Everything You've Ever Wanted to know about Azeri Cuisine

Davachi Travel Blog

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The family around the dinner table. This was in Ceyranbatan and this family knew how to eat. I have yet to find a person who can cook as well as Tamam.

One of the teachers I work with told me once that her brother had moved to India for a while to work.  According to him, she says, in India all of the people throw their trash on the ground and the food is bad.  I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit, as she was describing Azerbaijan exactly.

The food here in Azerbaijan is not for someone with American taste buds, but it is interesting (perhaps not as interesting as watching the geese fight the dogs for rights over the trash pile though).  In general, it seems to be a mix of Turkish food, some foods from the Islamic countries around it and some ethnic recipes thrown in.  Most everything is either swimming in or covered with either butter or vegetable oil and meats are fatty.  Also, everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) is considered a national dish here, even if it originated somewhere else.

Kotlet and fried potatoes. Lots of fried potatoes here...

Of course, being an Islamic country, not many people eat pork.  When I asked for permission to use the kitchen to cook some bacon for a party, the host mother let off a string of swearing to Allah so long I still haven’t heard the end of it.  I have yet to be let back into the kitchen, probably for fear of infecting everything with my enjoyment of that dirty, dirty meat.

Meat here is cut fatty.  I know, I know, fat is flavorful, but I’ve never much liked the texture.  Most chunks of beef will be cut with at least half an inch of the fat still attached to it.  The chicken here is even worse, with almost nothing cut from it.  That would all be acceptable except that my family rarely serves meat outside of butter soup.  Most days I eat butter and oil soup with fatty beef or chicken on the bone and almost whole potatoes swimming in there.

Azeri style spaghetti.

Vegetables are cheap and plentiful in the summer months, but the price skyrockets in the winter.  Instead of fresh vegetables during that time, everything imaginable is pickled and kept for that time.  It isn’t uncommon for me to eat a couple pickled garlic cloves at night during dinner.

The cheese here is good, strong and salty, just like I like it.  Both goat and cow cheese are popular here.  In Ceyranbatan I had some cheese that knocked my socks off and I have yet to encounter this same kind up here in Davachi.  The common, cheap cheese is actually quite tasty, but I generally don’t buy it.  The practice in the bazaar is for cheese customers to stick their fingers in the cheese to ‘try before you buy,’ generally resulting in me not wanting to eat the cheese.

Dovga...I hate this stuff
  If someone else buys it for me, I can forget about that practice and just hope that they know how to pick better, cleaner cheese than I do.  The stores sell some expensive Gouda cheese that I buy sometimes.

Tea is common when guests visit, during the day whenever, but especially an hour or so after dinner.  I usually am served ‘Earl Grey’ tea (as it says on the box), though I swear it isn’t Earl Grey at all.  Unfortunately, I don’t know my teas well enough to tell what it is.  On my first day with my Ceyranbatan host family, I probably drank 15 cups of steaming hot tea, resulting in my having to pee twice in the evening, three times that night and twice again in the morning.  They should be a surgeon general’s warning on the box “Caution, this tea may result in exploding bladders.


The host family in Ceyranbatan generally cooked much better food than what I get here in Davachi, but since I don’t get much food from the family here in Davachi it kind of evens out.  Instead, I buy my own food.  Lavash is a cheap, tortilla like staple that goes well with vegetables inside of it and melted cheese (that I melt over my makeshift stove on the gas heater upstairs).  I can get a decently size bag of not too sweet cookies for a manat.  Sausage and some fruits (particularly mandarins) are cheap too.  Generally this is what I eat/snack on when I don’t get butter soup from the family.

I’m not sure if there are any set recipes for the food here, but I’ll describe in general detail some of the most common foods in this country.

Kifta...I am so done with Kifta and Bozbash.
  Some of them, cooked by the right people, are quite good.


Of course, it is imperative that we start with dolma.  In America, we think of dolma as Greek food, but here in Azerbaijan, it is a national dish.  I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but they do dolma here quite a bit differently than the Greeks.  Cabbage dolma is the most common I have seen so far, though my host family has it swimming in way too much butter for my liking.  It is, simply, ground meat with rice and sometimes onions ground into it covered by cabbage.  There is your traditional grape leaf dolma (just like in American Greek restaurants), tomato dolma, onion dolma, pepper dolma (almost like some chille rellenos I ate in Mexico, just not as spicy and without the awesome egg stuff they put on the outside), eggplants and my personal favorite, apple dolma.

