Food is an important part of Azerbaijan culture. Throughout the centuries, Azerbaijani cuisine has been influenced by the foods of different cultures, though at the same time, it remained distinctive and unique. Many foods that are indigenous to the country can now be seen in the cuisines of other cultures. For the Azerbaijanis, food is an important part of the country's culture and is deeply rooted in the history, traditions and values of the nation.
Given that Azerbaijani culture and language is Turkic in origin, it’s not surprising that its cuisine also carries a strong Turkish influence. Azeri cuisine displays an intriguing blend of influences from Turkey, the Middle East, Iran, Central Asia and even India. Lamb is the staple ingredient, and typical seasonings include saffron, cinnamon and fresh coriander.
The main course of Azerbaijani cuisine are over 30 kinds of soups, including those prepared from plain yoghurt. One of the most reputed dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine, however, is plov from saffron-covered rice, served with various herbs and greens, a combination totally distinctive from Uzbek plovs. Azerbaijani cuisine includes more than 40 different plov recipes. Other second courses include a wide variety of kebabs and shashlik, including lamb, beef, chicken, and fish (baliq) kebabs. Sturgeon, a common fish, is normally skewered and grilled as a shashlik, being served with a tart pomegranate sauce called narsharab. Dried fruits and walnuts are used in many dishes. The traditional condiments are salt, black pepper, sumac, and especially saffron, which is grown domestically on the Absheron Peninsula.
Black tea is the national beverage, and is drunk after food is eaten. It is also offered to guests as a gesture of welcome, often accompanied by fruit preserves.
It is possible to eat well without spending a fortune in Azerbaijan. Doner kebabs are so prevalent on Baku’s streets that you’d swear they were Azerbaijani by origin.
Most towns of any size have at least couple of cheap yemakhanas (food houses and anywhere that attracts tourists - foreign or local - will have a selection of slightly more expensive restaurants.
For more detailed info on Azeri recipes and step-by-step cooking instructions we recommend to visit a wonderful site by Gullu Cahangir - www.azerifood.com
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