The Azerbaijan State News Agency


A tasty journey through Azerbaijan: Sheki and Ganja cuisine

Baku, September 26, AZERTAC

The history of creating culinary recipes in Azerbaijan goes back centuries and is based not only on the vast experience of skilled chefs, but also on folk wisdom. It is no accident that each region of the country has its own unique dishes.

Today we will tell about the famous Azerbaijani dishes with which the ancient cities of Sheki and Ganja are famous.

Sheki Piti

It is no accident that many tourist guidebooks call Sheki the gastronomic capital of Azerbaijan. It is this ancient land that is home to the famous, melting in the mouth a special baklava and aromatic rich soup - piti.

In Sheki, this rich and tasty soup is prepared in clay pots that leave to languish in the oven for at least 8 hours. Sheki Piti - like all Sheki - is special. Whichever version of this dish you are offered in other places, once you try the Sheki Piti, you will remember its taste forever.

The process of cooking real piti is known only to the people of Sheki. It usually begins with soaking in water for about three hours of a large, yellow Sheka pea, which is then placed on the bottom of pottery pots with a capacity of 300 ml. Peas should take up to a third of the volume. On the peas put lamb cut into small pieces (pulp of the back leg) - about 100 grams per pot. Then put a whole piece of sheep fat on top - so that it covers the contents. After that, the dish is salted with a large salt - you can grab the desired amount of salt with three fingers, fill it with water and put it on the hot surface. While the water in the cups comes to a boil, twice remove the foam and put in each pot two spoons of finely chopped local onion. Then, once again remove the foam and covered with lids pots are left on low heat, from time to time pouring a little water. Bringing food to its unique state takes eight hours, and only a few minutes before serving, saffron is added to each pot.

Usually Piti is served with traditional pita bread, pickles and sumac, which gives the taste of dishes an acidic shade and is considered useful for blood. Eat Piti also in a special way. From the clay mug poured the broth and eaten with bread. After the plate is emptied, peas and lamb are thrown out of the mug, they are kneaded well and then eaten with appetite.

It should be noted that in Shaki Piti can be tasted almost in every cafe and restaurant, and almost everywhere here it is equally tasty.

Sheki Halva

In Azerbaijan, there are many variations of halva (baklava) - Baku, Guba, Sheki, etc., and each has its own peculiarities. A real Sheki halva can be tried only in Sheki. Hard work and cooking conditions limit the ability to make it at home. Although there are many recipes for the so-called Sheki Halva on the Internet, however, the secrets of cooking the original are known only to hereditary cooks, for whom cooking halva has been a family business for centuries. People call them "halvachi". They do not disclose the recipe to anyone, so how correctly to bake a grid-like Rishta, how many chopped nuts to add, how to make a sweet syrup, people from the outside can only guess.

One of the most famous in Sheki shops for cooking halva is the confectionery of Aliahmed. Not everyone has the opportunity to see the workshop for the production of halva in this family enterprise. According to the chief master of the workshop Gudret Novruzov, a dough for this Sheki halva is prepared only from rice flour. And the flour should be received only on a water mill. And the one that is obtained on the electric mill quickly gives off yellowness. By making a semi-liquid dough, it is poured on a hot frying pan in several layers, forming a mesh with a special copper device. This grid is called "irshite". One irshite is cooked for a minute. Then they form halva - 10 layers of rice irshite put on the bottom, then pour a special nut mixture and top 10 more layers of rice irshite. The last layer is decorated with a mixture of beet syrup with infusion of saffron flowers, applying it to the surface in thin strips. Then the halva is baked in a frying pan for 10 minutes. After that, it is abundantly watered with a special syrup based on sugar or, in a more expensive version, based on honey. The next day the halva is soaked and only after that it acquires its famous properties and is ready for eating.

In addition to halva, other traditional Azerbaijani sweets are made in Sheki confectioneries: okra, burma halvasy, tel halvasy, peshvyang, nuts in sugar glaze, caramel "barama" and much more. Will be in Sheki - do not miss the opportunity to treat yourself sweet!

Ganja baklava

Another ancient city of Azerbaijan - Ganja, also boasts its own specialty dishes, including Ganja baklava, dovga, keta with greens or with meat (analogous to gutabs) and Shah pilaf.

According to Irada Kaziyeva, the owners of the pastry store Şərg Şirniyyətları ("Oriental sweets") in the preparation of Ganja baklava, there are subtleties and secrets that distinguish it, for example, from the Baku or Turkish baklava. So walnuts, used for its filling, are completely cleansed of the husks, which makes the baklava light color. In the dough is necessarily added infusion of rose petals (gulab), and in the filling cardamom. Ganja baklava is smeared with tincture of saffron flowers and sprinkled with poppy seeds, which are also scalded with boiling water and cleaned, so they become white. As a result, baklava turns tender, has shades of tastes of roses and saffron and just melts in your mouth.

Dovga, keta and Shah pilaf

During the trip to Ganja, try the traditional Ganja dovga, keta and, of course, the Shah pilaf. Dovga - Azerbaijani soup based on gatyk and greens. But in Ganja dovga is preparing in a special way. For example, peas are not added to it, as in other regions, but they put mint, spinach, celery and eggs.

In Ganja, gutabs are also prepared in their own way. True, they are called here keta, not gutab, as in other cities. Ganja keta is with meat or with greens with the addition of white cheese. Portions of the keta, as a rule, are large and nourishing, abundantly sprinkled with sumac or dried barberry.

Finally, the main dish of any ganja feast is the Shah pilaf. The name of this festive dish comes from its appearance, which resembles the crown of medieval eastern rulers. Unlike a conventional pilaf, a Shah pilaf is served on the table "sealed". That is, rice and garnish are baked together in a saucepan, the bottom and walls of which are covered with lavash. It turns out something like a big pie, stuffed with aromatic steaming pilaf. Be sure to try it!

Emil Eyyubov


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