Azerbaijan Food and Drink
Azerbaijani food combines Turkish and central Asian elements. While Baku has an excellent selection of international restaurants, from Japanese fusion to Italian, in most rural restaurants the kebab is most definitely king.
Azeris reckon their tomatoes are the best in the world and there is some justification for this. A special place in the cuisine also belongs to lamb kebabs, of which there are many different varieties. Sumac, a purple powder derived from dried berries, adds a zesty citron flavour to plainly grilled meat.
Hand-cut chips, made from locally-grown potatoes, are excellent. Vegetarians will end up eating a great deal of salad and lentil soup as most dishes contain meat. In the chaikhanas (tea houses), men linger for hours drinking sweet black tea out of tiny glasses and playing nard (backgammon).
Lule kebab: Spiced, minced lamb pressed on to skewers and grilled.
Dograma: A milky potato, cucumber and onion soup served cold.
Piti: Mutton and chickpea soup – a Sheki speciality.
Qutab: Pancakes stuffed with spinach, herbs or meat.
Badimjan dolmasi: Lamb and herb-stuffed trio of aubergine, tomato and green pepper.
Dushpara: Soup made with mutton stock containing small pieces of pasta.
Toyuk levengisi: Chicken stuffed with nuts and dried fruits.
Shirin plov: Meat and rice pilaf with nuts and dried fruit.
Monastirski: Chicken or lamb topped with melted cheese and pomegranate sauce.
Coban salatasi: Finely chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber and herbs.
Local wine: Improving all the time and a reasonably priced alternative to expensive foreign imports.
Xirdalan: The favoured local beer.
Shabat: A soft iced drink made of sugar, various fruits and herbs.
Chai: Tea, served black in a glass with lemon and sugar to taste.
Darchin chai: Tea, flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and, occasionally, rosewater.
Su: Mineral water from the mountains available either naturally carbonated or still.
Things to know
Although the majority of Azeris are nominally Shia Muslims, alcohol is widely available.
Expected by waiters in most restaurants. 10% is fine.