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Azerbaijan - Cooking and Food Edit

Overview of Azerbaijani Cuisine HistoryEdit

Map of Azerbaijan

Map of Azerbaijan- Click to enlarge

The long and sinuous history of the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan or Azərbaycan Respublikası) offers some interesting culinary adaptations and original local dishes. Situated in the Caucasus, between Europe and Southwest Asia, Azerbaijan borrows, like any state that is located between two different worlds and cultures, dishes, cooking methods and ideas from both the European and the Asian cuisines. Ever since the Middle Ages, Azerbaijan has been a land that exchanged hostile occupants and has been under many dominant powers’ influences. Having Russia as a neighbor to the north, Azerbaijan was always shadowed by this colossus. This is also reflected in the way the Azerbaijani cuisine tastes and looks, very similar to the general Russian cuisine. The Turkish language family holds the Azerbaijani language, and it is spoken in the vast majority of the country. Urban areas also see Russian spoken frequently, as a second language. Azerbaijan has developed in close relationships with the Iranian culture, and there are also many similarities between the culinary styles of these two states.

Cuisines of Azerbaijan Edit

Russia, as a dominant northern neighbor, also influenced the Azerbaijani cuisine on a national scale. The northern part of Azerbaijan offers a large variety of dishes adopted from the Russian cuisine, mostly as far as meat products are concerned. Agriculture has always been used extensively in Azerbaijan and Wheat, Rye, Oats and millet were the main ingredients for any meal for centuries. Bread was and still is one of the food elements that are never absent from an Azerbaijan meal. Bread is used with soup and the main course, although sometimes it may be left aside if the dish contains potatoes or pasta. Bakery was also present since immemorial times and all grain based food products used in the past are still present today, in one form or another. Georgian influences from the northwest are also present, together with Armenian ones from the western area. Although many Georgian and Armenian dishes don’t spread all the way to the center or the eastern part of Azerbaijan, they are quite popular in the cities and towns around the borders with these neighbors. The Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (an exclave of Azerbaijan) borders Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, and Turkey to the northwest.

Preparation Methods for Azerbaijani Cooking Edit

The diversity of vegetables and cereals found in the country is also noticed in the delicious dishes prepared by Azerbaijani cooks. Meat is one of the main elements of most Azerbaijani dishes and cured and smoked hams, poultry, Pork and Beef fillets, and bacons are often parts of delicious dishes. Smoked fish as well as other fish meat types are widely appreciated, and cooking styles may differ from highly specialized restaurant cooking to simple, rustic cooking methods. Although the traditional cooking styles for most Azerbaijani dishes go back to hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, today most cooking is quite similar to any western or central European cuisine. The Azerbaijani cuisine uses elements from various cooking traditions borrowed from their neighbors and developed from their own traditional dishes. While there are no specific or unique preparation methods for Azerbaijani cooking, we should point out that attention to detail is important in the Azerbaijani cuisine. Using the right amount of spices for example is essential – either for spicing up the taste or for coloring the dish.

Special Equipment for Azerbaijani Cooking Edit

For the most part, Azerbaijani cooking uses the same standard instruments used in many European countries or in the United States of America. Essential utensils like serving spoons, spatulas, forks, turners, scrapers and tongs should also be part of your cooking “toolbox”. Here are a few other items that will come handy while cooking Russian food: juicers, kitchen knives, kitchen slicers, kitchen thermometers, measuring cups & measuring spoons, miscellaneous utensils, mixing bowls and skimmers & strainers. Ranging from cake pans, can openers, colanders, egg rings, poachers and holders, food dishers & portioners, food pans & food containers to other kitchen utensils, such as food scales, food scoops and fryer baskets & accessories, the Azerbaijan cuisine needs a diverse cooking equipment set in order to produce the most sophisticated Azerbaijani dishes.

Azerbaijani Food Traditions and Festivals Edit

Starting from the New Year's Day and going through different other national holidays such as the Changes due to Lunear Calendar, Ramadan or Women's Day, the Azerbaijani people love to celebrate and eat well at the same time. One of the most joyful celebrations occurs on March 20-March 21 and is called the Spring Festival – it is a celebration of rebirth and winter is forgotten. On October 18 the Azerbaijani people celebrate the National Independence Day and this is a good time for old friends and acquaintances to enjoy the day off and exchange visits. Of course, festive lunches and dinners are often scheduled when friends are coming over. On November 17, the National Revival Day is celebrated – it commemorates the first uprising in Azerbaijan by the Popular Front led by Panakhov against Moscow's policies toward Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (1988). International Solidarity Day occurs on December 31, when Azerbaijanis eliminated the borders that were separating them from Iran.

People in Azerbaijani Food Edit

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There are many chefs who creatively use the basic ingredients and cooking method for traditional Azerbaijani dishes and create original and delicious food variations. Azerbaijani chefs are passionate about their traditional dishes and they enjoy presenting them to foreigners who have never tasted them before. Whether they are cooking Dovga With Meat, Kaurma Hingal or Golubtsi (cabbage rolls) or red beet soup, served with stuffed dumplings or more sophisticated dishes, such as the delicious Duck filled with apples, Azerbaijani chefs take pride in what they do, and this is readily noticeable in the unforgettable taste of their cooking. Soups are another specialty for chefs and dishes like the Sulu Khingal and the Uha (fish soup) will make the delight of any meal.

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