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For Food Lovers: Azerbaijani Cuisine

kelsey : June 14, 2013 3:47 pm : Blog

Food plays an important role in Azerbaijan’s culture.  Throughout the centuries, Azerbaijani cuisine has been influenced by the foods of different cultures, though at the same time, it remained distinctive and unique. Many foods that are indigenous to the country can now be seen in the cuisines of other cultures. For the Azerbaijanis, food is an important part of the country’s culture and is deeply rooted in the history, traditions and values of the nation.

Out of 11 climate zones known in the world, nine zones lie within Azerbaijan.  This contributes to the fertility of the land, which in its turn results in the richness of the country’s cuisine. It is famous for an abundance of vegetables and greens used seasonally in the dishes.  Fresh herbs, including mint, coriander, dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leek, chive, thyme, marjoram, green onion, and watercress are very popular and often accompany main dishes.

In Azerbaijan, people can eat well without spending a fortune on dining out.  Azeri culture displays an intriguing blend of influences from Turkey, the Middle East, Iran, Central Asia, and India.  Most towns in Azerbaijan have at least a handful of inexpensive yəmakxanəs, or food houses, as well as slightly more expensive restaurants catered to tourists-foreign or local.

Lamb, the staple ingredient in most Azerbaijani meals, is usually seasoned with saffron, cinnamon, and fresh coriander.  Dolma, badimcan dolmasi, dushbara (pictured, above), qutab, tika kabab, and qovurma are just a few traditional meals found in Azerbaijan that all typically include lamb.  Several soups, such as sulu khingal (lamb soup with noodles), also boast lamb as their main ingredient.

To accompany Azerbaijani entrées, numerous side dishes are often ordered or cooked at home for a meal.  Sometimes, these dishes will be chosen arbitrarily by the restaurant staff.  If someone does not want to eat one of the dishes, it must be sent back to avoid being charged on the final check.  To the right, you can see a number of Azerbaijani side dishes that typically would be served for lunch or dinner.

Outside of Baku, one will not likely find food houses that serve non-Azeri cuisine.  To find Chinese, Italian, or other cuisines from around the world, one must dine only in the capital.  Staying in Baku will also allow someone to experience the fast food experience of the West.  However, the “fast food” culture outside of Baku is not a burger-and-fries type of meal; Azerbaijani “fast food” cafes and kəbabxanəs (kebab houses) typically serve inexpensive sandwiches made with dönər or tikə kebab or qutab (meat and herb turnovers).

For sheer ambiance, seek out one of Azerbaijan’s caravanserai restaurants, where full cultural shows accompany your banquet.  To find one of these caravanserai restaurants, go to Baku’s Old City.  Mugham Club, in particular, would be a great caravanserai restaurant to visit because of its fame for local music performances and dances.

Azerbaijan also places high importance on fruits found from their region.  Every year a cultural festival is held in Goychay, Azerbaijan known as Pomegranate Festival.  The festival features Azerbaijani fruit-cuisine mainly the pomegranates from Goychay.  At the festival, a parade is held with traditional Azerbaijani dances and Azerbaijani music.  The Pomegranate Festival usually takes place in October.

All in all, Azerbaijan cuisine is not only is tasty but also good for your health – the evidence to this is a lot of long-livers and centenarians in the Republic.

 

Post written by Elizabeth Cavin Urquhart

 

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June in Azerbaijan: Cultural Events

kelsey : June 5, 2013 7:08 pm : Blog

Especially during the summer, people from all around the world attend festivals centered on music, art, dance, and other cultural subjects.  If you happen to be in East Asia in June, consider going to celebrations in Azerbaijan that commemorate its National Salvation Day.

June 15, a national holiday, marks Azerbaijan’s National Salvation Day and is celebrated as the coming back of the former Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev (pictured, left) from the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic to Baku in 1993.

Azerbaijani veterans and the members of the defense wing of the military take part in the ceremonial parade each year on June 15.  Azerbaijan’s president presides over this parade, accepting the salute from the various wings or parts of his defense force.

The president also addresses the nation on this day emphasizing the need for national unity and security. These celebrations are also extended to the television, which broadcasts live the speech of the president to the civilians. There are also celebrations in the form of a fireworks display at night.

Also in June, you can attend an art festival in Azerbaijan.  At the Baku Creative Center, performance art, drawings, graphic works, and sculptures will be showcased during the three day Azerbaijan Art Festival.

The opening of the art festival and a press conference for the event will take place on June 4 at the Baku Business Center and then the exhibits will be put on display at the Baku Creative Center.  Beginning on June 7, three-day exhibitions and master classes will be held in Salyan, Saatli, Shirvan, Kurdamir, Mingachevir, Sheki, Gakh, Ismayilli, Khachmaz, and Sumgayit.

The main purpose of the Baku Creative Center is to promote Azerbaijani culture beyond the country, to formulate PR strategy for the implementation of advanced ideas and to help people materialize their creative ideas. So for the month of June, be thinking about the wonderful efforts of the people of Azerbaijan to recognize and honor their heritage and culture.

 

Post written by Elizabeth Cavin Urquhart

 

 

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