One of the national dishes of Azerbaijan is plov. Expect to enjoy it with saffron and cinnamon plus lots of dried fruits like apricot or even dates and chestnuts. Rice will usually be served with meat, most commonly mutton or lamb which is the favourite combination. You can also have it with chicken. The most revered of the rice dishes is shakh plov or king pilaf which is a very unique recipe where the rice is encased in a round crust made with layers of crispy lavash, the thin tortilla-style bread that usually accompanies the kebabs. When served, the cake is cut into four pieces so the rice inside is revealed to the guests in what is quite a spectacle. Plov is one of the most widespread dishes in Azerbaijan, with more than 40 different recipes. Plovs have different names depending on the main ingredients accompanying the rice: Kourma plov (Mutton plov with onion), chilov plov (bean plov with fish), sabzi qovurma plov (mutton plov), toyug plov (chicken plov), shirin plov (dried fruit plov), syudli plov (rice cooked in milk), sheshryanch plov (six-color plov, eggs cooked "sunny side up" on a bed of fried green and white onions).
Dovga, a traditional Azeri dish, is a type of yoghurt soup with rice, chickpeas and herbs. Locals eat it either warm or cold. More often now it’s a vegetarian, yoghurt-based soup cooked with a variety of herbs. Coriander, dill, mint and rice are mainstays of the soup. Chervil and mountain parsley can be added. Spring onions or sorrel can also be used for more tender flavors. Sometimes it's cooked with chickpeas. It’s often served warm in winter or refreshingly cool in summer. Traditionally it’s served as an Azerbaijani wedding soup between meat courses.
Azerbaijan has many types of kabab and shashlik. They are made from different kinds of marinated chopped or minced meat, chicken or fish, and vegetables, such as bell pepper, onion, mushroom and tomato. All this is pinned on a skewer and is fried over fire like a barbecue. The main varieties include tika kabab, lyula kabab (doyma kabab in some places), tas kababy and tava kabab. The meat for tika kabab is sometimes prepared in basdirma (an onion gravy and thyme) and then goes onto the skewers. It may be served, wrapped in lavash, with sauce-like pomegranate addon (narsharab) and other condiments.
Piti is a delicious soup prepared using mutton, vegetables, and chickpeas, cooked and served in earthenware pots. It forms an essential part of the Azerbaijan cuisine! In Azerbaijan, piti is eaten in two steps. First, bread is crumpled in the additional plate and sprinkled with a purple mix of spices. Then, the broth is poured over it and the resulting mixture is consumed as a hearty soup. Second, more crumpled bread is added to the same plate and the remainder of the piti (the lump of mutton fat, the meat and the vegetables) is poured over, sprinkled with the same spices, mixed together so as to break down the fat and then it’s eaten.
One of the traditional recipes from Azerbaijani cuisine is Dolma. Each Azerbaijani table is complete with stuffed grape leaves, dolma, or yarpag dolmasi. They are little morsels of deliciousness, in which tender grape leaves (fresh or canned) are wrapped around a flavorful filling made with ground meat, onion, rice, herbs, and a dash of seasoning. There are 4 main types of dolmas served in Azerbaijan: – badimgan dolmasi: stuffed eggplant – bibar dolmasi: stuffed peppers – pomidor dolmasi: stuffed tomatoes – yarpaq dolmasi: stuffed vine leaves
Lavangi is baked chicken and fish, stuffed with walnuts and cherry-plum and usually served with boiled rice, seasoned with melted butter. You’ll find this Azeri dish in southern Azerbaijan, especially in Lankaran, Masalli, Salyan and Neftchala districts, but you can also taste it in Baku. There are two types of lavangi. Toyuq lavangi (stuffed chicken) and baliq lavangi (stuffed fish) are treasured dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine. For stuffed chicken lavangi pilaf, the stuffing is prepared by making a puree with onions, which is squeezed into a cloth, to remove the liquid, and mixed with crushed walnuts and prune puree (probably of the sour plum type). The stuffed fish version is usually prepared for Novruz. The preferred fish is the Caspian kutum, or carp of the Caspian Sea, but white-fish beluga (sturgeon) is also suitable. The other condiments for the filling are sour prune, sour cherry or a pomegranate juice syrup called “narsharab" ("nar" is the local name for pomegranate in Azerbaijan). These condiments are added to the mixture with crushed walnuts and chopped onions; if the fish has caviar, these are also used in the filling. After the fish is roasted, it’s served with pieces of lemon, bread and narsharab.
Qutabs are made from thinly rolled dough that is cooked briefly on a convex griddle known as a “saj”. Forget sugary syrup – Azeri pancakes are savoury and eaten with a yoghurt sauce. Different kinds of meat, spinach, cheese, pumpkin are among the most popular stuffings. They are wrapped into thin layers of dough made of flour, water, eggs and salt, and made into crescent-shaped patties, and then the patties are fried on both sides. Qutabs are usually served with herbed yoghurt, greens and sumac. Do you feel like tasting something unusual? Order yourself a qutab with camel meat, which are very common in Baku's restaurants.