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Armenian Food


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Thought I'd post this here rather than in the geographic specific forum, hoping that it might get a little bit more exposure.

Now, I tried it for the first time a couple nights ago here in Melbourne, Australia. Simple stuff, some air-dried beef slices and sliced sausage for starters then mains of chargrilled pork and lamb on the bone, and a huge serving of chanakhi.

The chanakhi is a soup, thick and hearty with potatoes, beans, chunks of braising beef, and loads of spices. I could taste paprika, a hint of chilli, and layer upon layer of other stuff. Was salty too. People I've spoken to since have commented that a lot of EAstern European soups are quite salty.

But it was a good dinner washed down with Kvas, a russian grain-derived beverage. It was lightly carbonated, slightly sweetened, and reminded me of sarsaparilla (which reminds me to go pick up some root beer today).

I noticed many of the diners, ostensibly either Russian or Armenian were tucking into their meals with bottles of whiskey and other spirits nearby but no vodka in sight.

If anyone can shed some light on the cuisine or knows something to share, I look forward to it!

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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When I was a kid Armenian Food would have been considered an oxymoron. My Mother's favorite admonishment when we didn't want to eat something was how grateful the "starving Armenians" would have been to have it.

As you might suspect based on the geography, the cusine is a cross between Eastern European and Middle Eastern fare. Here are some recipes:

http://www.recipesource.com/ethnic/africa/...-east/armenian/

SB (the Grape Walnut Candy looks interesting)

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My very first "serious" boyfriend (for whom the phrase Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll was coined :wink:) was from an Armenian family. I recall his aunts and his mom cooking up all manner of delicious things in the kitchen from what were very exotic (at least to me at that time) ingredients like eggplants and sesame paste, chicken with almonds and making stuffed grape leaves and pilaf. I can still recall those intoxicating aromas and the use of spices I'd certainly never seen in my mother's kitchen. Meanwhile the men would be out in the living room drinking shots of Arak (a rocket fuel like substance similar to raisin grappa) and playing loud and brutally competitive games of Backgammon that you'd have thought were for the Championship-of-the-Free-World-as-We-Know-It. It was a cultural experience and a budding Foodie experience like none other.

Armenian food, like Albanian food is a "crossroads cuisine" that is directly traceable to it's geographical placement and it's historical place as a true crossroads between Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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The only Armenian food I have had a lot of are Lahmajuns -- the spicy pizza-like things with ground meat on top. Where I live here in the US, Northern NJ has its share of Lahmajun bakeries -- George Assadourian, the one in Cliffside Park comes to mind (although those people are Syrian but bake in a Armenian style). I try to pick some up from that place whenever I can, they make great quick snacks. I just throw them in the toaster for a few minutes to crisp them up a bit.

http://www.assadourian.com

EDIT: Assadourian is USDA inspected and approved, so they are able to ship their Lahmajuns anywhere.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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There is a large Armenian community in the L.A. area, particularly around Glendale and parts of the Valley.

Back in the early 50s I spend most of a year out here with my dad and went to Van Nuys highschool. One of my classmates was Sarkis Sarkissian (another was Don Drysdale) who lived fairly close to my dad and I often visited his home and his mom and grandmother and aunts all cooked like demons.

I loved everything, Kufta expecially, also the breads, Boereg, meat and also the cheese (little turnovers) and any of the numerous eggplant dishes.

I learned to make the Kufta and an apricot/lentil dish as well as the flaky pastry and Boereg.

For many years I prepared these only rarely.

Then in the early '90s I read the first of Jane Haddam's mysteries about Gregor Demarkian and there were so many references to Armenian foods that it awakened my interest and I dug out some of my ancient recipes.

I also contacted an Armenian church, knowing that the ladies auxillaries usualy had a recipe thing going and indeed, they had published a lovely cookbook which I purchased.

It is indeed a "crossroads" cuisine but with subtle touches that make it interesting enough that it deserves a niche of its own.

Particularly for vegetarians, the many completely vegetarian dishes are wonderful.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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If the Melbourne Armenian community is similar to some of the other ethnic communities, the food could be very diverse depending on when they came out (1920's v 1990's). I know a few Armenians and have eaten with them, the food is often similar to neigbouring Middle-Eastern countries (especially Iran), but with specific twists (the type of nuts and spice used in baklava etc). Some of the food reminded me of Georgian food, meat cooked with fruit for instance. Also, there are/were some famous fish dishes from the regions around Lake Van.

