The Azerbaijan cuisine The Azerbaijan cuisine belongs to one of the most interesting cuisines in the world. It is widely known among other oriental cuisines and some of its dishes were included in the menu of international cuisines. The Azerbaijan cuisine has got its own originality and national colour specified by cooking techniques, flavour and traditions of the Azerbaijan feasts. The Azerbaijan cookery has preserved old cooking methods although has modified them taking into account up-to-date techniques. The Azerbaijan national dishes have been cooked in the copper utensils from time immemorial. And even now in many areas of Azerbaijan the meal is cooked in copper pans. They say that dishes prepared in these pans are more delicious. In cafes and restaurants some national dishes are served in special crockery in which the dish is prepared. The majority of national dishes are mutton, beef, poultry and minced meat.
The republic is rich in various fish sources especially sevruga (starred sturgeon) and sturgeon. The sturgeon and scale types of fish are mainly used in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijan cuisine is famous for its vegetables, firstly vegetable greens, eggplants, paprika (biber), spinach, sorrel, green haricot, etc. The variety on national dishes includes many items such as rice, flour, vegetables and vegetable green. The feature of the Azerbaijan cuisine is using such spices as saffron, caraway-seeds, fennel, anise, capsicum, laurel, coriander and spicetaste leaf vegetables as mint, dill, parsley, celery, tarragon, basil, savory, thyme etc. The national cuisine has 50 different dishes and 10 different flour confectionary with the saffron addition. Such seasoning as lemon, olives, food acids, abgora, azgilsharab, narsharab, cherry plums, elbukhara, gora, kizil-akhta, kuraga (dried apricots), lavashana, sumac and others are widely used to enhance the food taste and smell.
A special place in the Azerbaijan cuisine belongs to salads prepared from fresh vegetables. When making salads of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum, coriander and basil these ingredients are finely cut. Salads are served together with main course. Pickled garlic, capsicum, eggplants, khyafta-bejar, pickled onion with sloe, pickled grapes, tomatoes are served separately accompanying different soups and meat courses. The Azerbaijan national cuisine includes more than 30 kinds of soups. These are various meat courses as piti, kufta-bozbash, shorba or dishes prepared from sour milk and greens as dovga, ovdukh, dogramach, bolva etc.
When cooking some of dishes, each of them is prepared separately (piti) or in small quantities (dushbara, sulu-khingal). The Azerbaijan first courses differ from usual soups by their concentrated and dense consistency because they usually contain a small amount of broth. The specific feature of the Azerbaijan cookery is that some of national dishes can be used as the first and main course (piti, kufta-bozbash). In this case the broth is served separately and then the rest (meat, peas, potatoes) as the main course but they are cooked together. The other feature of national soups is the application of sheep fat which is put into the dish in fine-cut pieces. Instead of tomato paste for the first courses fresh tomatoes are used in summer time and in winter – dried cherry plum (to add sourish taste) and spices with colourants (saffron, sary-kek). There are a lot of different first flour courses as sulu-khingal, khamrashi, umach, kurza, dushbara etc. Fresh and sour milk are widely used to make dovga, firni, sudlu syiig, kelekosh, ovdukh etc. Main courses are mostly prepared of mutton and also of poultry, game birds, vegetables and rice.
The most popular main course in Azerbaijan is pilaf. There are about 40 recipes for preparing this dish. Depending on the type of additions pilafs are named as kaurma-pilaf (with stew mutton), sabza kaurma (with stew mutton and greens), toyug-pilaf (with chicken), shirin-pilaf (with sweet dried fruit), sudlu pilaf (rice cooked in milk) etc. Among main courses shashliks should be distinguished by following types: shashlik-basturma, fillet shashlik, choice shashlik, liver and kidney shashlik, shashlik a la Kars which are prepared from natural meat; lulya-kebab, tava-kebab, sham-kebab and others are prepared from mince meat. Of popularity are the second flour courses such as khashil, khingal with meat, suzamkhingal, yarpag khingal, kutaby (with meat, pumpkin, greens), chudu etc. Many second courses are prepared of fish. Sturgeon shashlik, kutum a la Azerbaijan, kuku of kutum, balyg chygyrtma, stuffed fish, boiled, fried and stew fish, fish-pilaf, starred sturgeon pilaf, balyg mutyanjan are the most popular fish dishes. There are more than 100 names of main courses prepared of meat, fish, vegetables and flour. Such dishes of the Azerbaijan cookery as piti, lula-kebab, stuffed fish a la Azerbaijan etc., are merited all over the world.
Dish serving is very original: as a tradition tea is served first then main courses come. In many areas after dinner (especially after pilaf) they serve dovga. Dovga prepared of sour milk and greens promotes better assimilation of previous courses (rice, meat etc.). Sweet dishes as the third dishes in the Azerbaijan cookery are very limited and their assortment is small. Sweet dishes include firni, sudzhug, tarakh and kuimag. Any meal is completed with a sweet course. Hence since olden days in Azerbaijan dinner is completed with sherbet or sweets. The Azerbaijan national confectionary is divided into three groups: flour, caramel and sweet type articles. The flour articles are: shaker-bura, pakhlava, shaker-churek, curabye a la Baku, nan a la Azerbaijan, roll a la Ordubad, kyata a la Karabakh, tykhma a la Kuba, kulcha a la Lankaran, mutaky a la Shamakha, pakhlava a la Nakhchivan etc. There are more than 30 varieties of the national confectionary whereupon each area has its own special articles. Shaker-bura, pakhlava a la Baku, shaker churek and other things have been prepared in Baku since olden days. A very special place belongs to Sheki sweets. These are pakhlava a la Sheki, peshmek, tel (terkhalva), gyrmabadam etc. To make them rice flour, sugar, nut kernel, butter, egg-white and spice are used.
Caramel type sweets include sheker-pendir, parvarda, kozinaks of nuts, nogul of coriander, goz-khalva (more than 15 names). Sweet type articles include rahat lacoum (with different additives nogul bitmish, jellied fig, solid sherbet, feshmek etc.) The most popular soft drinks in Azerbaijan are sherbets. They are made of sugar, lemon, saffron, seeds of mint and basil and other fruit. From the time of immemorial there is a tradition in Azerbaijan: when guests come, tea is served first. Tea in Azerbaijan is a symbol of warm hospitality. Tea is accompanied with various jams as quince, fig, water melon peels, apricot, white cherry, cherry, peach, plum, Cornelian berry, walnut, strawberry, blackberry, grapes, mulberry. Sometimes when making tea dried leaves or flowers of savory, clove, cardamom and other spices are added to give a special flavour. Special tea is also made of cinnamon (darchin) and ginger. Sometimes rose water is added to tea.