National cuisine

National cuisine

The cuisine of Azerbaijan is one of the ancient, rich and delicious cuisines in the world. "The cuisine of Azerbaijan" is not only dishes, the technology of their preparation, but a part of material culture as well. It is the harmonic unity of culture, history, philosophy, table psychology, traditions, physiology, hygiene, chemistry, equipment, ethics, aesthetics, poetry and poetic aspects of the cuisine, as well as practical habits created by Azerbaijani people in the territories where they lived in harmony with the environment.

The cuisine of Azerbaijan was "born" with the genius of Azerbaijan people in the territories of its historical habitation: today's Azerbaijan Republic, Southern (Irani) Azerbaijan, former khanate of Iravan that turned into today's Armenia after forced ethnical clarification, the lands of Zangezur and Goycha mahals (districts), ancient settlements of Azerbaijanis in Georgia-Borchali, Dagestan, Derbend-the capital of one of the former khanates of Azerbaijan and their surroundings.

The main factor influencing formation and development of the cuisine is the climate. The territory of Azerbaijan Republic is under the influence of 9 climate zones that cause variety and richness of flora and fauna of the region and formed favorable conditions for life and development of all animals and plants. This is the main factor of rich cuisine.

Agricultural production is important for further development of the society alongside with wild animals, birds, fish and plants. Thus people should have high culture of cultivation and animal-breeding.

For example, complex dishes made of paste and grain might appear in the case only if agricultural production dominated. Experimenting and formation of compound dishes was possible only if there was some need to preserve the remains of grain for a long period of time. The process continued for ages and thus appeared new dishes. The existence of "cheten"(archaic form of colander) proves that dish -making from grain and paste, dates to the 5th-6th century B.C. and stable crop in its turn points to high quality cultivation.

http://www.azerbaijan.az/_Culture/_Cuisine/images/cuisine_01_1.jpgThe second factor influencing the cuisine is the fire.  Creation and development of Azerbaijan cuisine related with different varieties of high heat open and closed fires such as tendir(clay oven with a whole), kora, bukhari(fire-place), kulfa(brick oven for baking), chala ojag (hollow fire), saj(iron disk for baking bread), mangal (brazier) and others.

Another factor characterizing culture of culinary of the people is their attitude to water, its purity and ability of water use. From ancient times Azerbaijan people divided water into white and black. Black water is rich with salts, ions and metals. Water poor in the abovementioned elements is called soft.

Soft white water was used in preparation of food and beverage foods. Weeping willow always grew on the banks of the rivers, irrigation ditches and canals. Roots, branches and other parts of this tree have antibacterial peculiarity and thus it purified water. For this purpose branches of weeping willow were always put into plates full of water. Sometimes silver thing or apricot pip was put into the boxes filled with water.

The first and the best natural method of clarification of water applied by Azerbaijanis still exists today. That is a water stone. Water stone is made of black or white chick-weed and looks like a drilled pyramid. The stone is placed on special wood rest with its tip down and a plate is placed under it. The stone is filled with water, sometimes silver thing or a branch of willow is put into it. Water passes through capillary holes of the stone and drop by drop falls down into the plate. Water is not only purified by stone but is cooled thanks to difference of pressure.

It should be pointed out that the oldest 3700 year age samovar was found in Azerbaijan (in the territory of Sheki). It is much older than the 2000 year old samovar of the Egypt.

Ancient trade caravans and military roads crossed the territory of Azerbaijan had some effect on our cuisine. Religion and faith of the people also have definite influence on the national cuisine. Zardushtism (Zoroastrism), fire-worship, Avesta found their reflection in philosophical psychology and the mind of Azerbaijan people and its cuisine.

National cuisine is very rich. For example, 200 varieties of plov, 20 varieties of dolma and 20 of lula kebab are already known. About 2000 dishes are known in Azerbaijan cuisine. As witnessed Antony Jacson -English voyager, 150 varieties of dishes were on the table when he was invited to dinner by Abdulla khan in Shamakhi and 140 varieties presented after the table cleared. The Caspian Sea, rivers Kur, Araz and others, lakes Goy-gol, Jeyranbatan, Goycha and others enriched our cuisine with different varieties of fish dishes which include fried, stewed and stuffed fishes.

'Plov' is the 'king' of all the dishes in our cuisine. There are 200 varieties of plov in Azerbaijan- one of the lands of rice. Rice replaces bread in some regions of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is very rich with milk dishes. Milk, agiz sud, bulama, sour clotted milk, cheese, dug, cream, chiya, ayran, cottage cheese and other dairy and dishes prepared of them-dovga, dogramaj, ayran ashi, atlama, milky porridge and other dishes enriched our kitchen since old times.

Azerbaijanis respect yukha, fetir, lavash, sengek, khamrali, tendir bread and other varieties of bread that are considered to be a special rich of our table. When bread is brought on the table Azerbaijanis first start their food with it as expression of respect. Azerbaijanies respect bread as Koran and even pray on it.

Sweets, confectionery, halva have particular place in cuisine of Azerbaijan thanks to ancient sugar production in Azerbaijan. Sugar was made of sugar-cane that was brought to Azerbaijan by Potyomkin from Russia with the order of Yekaterina. The name of sugar was 'takhta gend'(wool sugar). This variety of sugar extracted in crude form, though refining of sugar was familiar to Azerbaijan in the 10th century. People also made fruit sweets-nabat. Bekmezes and doshabs made of boiling of honey and fruit juice, 'pakhlava', 'shekerbura', 'rahat lokum', 'richal', 'sujug', 'peshveng', 'gatlama', yukha halvasi' and others enrich our cuisine.

Richness of products for sweets (honey, sugar, bekmez) and of fruits caused appearance of confitures, compotes, jams and sugared foods prepared of cornel, quince, cherries, figs, nut kernel and rose-leaf. Vegetable preserving (tutma) by means of pickling and salting is widely used in Azerbaijan cuisine.

Beverage is one of the parts of our cuisine rich in its variety. Different syrups are prepared of fruit juice, different plant essences and sugar. Syrups are usually put on the table together with plov and are drunk in holidays and ceremonies. Tea occupies particular place in Azerbaijan cuisine. One can't imagine the table without tea. Coffee and cacao is rarely used in comparison with tea. Boiled hot water and other milk beverage are put on the table in the mornings. The country is rich with various kinds of mineral water.

Table traditions and dishes formed under the influence of fire and light still exist.

Everybody who visits our country can enjoy the variety of dishes, tasty food, famous national bakery and incomparable taste of local tea. Everybody will tell you “Nush Olsun!” - “Bon Appetite!” in any part of Azerbaijan. These good wishes, you will hear constantly from many different people.


Source:   www.azerbaijan.az