The Azerbaijan State News Agency


A tasty journey through Azerbaijan: Shamakhi, Gusar and Masalli cuisine

Baku, March 29, AZERTAC

People in Azerbaijan know a lot about good food. And the dishes of the original Azerbaijani cuisine, here harmoniously coexist with the dishes of the peoples living in our multinational country. In this article we will look at the culinary features of the ancient Azerbaijani city of Shamakhi, as well as the Gusar and Masalli regions of Azerbaijan, in which such nations as Lezgins and Talysh live.

Shamakhi - 290 types of temptation

Shamakhi cooking is very rich and famous for its 46 varieties of pilaf, 14 kinds of dolma, 16 kinds of shish kebab, 12 kinds of gutabs (the semblance of pancakes with greens or meat).

To demonstrate the wealth of Shamakhi cuisine, it is enough to mention one fact from its history. In 1662, when the famous English traveler and merchant Anthony Jenkinson visited the ruler of Shirvan Abdullah Khan Ustailey, he was struck by the variety of national cuisine. The Khan invited him to dinner and offered 290 kinds of national hot and cold dishes, salads, hot snacks and delicacies.

Among the most common today in Shamakhi national dishes can be mentioned shuyut pilaf (pilaf with dried dill, beans and fatty lamb meat); parcha bozbash (soup with pieces of meat); dolma of grape leaves (here it is especially finely wrapped); syabzi (seasonal dish - meat fried with herbs); shish kebabs. For dessert you will be offered lemon sherbet with the addition of coriander seeds and sudzhuk on a plate. The last dish is made from hand-made wheat starch, with the addition of sugar, walnuts and hazelnuts.

In Shamakhi a large number of different cafes and restaurants, especially roadside, where you will be offered to taste the whole variety of local cuisine. Among them are Savalan, Turist, Şirvanşax, Bənövşə and others. For example, the restaurant Bənövşə has been working for more than 50 years and has been known since the Soviet times, when it was frequented by tourists, famous personalities, the party elite.

Gusar - pichekar, khran fu and tskan

In the Gusar region of Azerbaijan, Lezgins historically live - a people famous for its ancient history and rich cuisine. In the cafe throughout the Gusar district, as in any other regions of residence of Lezgins, you can order a pichekar - a kind of pelmeni with meat or greens, aluga - bread with scrambled eggs, or shakuka – Lezgian pizza.

Together with soup, for example, "shurva" soup from lamb or beef, you will be served Khran fu - traditional bread baked in a special Lezgian clay oven - Kharyak or Har. It resembles the Azerbaijani tandoor, but unlike it, Kharyak has a quadrangular shape. Moreover, these furnaces serve not only for baking bread, but also for making other flour dishes of Lezgian cuisine.

At normal room temperature, bread baked in Kharyak, stored for seven days, and in the refrigerator - more than 15-20 days. The finished dough is divided into small lumps and rolled. Then it is pierced over the entire surface by bundled pegs, which facilitates the penetration of hot air into the dough, helping to quickly prepare and acquire a specific shape. Bread is cooked in the oven for about five minutes. Sometimes not yet completely baked bread is taken out of Kharyak, smeared with cheese and egg on top (the so-called "Lezgian paste") and again put in the oven for several minutes.

Lezgian gutabs "Afar" are often cooked in this region: a variety of greens collected in the yard and in the mountains, cut and mixed with dry cheese or Shor (similarity to salted curd), are placed on thin layers of dough. On top lay another thin layer of dough and then put it all in Kharyak. These gutabs have a unique taste.

However, perhaps the most famous dish of the Lezgian cuisine is the Tskan - pie with stuffing. He is also baked in Har. Round balls from the same as for bread dough kneaded in oil, rolled out and laid out on the bottom of a deep frying pan. There also put pre-fried minced meat and chopped potatoes. From above cover it all with a rolled out layer of dough and put in Kharyak for about an hour. Ingredients can vary - it is recommended to try also Tskan with vegetables, cheese and chicken meat. In any case, the result will surprise you - the cake has an unmatched taste!

Masalli - Ash, Lyukyu and Lavangi

The majority of the population of the southern region of Azerbaijan - Masalli, as well as neighboring Lenkoran and Astara - ethnic Talysh. This is a people with its own culture, traditions and language related to the Iranian language group.

Talysh cuisine is very rich, diverse and has an ancient history. During the archaeological excavations in the Masalli region, an ancient kitchen utensils made of stone and clay was discovered: a bowl, water vessels, frying pans, jugs dating back to the III-I centuries BC.

In the Masalli region, rice dishes are widely distributed - at least 20 items, among which are various types of pilaf: Pakhla pilaf, Lobya pilaf, Turshulu ash, Lobya ash, Ayran ash (the same Dovga).

In addition, 23 types of meat dishes, 9 kinds of fish dishes, 8 types of cereals, 5 types of omelet, 28 types of fruit dishes, different kinds of "syrdag" (stewed eggplants), etc. are also known in the Talysh cuisine.

Widely distributed dishes such as Larga and Mardji. But, perhaps, the crown dish of Talish cuisine is Lavangi: a bird or fish stuffed with nuts, onions, sumac, which are only prepared in Masalli in tandoor. Lavangi are loved and cooked throughout Azerbaijan, but as soup as Piti should be sampled in Sheki, Tskan in Gusar, and Lavangi must be ordered and tasted in Masalli or Lankaran.

In Masalli they know a lot about sweets. So for dessert, it is often cooked Lyukyu - flat cakes of rice flour with butter and milk, sweet rice flour buns, etc.

The diet of Masallians varies and depending on the season. For example, in May, in these parts, a plump pilaf with beans and finely chopped fresh dill is favored. In the spring, a leaf salad with apple sauce flavored with aromatic herbs is also common. In addition, unexpected contrasts are loved here. Say, smoked fish can be served to a table with pilaf or sweet watermelon.

Great demand in the markets of the capital, other cities, as well as neighboring Russia enjoys Masally greens. Walking around the area, near many wickets, you can find small counters with greens. Here it is much cheaper than in the city market. Mandatory attributes of Masallian cuisine are red turnip and red onion characteristic for these places. This onion is not bitter and very tasty. In summer, it is collected in pigtail for stems and dried for the winter. So it can maintain its quality and aesthetic appearance for many months.

It is noteworthy that you can order one or another type of national dishes southerners in almost every restaurant and cafe in the district. If you are in these parts - do not miss your chance and arrange a feast on a grand scale!

Emil Eyyubov

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