Azerbaijani cuisine, throughout the
centuries, has been influenced by the foods of different cultures due to
political and economic processes in Azerbaijan. Still, today's
Azerbaijani cuisine has distinctive and unique features. Many foods that
are indigenous to the country can now be seen in the cuisines of other
cultures. For the Azerbaijanis, food is an important part of the
country's culture and is deeply rooted in the history, traditions and
values of the nation.
Out of 11 climate zones known in the world, Azerbaijan has nine. This
contributes to the fertility of the land, which in its turn results in
the richness of the country’s cuisine. The Caspian Sea is home to many
edible species of fish, including the sturgeon, Caspian salmon (a
subspecies of trout, now critically endangered), Caspian white fish,
sardines, grey mullet, and others. Black caviar from the Caspian Sea
one of Azerbaijan’s best known delicacies well sought after in other
parts of the world, including former Soviet countries.
Azerbaijani cuisine has over 30 kinds of soups, including those prepared
from plain yogurt. There is a wide variety of kebabs and shashliks,
including lamb, beef, chicken, and fish (baliq) kebabs. Sturgeon, a
common fish, is normally skewered and grilled as a shashlik, being
served with a tart pomegranate sauce called narsharab. The traditional
condiments are salt, black pepper, sumac, and especially saffron, which
is grown domestically on the Absheron Peninsula. A national dish of
Azerbaijani cuisine is saffron-rice plov served with various herbs and
greens, a combination totally different from Uzbek plovs. Azerbaijan has
more than 40 different plov recipes. Dried fruits and walnuts are used
in many dishes.
Azerbaijani cuisine is famous for an abundance of vegetables and greens
used seasonally in the dishes. Fresh herbs, including mint, cilantro
(coriander, dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leeks, chives, thyme,
marjoram, green onion, and watercress, are very popular and often
accompany main dishes on the table.
Black tea is the national beverage, and it is drunk at the beginning of
each meal before food is eaten. It is also a hospitality beverage that
always welcomes guests, often accompanied by fruit preserves.
In addition to oil economy, Azerbaijan has a healthy agricultural base.
Among Azerbaijan's agricultural products mention can be made of cotton,
tobacco, grapes, and tea. Azerbaijan's raw cotton, a leading
agricultural product, rivaled the cotton production of other major
cotton producing republics like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Tobacco
formed the second most important crop in the republic. Grapes of many
varieties are mostly used in wine making. In fact, Azerbaijan's wine
production, expanded in recent years, has received a number of
international awards. Finally, although introduced into the republic
fairly recently, tea production promises a similar trend as wine, both
with regard to production and marketing. In the former Soviet Union,
Azerbaijan came second in tea production, Georgia being the first. Rice,
fruits and vegetables are also produced in abundance, adding variety to
Wine of Azerbaijan
Modern viticulture in Azerbaijan is
concentrated in the Kirovabad-Kazakh and Shirvan regions, and vineyards
account for nearly 7% of the country's cultivated land. There are 17
vine varieties officially recognized for wine production and 16 table
grape varieties as well. The most common grape is Pinot Noir.
The Tovuz region where the wine and
cognac plants are located has a rich history of wine-growing in
Azerbaijan. Before the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century, the
Tovuz region was known as the oldest land of quality wine-growing. Many
archaeological findings prove that (vessels for wine storage, stones and
remains of tartaric acid found in Gyandja and Tovuz) during early stages
of social development, the wine-growing was apparent in the Gyandja-Tovuz
In addition to the manuscripts of famous
travelers, historians and geographers (Homer, Heradot, Strabon, Columell,
Hovgell, Masoodi, Al-Muqadasi, etc.), the 10th century Arabian
geographer Al-Muqaddasi, while describing the wealth of Azerbaijan,
remarked that "the region is rich and beautiful; it has many fruits and
wines. Such sweet wine is not found anywhere like in Nakhichevan."
Hence, there was a great deal of winemaking taking place in the Caucasus
in the Gyandja-Tovuz region from 1820-1830. The world's most famous
winemaking capitalists appeared in Azerbaijan. They include Christopher
Froer and Christian Gummel, who were among these German settlers. The
largest plant for producing cognac was built in Traubenfield (Tovuz),
which supplied the entire Russian market.