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.
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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.
Shekerbura is another irresistibly sweet pastry. Shaped like a half moon with elaborate exterior patterns made using special mini tongs, the inside is filled with ground almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and sugar. The tastiest shekerbura is so soft that it disintegrates immediately in the mouth! Like pakhlava, it’s one of the symbolic sweets of the much-loved Novruz holiday, during which family and friends join forces to bake them together.
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.