Really good qutab. Leyla Xala came to my house to make it for me.
  I only had apple dolma once and it was by far the best in my opinion.

Edt: Tofig, an Azerbaijani, added that Dolma is originally Turkish, not Greek.  The name "dolma means 'filled' which came from originally authentic Turkish "doldurmag" which means to fill, so any food which is filled with something except stuffed turkey etc.. is called
dolma, it could be apple, or potatoes, and also eggplant, all of it is dolma."

This makes a lot of sense, especially if you consider historically the amount of Turkish emmigration and cultural exchange that happened all over Europe.

Ash and Plov:

Plov is buttery rice.  In fact, a friend texted me today saying that plov was nothing special, just being oily rice and all.

Bean soup and peroshki
  I still like it though.  Ash is a national dish ate during celebrations such as Ramadan or on birthdays.  The plov is cooked with raisins and topped with lamb cooked in apricots.  Cooked this way, it is quite tasty.


Ground beef and onions mixed, sometimes breaded and fried.  It is simple, tasty and usually served with fried potatoes.

Organ Meats:

My first Azeri teacher for some reason didn’t believe that my Ceyranbatan host family served me heart.  Her reaction was weird because it is quite common, even here in Davachi for me to eat liver, heart and chicken gizzard (at least I thought that is what it was).


Yes, there is an awesome version of spaghetti here.  Ground beef cooked with onions, peppers and carrots over tube pasta (here called Turkish pasta).

Typical party table
  On the side are 2-3 slices of potatoes covered in egg and fried.  It is amazingly good, both in Ceyranbatan and Davachi (though I’ve only gotten it once up here in Davachi).


This drink is most definitely an acquired taste.  Souring cream filled with dill.  Fortunately my family here in Davachi puts a bunch of flour or something in it so that it isn’t so sour for me.  I think that is what they do, I have yet to figure this drink out.  It is a national dish though.


At first, Dushpara seems like meat ravioli swimming in butter soup.  That’s the texture of it at least, but the ‘ravioli’ is more bread •like than pasta.  This dish is cooked for people who are sick (and the one time I ate it, I had a nasty cold).

I have no idea what the triangular item is, but it was full of meat and very tasty.


Meatballs (onions and rice included in the grinding process) swimming in butter soup with chick peas and potatoes.  Very popular dish that I still eat about 2 times a week.


Same as kifta except with meat chunks instead of meatballs inside of the soup.  I also eat this about 2 times a week.  I’m so sick of bozbash…


Obviously their version of salad and is actually quite good.  I’ve only seen it much in the summer, mostly because fresh vegetables are expensive in the winter.  The different types of salat differ depending on who cooks it.  Sometimes there is nut salad, sometimes beet salad.  Many times potatoes are mashed, mixed with something like mayonnaise and used sort of as a paste that holds the rest of the vegetables together.  Sometimes peas, thinly sliced carrots and other vegetables are mixed together with mayonnaise.  Generally very tasty.

Street Food:

Sadly there isn’t a very large street food culture in this country.  Most cities will have a Turkish donar place, most schools sell piroshkies in the cafeteria and the bigger cities will sell qutab and lamachun.

- Donar is served in either bread or lavash and has meat, vegetables and mayonnaise inside.  Generally quite tasty and cheap.

- Piroshkies are cheap and during the school week become my staple morning time diet.  They are friend bread filled with mashed potatoes.  They cost 10 qepik for 1 and I usually buy 5 so that they’ll last me till lunch.  In Baku there is a bakery that sells meat, cabbage and bean piroshkies too.

- Qutab is very tasty.  They are cooked, sometimes fried, lavash filled with herbs or meat.  I prefer the herb variety myself.  A neighbor came by and made qutab for me and the family one day, and here they usually eat it with lots of butter and cream.

- Lamachun is a large, thin flatbread covered with cheese, meat and the optional herbs and lemon.  This is by far my favorite street meal.

cbstevens says:
Hey Tofig, why don't you tell me what you really think about my entry :)

Also, nice sock puppet, hehe.

