The Food Here is Great
We arrived here in Azerbaijan at just the right time to get a full sampling of the panoply of flavors coming out of Azeri kitchens. Fresh fruits and vegetables abound. In my host family’s garden/yard, alone we have a few pomegranate, apple, pear, and (random fruit I don’t know) trees. There are also some grape vines, and an area for tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers. At every meal, basically, they can guarantee fresh-cut cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. That’s at nearly every table, with bread, of course.
In addition to that, I’ve started picking up a few things here and there. Tonight was the third time I’ve helped make Duşbǝrǝ in the last 3 weeks. Duşbǝrǝ is wonderful. You start with a nice dough made with flour, salt, an egg or two, and water, and roll it out real thin (in a cool Azeri way), and then cut the thin dough into squares. In the squares, you place balls of meat mixed with greens (cilantro and dill), and salt and pepper. Then you wrap them up like dumplings and put them into the boiling broth you made with water, oil, greens, and the bones of some animal.
You eat it hot, real hot. And to your soup, you add salt, pepper, another spice, and a thin sauce made with vinegar, oil, and crushed garlic. Whenever we make it, it’s a big deal. I could eat that every day.
Beyond that, I’ve also had some great soups. One of the better ones is a soup with potatoes and lamb and tomatoes. There’s also a macaroni soup that my host mom makes that is very good. Have some çorǝk to go with them, sopping up the oil, and its fantastic. There are also other choices such as dönǝr, a sandwich of sorts, that has cucumbers, tomatoes, meat, greens, and a delicious sauce, and things like plov (aka pilaf) and kebabs. All of it is very good.
A few quick hits about Azeri food:
• There is oil. Far more oil than you’ve probably ever used for any given dish. It’s incredible. Some people have had a hard time adjusting to just how much oil there is in the food. Luckily, I’ve had no problems. It makes the bread taste even better, and it makes cleaning the pans a lot easier.
• The food tends to be salty. Not too salty, but salty enough that I generally don’t have to worry about adding any extra pinches.
• Rumor has it that the food becomes a bit less action-packed in the winter, when fresh fruits and veggies are less widely available.
• Despite the excellent choices I’ve had so far (with the excellent host mother cook), selection is somewhat limited. Whereas the last exotic place I stayed (Thailand) had an endless supply of food choices, the variety of dishes here might last you 10 days.
Enjoy the pictures of me helping make Duşbǝrǝ. As I come across new foods I can try to make, I’ll pass them along.