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!
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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.
In terms of popularity, lavangi stands head and shoulders above Lankaran’s other signature dishes. It’s made with either chicken or fish, which is stuffed with a scrumptious walnut paste along with raisins, onions, and herbs. Given the proximity of the Caspian Sea, the fish lavangi is especially popular, particularly when done with Caspian kutum. For the most delicious results, lavangi should be cooked in foil over hot coals in a traditional tandir oven.
Served mostly at weddings or special occasions, shah plov is considered the ‘king of plovs’ and is most commonly accompanied by qovurma – cooked meat, nuts, dry fruits and herbs. Shah plov is both a delicious dish and an unforgettable experience. After cutting the plov, which is glued together by a covering of buttery lavash bread, the astonishing aroma of the rice and other ingredients is sure to leave you with a lasting impression.
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.