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I know a few Armenians and have eaten with them, the food is often similar to neigbouring Middle-Eastern countries (especially Iran), but with specific twists (the type of nuts and spice used in baklava etc). Some of the food reminded me of Georgian food, meat cooked with fruit for instance.

I have a cookbook called Patisserie of the Mediterranean that really illustrates this point quite well. Although most of the pastries are made with phyllo or that shredded stuff whose name now escapes me, the variations in Baklava alone (cinnamon or not, rosewater in the honey syrup or not, walnuts or pistachios, etc.) are mind boggling and indicative of precisely which culture can claim origin of the recipe. Really interesting stuff.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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In my experience, Armenians have the skill of claiming that they have invented most things. :smile: In some cases they actually may be correct.

It makes sense though if you think about it. Just because you have been fighting all you neighbours on and off for a thousand years or so, there is no reason why you shouldn't copy there good recipes, change them to suit your tastes and claim them as your own.

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I have only a little experience with Armenian food (mostly Western Armenian), but I've been to friends' family dinners and a couple of catered functions. I'm guessing the air-dried beef that PCL saw was probably basturma. In addition to what has already been mentioned, I've seen quite a bit of bulgur, olives, aleppo chile pepper and okra.

In LA, there's a popular mini-chain of rotisserie places called Zankou Chicken, which is supposedly owned by Armenians. I'm not sure if the menu is supposed to be Armenian, but the chicken is consistently delicious, available with hommus, torshi (turnip pickles), tabouleh, garlic paste/sauce, and they also have very good beef and lamb shawarma.

~Tad

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I used to be a in chamber group with an Armenian-American guitarist who had spent time as a visiting artist in Yerevan. She was an excellent cook who made delicious dolmas, I remember in particular. I sort of also remember some good meat-and-wheat dishes and things with lentils. Something with tomatoes, too. I'm sorry we lost touch with each other - though not exclusively because of her cooking. :laugh:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm guessing the air-dried beef that PCL saw was probably basturma. In addition to what has already been mentioned, I've seen quite a bit of bulgur, olives, aleppo chile pepper and okra.

.....I'm not sure if the menu is supposed to be Armenian, but the chicken is consistently delicious, available with hommus, torshi (turnip pickles), tabouleh, garlic paste/sauce, and they also have very good beef and lamb shawarma.

It was called Basturma, and the sausages were called Shujuk.

As for the garlic, it was very prominent in all the dishes, but not unpleasantly so. Now that people mention the middle-east, I could definitely recall that in the kebab type treatment of the lamb and pork, although I'm sure the pork is the European influence... :biggrin:

I also googled Chanakhi, and apparently its of Georgian origin, although the Georgians don't do it with beans apparently. It's here if people are interested:

http://ggdavid.tripod.com/georgia/cuisine/chanakhi.htm

As for the crossroads element, this reminds me of a thread possibly in this forum, on Fusion... the winning argument was, if I remember correctly, that fusion should occur along Darwinian lines. When excessive tampering takes place, we often end up with too much lemongrass, but I digress.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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Grew up with lots of Armenian kids, in lebanon. They ate what we all ate, as far as I could tell. But basturma and soujouk were acknowledged to be Armenian foods, though we also had them at home quite often.

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  • 2 weeks later...

ah, one of my favorite cusines- or was that one of my favorite boyfriends....

i had the pleasure of learning from him and his mother- everything made by hand

we made our own yogurt- and the way we tested if it was done was how it felt on the baby finger- it was a long messy process with a lot of draining

we'd use that to make the drink that we would have with meals- yogurt, ice and salt - very refreshing (forgot the names of most of these things)

then of course, yogurt, frsh garlic and cucumbers and ice cubes made an incredible summer soup

lots of bulgur - and the kofta filled with lamb

and the best tabbouli i've ever had- more parsely then you could imagine was the key

the key to the hummus was the frsh sumac that was sprinkled on the top

there were always dried apricots and nuts in the living room for guests

but the best of all was the lamajoun- the armenian pizza

making that was an event- we did that by hand in my small kitchen and there were

flour tortillas everywhere- that we filled with lamb and tomato, spices- fold it into four, sprinkle with lemon - i couldnt stop eating them-

but we'd freeze several batches and they nuked out perfectly

i wish i still remembered how to make them....

