As far as travelling with food in mind, Azerbaijan cuisine is up there in the top of my list of favourites. Each visit I always look forward to some traditional favourites as well as seeking out some delicious new dish I haven’t tried yet.
With Azerbaijan having 9 of the 11 world climate zones you can imagine this has led to variety, colour and flavour. A country where the greens are a very flavoursome joy to eat on their own, or the meat dishes that get my mouth watering every time.
Some Azeri dishes have spread around the world and some have taken influence from around the world. This is where East meets West after all.
Food Experiences In Azerbaijan
In the main image up at the top of tis post you will see a very fine typical platter, wrapped in the thin wafer bread on the right is a favourite.. lamb kebab.
Lamb featured a lot during my visits so far.. helps that it is my choice of meat 🙂 Another local delight is the Dolma! Love it… minced lamb with herbs wrapped in vine leaves, commonly served with a natural yoghurt….
it just melts in your mouth.
Even before you get to the main dishes the colourful variety is brought to the table. Plates and bowls of green leaves and herbs (Goy) that I will say are absolutely the opposite of the flavourless salad starters that we get used to at home. Breads (Chorek) pieces seemingly never ending..
Plus I couldn’t forget the choice of cheeses… and fruits.. and the pickled fruit and vegetables
Another main dish that comes in many local varieties and each one with its own true taste are the Qutab. Pancake turnovers stuffed with differing lovely ingredients. Here we have 2 that we chose and we didn’t go wrong. From left to right, Lamb, Spinach and then pumpkin.
But what for dessert I hear you say, well you need to have your sweet tooth about you! Remember in my post on Sheki last year I was introduced to a proper Pakhlava. A local cake of nuts and dough absolutely absorbed in sweet honey. Well this time I was in another district, the Quba region. They had their own very orange coloured take on the cake. Mmmm Yummy
One thing I must say at this point is that if you are a big coffee drinker like me then don’t expect a coffee available in Azerbaijan within your vicinity whilst out and about.
Black Tea is the order of the day and the national drink. Taken with every meal or drank with guests as a welcome. Everywhere you go, a lovely glass of tea is on offer, tis delightful.
Olives are always on the table, local pomegranate juice or seeds colour the tasty array in front of you. Every meal is a feast but a feast that is never too filling or fatty. I really could go on and on into special cooked breads, more fruits and more meat dishes like chicken. I even had the chance to try some bear meat in the mountains. Variety, taste, colour, culture and heritage. Azeri cuisine is something that all must try.
Dining Experiences In Old City Baku, Azerbaijan
It seems that wherever you choose to dine in Baku you cannot go far wrong. There are one or two places in the Old City of Baku however that never escape a visit whenever we are in town. Lovely dining experiences in an old style setting, the caravanserais.
Being a large stopping and trading point on the Silk Road there are a few caravanserai in Baku Old City. A place for resting, eating and networking. The entrances leading to old open topped courtyards, a place once to freshen and leave your camel. Around the courtyards are little bays or rooms.
Private rooms once used for accommodation or selling maybe are now transformed into wonderful quirky dining areas. Let us start with one of the biggest and finest. Art Garden.
The wide open old courtyard has been transformed into a wonderful mix of ancient and modern. The open roof now covered in a colourful huge cloth allowing the ambience to remain within and a great light to compliment the food.
The private rooms and bays surrounding are very unique themselves. Each has been decorated by local artists and each has a theme from the local area.
Eating here is one of those gastro extravaganzas that could see you pass the hours away grazing at parts of the menu, chatting with friends and sipping the wine.
I still find it remarkable that the old city has not been turned into an ancient empty museum of a place. The tiny alleyways and old walls still have the sound of living and work within them.
The caravanserai still put to use for eating and networking, with fewer camels of course! As you wander around them you do see the signs of old. Marks on the corners of the walls in the stone are traces where the animals were tied to… old statues, pots and ornaments still adorn the courtyards and walls.
Rather than ‘just’ eat it was great to take a deeper look into each one. Cellars underground down old stone steps, once perhaps animal shelters or banquet rooms are little bars or dramatic great settings for function rooms.
Rooms seemingly fit for a right royal banquet await passers by. I can never fail to step inside one, the lovely smells of offerings too much to resist, as well as the genuinely warm welcome from the hosts.
If you are ever in Baku, azerbaijan, I do highly recommend a dining experience at a caravanserai in the Old City. Quaint, remarkable, gorgeous, delicious, relaxing… just a few of the words I could use to describe the experiences.
Oh, and a huge tip for food in Old City Baku is the Tandir Bread. I must do! Check it out.