In Azerbaijan, tea is synonymous with warmth and hospitality. Tradition dictates that you should never allow a guest to leave your house without having offered it. Tea ceremonies have evolved over centuries to include their own rites and rituals. We serve our tea in a special pear- shaped glass called an armudu, often together with lemon and sugar, honey, jam, nuts and sweets. Black tea is the most popular.
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Qutabs are a sort of pancake stuffed with different fillings – such as meat, spinach, cheese or pumpkin - and cooked on an iron disk called a saj. In Baku and the Absheron region, qutabs are drizzled with melted butter and served with yogurt and pomegranate. They can also be sprinkled with sumac, rolled into tubes and eaten with your hands. Azerbaijanis often serve qutabs with ayran – a cold yogurt drink mixed with salt and herbs.
Chunks of lamb soaked in a sauce of onion, vinegar and pomegranate juice, impaled on a large skewer and grilled on the barbecue – just one of many Azerbaijani kebab combinations! Some are made with lamb or beef, others with chicken or fish. Vegetables such as potatoes, aubergines, green peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes typically add succulence and flavour. The tika and lula kebabs are the two most popular: tika is made from marinated chunks of lamb, whereas lula is prepared from ground meat wrapped around a skewer.
Sheki’s signature dish started out as a hearty lamb stew for the city’s working class. Now it’s popular throughout the country, although for the most authentic pot of piti you should definitely head to Sheki. Chickpeas, chestnuts, saffron and local spices pack the dish with flavour, but the key element lies in the earthenware pots in which piti is cooked and served. What’s more, this is actually two dishes in one: first you pour the broth into a separate bowl and enjoy as a soup starter and then you pour in the rest for the main course!
Dushbara is a traditional dumpling soup, which while popular throughout the country, is considered a true Baku delicacy. It consists of tiny meat dumplings, boiled together in a broth with a touch of vinegar and garlic sauce. According to tradition, Azerbaijanis should be able to make the dushbara dumplings small enough to fit 10 of them all on one tablespoon! Preparing dushbara may be time-consuming, but it’s a great winter warmer.