fond memories and tastes gone by

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ah, one of my favorite cusines- or was that one of my favorite boyfriends....

i had the pleasure of learning from him and his mother- everything made by hand

we made our own yogurt- and the way we tested if it was done was how it felt on the baby finger- it was a long messy process with a lot of draining

we'd use that to make the drink that we would have with meals- yogurt, ice and salt - very refreshing (forgot the names of most of these things)

then of course, yogurt, frsh garlic and cucumbers and ice cubes made an incredible summer soup

lots of bulgur - and the kofta filled with lamb

and the best tabbouli i've ever had- more parsely then you could imagine was the key

the key to the hummus was the frsh sumac that was sprinkled on the top

there were always dried apricots and nuts in the living room for guests

but the best of all was the lamajoun- the armenian pizza

making that was an event- we did that by hand in my small kitchen and there were

flour tortillas everywhere- that we filled with lamb and tomato, spices- fold it into four, sprinkle with lemon - i couldnt stop eating them-

but we'd freeze several batches and they nuked out perfectly

i wish i still remembered how to make them....

fond memories and tastes gone by

Did we date the same boyfriend? :unsure:

:laugh:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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dont want to get off the track here...

i remember the yogurt drink was called "tan" and it went perfectly with the spicy dishes

my friends family was from Beirut but there were also the Soviet Armenians, and other mid-east countries i dont want to incorrectly name- it has been over 20 years

i just remember the joy they shared of cooking and eating

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Hmmm... the allure of Armenian food seems to transcend mere satiation of the appetite. I am now reminded of Proust, the triggering of memory via sensory stimulation... the book is gathering dust, but I'll just talk to the resident Proustian, my wife...

The fusion element is intruiging. The use of yoghurts, mid-east spices... now... any takers on the Kvass??... is it Armenian sarsaparilla or is it another adopted item in the corpus?

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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I am half Armenian, so when I visit that side of the family I get to enjoy my grandmother's cooking, which is one of the things I most look forward to. My family is Armenian from Alexandria, Egypt, though originally from the village of Dikranagert (now known as Diyarbekir). This of course was before 1.5 million of my people living in what is now Turkey were massacred, so there ain't no Armenians there now. The food I usually ate growning up included the traditional Armenian recipes, as well as many of the Egyptian ones. The only big difference was that we didn't eat that much lamb, this being because my dad and grandfather didn't like it. Some of the most memorable foods my grandmother makes are here dolmas, vine leaves stuffed with meat and rice, with lots of yogurt and garlic, as well as the aformentioned air-dried beef, basturma. Lahmajouns make me realize why my grandmother has a foodservice-size tub of garlic in the fridge, and I always take a few frozen ones back to the States with me. Soups, like a meat dumpling soup and another labor-intensive soup made from hooves, and and the Egyptian Molokhia also spring to mind. Finally, all varieties of pastries, like baklava, biscuits, flaky cheese things. WIth every meal, pita bread, which is one of the things I really look forward to, because even wegmans is piss-poor next to bread from one of the middle eastern grocery stores. Armenian food is definitely comfort food, and fills you up. It borrows from many elements of the regional cuisines though it's pretty easily destinguishable from any of them.

"yes i'm all lit up again"

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My grandmother is from Armenia; one of the 3 survivors from a family of 12. See previous post by dankphishin re: massacres.

Lahmejun is one of my favorite simple Armenian foods.

It's offered on the menus of the many, many Turkish döner kebap takeout places throughout Germany. Sometimes, on these menus, it's referred to as 'Turkish pizza'. :hmmm: I still recall when my (now-husband, a German) first mentioned these things to me, like they were something new for me to try. my response: "not Turkish. Just call it lahmejun, and I won't get into the politics of it all. Nobody has to get hurt here." :smile:

For an outside observer who really just wants to know about the style of food: yes, it's very similar to food from the more well-known countries around it. Armenians are known for complaining about the assumptions people make about the region, and some of it is justified. It's a tiny country now compared to what it once was. Greece and Turkey have better PR agents, or something. :smile:

I met a Lebanese couple on a plane back from Australia. I confused their name, and assumed it was Armenian. The man bought me a glass of wine, for the sake of some other Armenians he knew, once upon a time...

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