It is said that a person from Karabakh swears on 3 things
his mother’s milk
International culinary consultant and food historian Amy Riolo explores the history of Azeri cuisine through her freshly pressed cookbook: The Cuisine of Karabakh; Recipes, Memories, and Dining Traditions from Azerbaijan’s Cradle of Culture. It is a cook book meant to trace the roots of those dealing with the diaspora of Karabakh, Azerbaijan. At the Culinary Historians of Washington, D.C. monthly meeting on May 6th, Riolo gave its members just a taste of Karabakh’s historically influenced cuisine.
Karabakh is a geographic region in southwestern Azerbaijan and eastern Armenia, flanking the Caspian Sea. It’s name translates to “black garden” as the region is so famously lush that the vegetation appears dark, almost black. Since Riolo could not enter the region due to previous conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan (Karabakh was a disputed territory that led to widespread violence) , she studied and learned about Karabakh’s cuisine through detailed data collection and total cultural immersion afar.
The indigenous peoples of Karabakh were quite sophisticated in their culinary progressions: they had diagrams depicting 15 different cuts of meats written on cave walls, whereas our modern diagram depicts 13. Indigenous ingredients from Karabakh included:
- sour paste, a mixture of sour plums or Cornelian cherries ( Cornell University grows this variety of cherries in the United States)
- 100 species of pomegranates
- mountain cilantro
- varieties of thyme
Traditional modern day dishes in Karabakh include durmeyi “the original tea sandwich”, kabobs, cherry plum roast meat and miriads of pilafs- and even desserts such as mild sweetbreads. According to the Azerbaijani Community of the Nagorno Karabakh, more than half of the 15 most famous dishes of Karabakh cuisine have been were appropriated from Azerbaijani cuisine and Armenianized since Soviet times. These include:
- mutton and beef
- jiz-biz (fried heart, liver and kidneys)
- various types of pilaf
- fried and boiled river fish
- dried fruits
- chad, meat qubat, fasali, kata, shakar bura, pakhlava, quymaq, halvah, qurabiya, shorqogali, dovga and various types of kebab
Ref: Riolo, Amy. “Karabakh Cuisine: Recipes, Memories, and Dining Traditions from Azerbaijan’s Cradle of Culture”. Culinary Historians of Washington, DC. Bethesda, MD. 6 May 2012.