Made of rice mixed with herbs, dried fruits, meat or fish and other local ingredients, plov (pilaf) is a dish that can never get boring! It comes in all varieties and is always around during any Azerbaijani holiday. Some of the most popular types are fisinjan (with ground meat in a pomegranate and nut sauce), shirin (with raisins and dried apricots), and shah, which is encased in layers of buttered lavash bread.
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Dolma is a dish traditionally made of grape leaves stuffed with various fillings of meat and rice, enriched with herbs or nuts. Its name comes from the verb ‘dolmaq’, meaning ‘to stuff’ in Azerbaijani. The ingredients vary from region to region and depending on the time of year. For example, in summertime, stuffed aubergines or tomatoes are also considered dolma dishes.
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.