Armenian Cusine & Traditions
National Cuisine Armenians use a great variety of ingredients in their traditional dishes. Fish, diverse types of meats and numerous sorts of fruits and vegetables, combined with also a great number of condiments, lead to the uniqueness of the Armenian cuisine, both in taste and in look. Some of the recipes, though, are typical to an entire region. For example, one of the Armenian desserts called baklava is also made in Turkey and in a great part of the Balkans.
People are proud of their national cuisine. The most important dishes are tolma, kololak, basturma, khaplama. As the Armenians eat almost everything with bread, the existence of two types of this essential item is good. Lavash and matnakash are the names of the Armenian bread varieties.
Also, Armenia is known for its beverages, that include wine, brandy, vodka and cognac. This country also features a multitude of mineral water springs.
Armenia shares some of its traditions with Georgia. For example, the ancient ritual that consists of picking one person as tamada is popular in this country, too. That person sits at the head of the table and makes the toasts. It is usually chosen by the host from the guests. The sense of humor and the wisdom are the most important criteria.
Here are some typical Armenian dishes:
Harisa - porridge made of wheat and sodden fibered chicken
Basturma - dried beef in spicy covering (caraway, garlic, red pepper)
Dolma (or tolma) - ground meet wrapped in grape leafs
Qufta - tender meat balls made of stewed beef
Lavash - national unleavened wheat bread
Zhengyalov Hats - a baking stuffed with greens, typical for Republic of Nagorno Karabagh
Pakhlava-Armenian popular delicious sweet pastry
Gata- is an Armenian pastry or sweet bread
Pokhindz -roasted wheat flour mixed with water or milk
Alani-dry peaches stuffed with nut crumbs mixed with granulated sugar, raisins, walnuts, and other nuts
Matzun- is a fermented milk product of Armenian origin. It is very similar to yogurt
Spas - soup made of tan (yogurt) and wheat
Shorva-Armenian soup made from various broths
Doshab - an aromatic, dark, cherry-colored syrup with medicinal properties.It is used also to cook thick flour kissel in which chains of walnut on thread are dipped, dried, and stored for winter usage
Sujukh - is a traditional thin dried sausage-shaped candy.The main ingredients are grape must, nuts and flour
Ghaurma - boiled and fried meat, covered with butter
Khash - national soup made of macerated beef shins
Khashlama - boiled beef in broth
Khorovats - barbeque Traditions and Customs Armenia has managed to save its true spiritual riches - religion, culture and national centuries-old traditions which they strictly observe both in times of joy and in grief. Today such traditions as marriage stability, honoring of elders, strong ties among relatives, mutual readiness and help and of course hospitality have been preserved.
Armenian wedding is a very big holiday. The ceremony includes betrothal, engagement and wedding itself. The tradition of “seven days seven nights” celebration has become obsolete. The abundance of guests at Armenian wedding is a must. The so-called “God family” act as witnesses. As a rule, they are the closest married couple known by the groom and the bride. The God family must be an exemplary couple. The Godfather is to bring the most expensive wedding gift. By the way, giving presents is a separate ceremony. The relatives of the groom and the bride and the guests give the newly-married couple jewelry, fabrics, household goods, and money. Wedding is accompanied by a number of various cheerful ceremonies. During the redemption of the bride any amount of money can be asked, and it's a matter of Godfather's honor to find this money; the sums are symbolical, though. The bride is taken to the altar by her sponsor and God family bear responsibility for the new family from the very beginning to end. At the wedding the bride is given a boy to cuddle – it is desirable that first-born is a boy. Next morning after the wedding women related to the groom bring a red apple symbolizing the virginity to the bride's home.
Birth of Child
Traditionally (especially in rural areas) Armenian families have a lot of children. A birth of a child, especially a boy, is a happy event which has always been welcome. On church holidays in front of the house where a baby was born music played and the house was decorated with green branches – the symbol of family continuation. The child is not shown to anybody but the relatives for 40 days after birth.
It is accepted that a person having any happy life occasion puts his hand on a head of his friend or relative saying “tarose kes” (“I pass it to you” )- wishing them the same good luck.
The hospitality of Armenian people is known all over the world. Each time a happy event occurs people throw a party for relatives, friends, colleagues etc. Drinking and eating is a must; if you refuse you are not among the ones who share the joy. The more often you throw a feast (on any occasion) the more you will get in return, Armenians sincerely believe.
National funeral customs ethics of honoring the memory of the deceased has been preserved I Armenia. The ceremonies are arranged on the day of funeral, the next day, on the 7th day, the 40th day and the anniversary of death.
The households engaged in winemaking had a “khandzan”, grape wine press, near a house or in a garden. From inside they made a long tank from stones or bricks covered with strong whitewash; it had a slightly tilted bottom and a hole connected with a stone tub in the earth. Having taken off their clothes and washed their feet, men got inside and squashed the grapes. The resulting must was poured from the first tub into the second to be scooped and poured into “karases” (clay vessels) which were stored dug in the earth as it was accepted in Urartu. The wine was used for making vinegar and cake was used for making vodka in special wine-making devices.
Armenian grapes are special - with high sugar content and consequently more spirit. There such varieties as akhtanak, arena, cabernet, saperavi, kishmish, muscat, and rkatsiteli are cultivated. They are used for making fine sweet, semisweet and dry wines.
But nevertheless, the majority of us associate Armenia with cognac. The technology of cognac making is much more complicated, though. The industrial production of cognac was established only in the 19th century. Armenian cognac is made from high-quality selected grapes growing in Ararat Valley. Mekhali, kakhet, garan-dmak, voskeat, chilar – these grapes give the beverage that extraordinary velvet flavor, the taste of native land. In the course of the first fermentation the wine is made. Then this wine is exposed three-four distillations to obtain 60-70 percent alcohol. The alcohol is then poured into oak casks. The casks are very important in cognac manufacturing. Specially selected oak wood is delivered for their manufacturing from France, Russia or countries of Eastern Europe. Alcohol is aged from 3 to 20 years in such casks. Only then skilled professionals blend cognac using 3, 5 or 6 cognac alcohols and spring water from Armenian mountains. Clear and transparent, it is the irreplaceable additive; without it the bouquet of aromas will be incomplete. And then, depending on quality of cognac, it is aged at least 12 months (for collection blends - at least 3 years) in old wooden casks before bottling. Cognac of Armenia is so good with its unique velvety chocolate taste that even Winston Churchill ordered up to 400 bottles on annual basis.