syrup made of mulberries or grapes.
  • Qyalagosh – Qyalagosh is another Easter food, which is made of lavash (thin flat bread), lentil and dried buttermilk.
  • Roasted kid – Roasted kid is a traditional dish served for the Holiday of Holy Cross. The kid is roasted in a tandoor.

The reason why especially kids are roasted is explained by the fact that the kids used to consume the grapevine, and as a punishment people used to hang them in the tandoor.

  • Harisa – Harisa is one of the most beloved dishes of Armenian cuisine. It is made of cracked wheat and chicken meat, mutton or beef. They are cooked in water and are mixed until they turn into a porridge-like substance.

In the old times harisa was a ceremonial and a holiday dish that was usually being served in the morning after being cooked all night. There is a legend regarding harisa, which has it that after being released from the pit of Khor Virap Monastery Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator) arrived in Vagharshapat and for 60 days preached about Christianity to the local pagans. In order to give food to the poor he ordered to bring much oil and sheep after which the sheep were stabbed and cooked in large pots with cracked wheat. Then Gregory the Illuminator ordered the strong-armed men to mix the meat in the pots, and there goes the name – harisa comes from “hareq sa,” which is translated “mix this” into English.

  • Tandoor barbecue – Armenians love meat very much and barbecue is one of the most widespread foods among them. While many people will say barbecue is not an Armenian dish, there is one undisputable thing – tandoor barbecue has Armenian origins and it perhaps is the tastiest of all types of barbecues. Armenians usually make barbecue from pork or chicken. Be it a wedding or a birthday party barbecue is always expected and almost entirely consumed. Armenians love eating barbecue with hands, so if you are for eating barbecue with a fork and a knife expect to have some surprised looks at you.
  • Khash – Khash is a soup made of cow feet to which garlic, greens and salt are added. Khash is believed to be a food for the poor and is also thought to have a ceremonial meaning. The naming is thought to come from the Armenian word “khashel” which translated into English means “to scald.”

Khash is usually consumed very early in the morning, and it is either served before the breakfast or comes to replace the breakfast. It is served with garlic, salt and radish and is eaten with lavash and various greens.

Two things to note about khash:   

1. Khash is a dish to be consumed with vodka (NOT brandy).

2. Khash does not like toasts, as it should be consumed only when warm, while toasts take much time.

  • Spas – Spas is an Armenian soup made of yoghurt and rice or cracked wheat. The soup might contain onions as well.
  • Tolma – Delicious, appetizing, delightful… This is how Armenian tolma could be described. This Armenian dish is considered to be one of the pearls of traditional Armenian cuisine. It is usually made of grape or cabbage leaves. Among other must ingredients are ground meat (beef), onion, rice and various spices (savory, basilic). After all the ingredients are mixed together, they are stuffed into the grape or cabbage leaves and then folded.

The word “tolma” comes from Urartian word “toli,” which means “grape vine.”

  • Pasuts tolma – Pasuts tolma is another Armenian food, which is made of seven different grains – chickpea, bean, lentil, cracked wheat, pea, rice and maize. All the grains should be boiled.

This tolma is called “pasuts” because the Christian New Year features the fast days, which end on Easter day (“pasuts tolma” means “fast day tolma”). It should be said that the seven grains symbolize God’s divine number (“7”), which is associated with Divine perfection and completion.