Either way, I really like your point about dolma coming from the Turkish word for full. If you don't mind, I'll add that tidbit to the blog (giving you credit, of course).

Hope you enjoy travbuddy :)
Posted on: Jul 24, 2009
Tofig says:
4. Don’t put Azeri's as thief’s cause they are not,
about that "dolma" thing, let me translate it for you officially and professionally,
Greeks don’t know dolma and never knew, they do eat it, and present it to you guys as Greek
dolma, but if you ask them what is dolma meaning, they will open their mouth and watch :)
dolma " means filled" which came from originally authentic Turkish "doldurmag" which means
to fill, so any food which is filled with something except stuffed turkey etc.. is called
dolma, it could be apple, or potatoes, and also eggplant, all of it is dolma,
now I accept that whole world uses different recipes and everybody calls it it's own :)
but some things have authenticity, as those :) I would say Greeks and others are more thief’s than Azerbaijani’s cause Azerbaijani’s are the authentic Turks.

5. About plov, plov is world food if you don’t like it don’t eat it, you don’t have
to write about it like it's a trash, it's the food of many nationality’s for thousands of years,
and now 99% of all people on earth eat it, one or another way.

Next time when you place an article make it professionally, not like this,
letting people feel shit about a country like Azerbaijan. Showing your personal unstable emotions which are built on 0 knowledge.
and for others just info : Azerbaijan is not so Islamic as this guy puts it, I come from there
I eat pork in a restaurant and at home, and at other's party's as a delicates, so I
don’t know where you got the family which was not accepting to cook pork.
In Azerbaijan pork is a delicates and costs even more than normal meat, so
don’t make us laugh :) We celebrate Ramadan les than other more than 30 big holidays which
you did not mansion.
You guys are all welcome to our country, come and see it your self, then only thing you should not mix in is politics all outside of this will be a paradise for you
Posted on: Jul 16, 2009
Tofig says:
I don’t know what your idea is with this article, but I totally disagree, specially when an American person talks about Azeri food like this, I have my reasons for that.
1. I'm sorry but we do not put kilo's of chemical stuff in our food, so we consume everything originally as is.
You say people touch the cheese with their fingers, well ask somebody who works in a cheese factory in US and let them tell you what happens with your cheese, when you know, come back and we will accept your apologies.
2. Same thing with the tea, you drink gibberish and think that not peeing 3 times a day is ok,
it means the tea is good? Well let me tell you my friend, me as a
person who drinks tea for very long time, I know that your problem with peeing
its because your body was directly accepting our good tea and that's why it went
right out of it, not like those chemical tea's you guys in US consume, which stay in your
body for weeks, and never get out of it, after that you all get cancer and run to the
doctor, the one who genetically manipulated all those products :). you get my point ?

3. Let's go on with the meat, my friend you don’t know what meat is :)
that would be actually enough to say, but let me put it this way :
in US 99% of all meat which is sold publicly is made-up with a machine,
you never know what's inside, the meat company's mix so much shit in there
that not even themselves could tell you what it is :)
In a country like Azerbaijan everything also the meat is natural,
when a cow or sheep is cut then the meat is directly sold without any games around it,
so if you saw a piece of fat does not mean it's bad, there is big difference
between Azeri's who eat natural fat and move around at least 5km per day on a clean
nature outside, and you US guys which move from car to a car, and eat chemically modified fats.
so please do not compare things you don’t know :)
Posted on: Jul 16, 2009
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The family around the dinner table…
The family around the dinner tabl…
Kotlet and fried potatoes.  Lots o…
Kotlet and fried potatoes. Lots …
Azeri style spaghetti.
Azeri style spaghetti.
Dovga...I hate this stuff
Dovga...I hate this stuff
Kifta...I am so done with Kifta an…
Kifta...I am so done with Kifta a…
Really good qutab.  Leyla Xala cam…
Really good qutab. Leyla Xala ca…
Bean soup and peroshki
Bean soup and peroshki
Typical party table
Typical party table
I have no idea what the triangular…
I have no idea what the triangula…
photo by: cbstevens