No matter where you are dining in the Caucasus, certain things are going to be consistent: fresh, local ingredients and vivid flavors. These are age-old cuisines and the classic dishes are second to none. Here are a few highlights – and recipes!
When you travel in Armenia you will frequently see a brazier going on the side of the road, a signal that kabobs (shashlik) are being grilled at a nearby establishment, or home. Kabobs are ubiquitous, and whether it is chicken, beef or lamb, it will be family farm raised. Other staples of the Armenian table are yogurts both thick and kefir-like, and white cheeses served with fresh herbs and crèpe-thin lavish bread. Stuffed tomatoes, peppers and of course, grape leaves are typical main and side courses. Fruits both ripe and dried add sweet/tart flavors (particularly the famous Armenian apricot). Although a plethora of aromatic spices, usually associated with Indian food is used, this is not a spicy-hot cuisine.
Here’s a recipe for stuffed grape leaves. It’s time consuming, but a great team project, with results that always get raves—you’ll be spoiled for any other kind.