Armenia is a landlocked and culturally rich country in the South Caucasus region. The country’s historical legacy is something every Armenian is proud for being world’s oldest Christian nation. Armenia has so much to offer – magnificent mountains, amazing monuments, intriguing history and not to forget their delicious cuisine. Although Caucasian cuisine is associated with tasty, high-calorie meat dishes, there are influences from Mediterranean and Middle East too. Finding a vegetarian dish is not only easy, but gives a delicious experience into Armenian cuisine. Here are some of the must-try vegetarian dishes.
Pasus Tolma (Stuffed Cabbage Leaves)
Tolma is one of the most popular festive dishes of Armenian cuisine that every vegetarian should try. This dish is very tasty, easy to prepare and quite practical. The word “pas” in Armenian means “a fast”. After the adoption of Christianity (want to learn more? Choose any piligrim tour to Armenia you like), majority of Armenians held the Christmas fast for 7 days – they started on December 30, and ended on January 6. Perhaps, that is why Tolma is still an integral part of the Armenian New Year’s table. Cabbage leaves are the main ingredient of the dish. They are filled with lean stuffing, consisting of cooked and stewed tomato paste lentils, peas (chickpeas), red beans, and wheat groats (bulgur). Then Tolma is boiled in a wide saucepan, tightly covered with an inverted plate and is usually kept frozen and thawed before serving.
Ghapama is yet another festive dish of Armenian cuisine, served at weddings, Christmas or Easter. A medium sized pumpkin is taken for preparing this dish. Cut off the top of the pumpkin, and clean its flesh. Pumpkin is then filled with half cooked rice, dried fruits, nuts, cinnamon and honey, and baked in the oven.
Zhengyalov ats is one of the speciality dish of Artsakh region. Traditionally this vegetarian dish is prepared from more than 20 types of local herbs, which are finely chopped and layered on a thin dough. From above, the cake is covered with dough and baked in a pan or on a special brazier saj. The recipe for the dough is very simple – simply mix water, flour and salt. If you do not manage to visit Artsakh, do not be upset, there are plenty of restaurants in Yeravan that offer this vegetarian dish.
Mshosh is a classic lean and healthy Armenian snack that is easy to prepare – boil lentils, add some fried onions, walnuts and dried apricots to it. Cook for another 15 minutes. Some people use beans instead of lentils. Mshosh can be served both hot and cold, as a side dish or as a snack. Mshosh can be spread on Armenian lavash or on any bread.
Ailazan is an ancient dish of Armenian cuisine which dates back to the 19th century. Traditionally it is cooked in a special oven called Tondir. Ailazan is a vegetable stew prepared from potatoes, aubergines, bell pepper, green beans, and tomatoes. Vegetables should be laid in layers in a cauldron and stewed for an hour. Vegetarians serve it as an independent dish, some use it as a side dish for meat.
Matsnaprtosh or okroshka
Okroshka in Armenia is a drink that is usually cooked on hot summer days. For its preparation, the national fermented milk product matsun is diluted with water, then some finely chopped cucumbers, dill and salt are added to it.
The pocket sized country’s interesting insight into vegetarian dishes does not end here. Vegetables and lenthils are always part of Armenian cuisine, and there are many more interesting vegetarian dishes to explore. If you want to get acquainted with other famous Armenian dishes, you can take part in any gourmet tours.