Azeri Food
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In equal parts Georgian, Iranian, Turkish and Central Asian, the national cuisine of Azerbaijan is heavy on meat - especially lamb, beef, mutton and poultry - and richly spiced. While having much in common with the cooking of its neighbours, Azeri food has a character all of its own and is surprisingly varied - each region, as a rule, having its own specialties. As is the case with Azeri carpets or music, the dishes are exquisitely refined and take time and skill to prepare. Meat dishes are flavoured with chestnuts, dried apricots, raisins, and green herbs.

pilaff - AzerbaijanCommon items are pilaff / plov (rice fried with meat, fish, vegetables or even fruit) and fish. Not that you can't get your veggies - beets, cabbage, eggplants, spinach and others are common. Many dishes use saffron, though you'll often taste coriander, fennel, mint and parsley. Soup is a staple of Azerbaijani cuisine, often made with meat and sheep fat.

There are about a hundred varieties of pilaff: instead of being cooked in oil in one pot as in Uzbekistan, the rice and the various seasonings of the Azeri pilaff are cooked in separate pots. At home they are served separately, with melted butter in a jug, and everyone helps himself. In restaurants it's usually served in a metal dish with a lid.

grape leaves dolma (Yarpag dolmasy) - image by Russianfoods.comDolma is another common Azeri dish: minced lamb meat with rice is wrapped into grape leaves (Yarpag dolmasy) or occasionally in cabbage leaves (Kyalyam dolmasy). This dish is condimented with coriander, dill, mint, pepper, cinnamon and melted butter. Some times chestnuts and peas are part of the mix. Sour milk is often used as a sauce. Aubergines, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, quince and apples are also stuffed with lamb meat and also called dolma.

Stewed lamb, Bosartma - image by Russianfoods.comKebabs are a staple dish, try the liula-kebab grilled over an open fire. Stewed lamb,  Bosartma, is another local favourite, the meat is stewed with vegetables and plums. Bosartma is served with lemon slices and cucumbers.

In the northwest khingal is a favourite dish - a flour dish with meat, fried onion and kurut (a dried cottage cheese). In the Lenkoran region chicken is stuffed with nuts, onion and jelly and fried. Fish is also stuffed and baked in a tandoor oven (tendir). The Apsheron peninsula is famous for its dushpara - small meat dumplings and kutabs - meat patties made in a very thin dough.

Baku, Azerbaijan: tendir oven - cylindrical clay oven powered by charcoal - tandoor - photo by G.MonssenOther excellent dishes include: piti soup, made of mouton and peas, served in a earthenware pot; dogva pea with yoghourt soup, served with meatballs and herbs (served both cold and hot); kiufta-bosbash soup (a clear soup with meat balls, rice peas and potatoes); dooshbere soup with local ravioli; khamrachi (a noodle soup); kutabi pastries with various stuffings.

Bread is served with most meals, the most common are the round loaves called 'chorek'. Try also the wafer style 'lavash'. The traditional white wheat flour bread baked in a tandoori oven is usually still found in the countryside.

Baku, Azerbaijan: black and red caviar - Osetra / Ossetra sturgeon and Salmon caviar - photo by N.MahmudovaCaviar (kuru) is one of the Azeri luxuries, and you can taste it not only canned but also fresh. There's some sturgeon farming but most caviar comes from the dwindling stocks of the Caspian sea.

In Baku the best place to find caviar is at the Taza bazaar, near the Circus. Beluga is rather rare in Baku - most production of Beluga is exported. Most caviar you find in Baku is Osetra and Sevruga. You should also be aware that most fresh caviar is fully authentic, but illegally poached.

Beware that you are only allowed to take 600 g of caviar out of the country. Customs inspectors are skilled at checking for contraband in x-rayed luggage at the airport. The best way to smuggle Azeri caviar out of the country is via train to Russia, where it is not even checked for. From Moscow, it's easy to get the caviar out of the country. Unless you smuggle, you will find little cost advantage to buying caviar in Baku for export, versus buying in the West.

sturgeon - (photo (c) M.Torres - Azerbaijan besides some of the best caviar in the world, you will be able to taste the sturgeon itself (osetr). In fact many second courses are prepared of fish. Sturgeon shashlik, kutum a la Azerbaijan, kuku of kutum, balyg chygyrtma, stuffed fish, boiled, fried and stew fish, fish-pilaff, starred sturgeon pilaff, balyg mutyanjan and sturgeon fillet with pomegranate sauce (Narsharab) are the most popular fish dishes. But not all fish is sturgeon, and the Caspian sea also provides herring, salmon and the more rare pike perch.

A special place in the Azerbaijan cuisine belongs to salads prepared from fresh vegetables. When making salads of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum, coriander and basil these ingredients are very finely cut. Salads are served together with the main course. Salads "Khazar", "Azerbaijan", "Bakhar", red caviar salad, salad a la Sheky, kuku of greens, kuku of kutum (kind of fish), kuku with nuts, fisinjan of beans, red beet etc; are the most common salads and cold dishes in the Azerbaijan cookery.

If you like new things, and enjoy a little culinary adventure, have a typical local breakfast dish: "hash" - boiled hoof served with garlic-vinegar and a shot of vodka.

Azerbaijan - Baku: Turkish Baklava - Çudo Peçka bakery - photo by M.TorresThe Azeri sweets shouldn't be missed. Often you'll will be offered some in business or social meetings. Worth special reference are: the shekerbura (pie of thin dough with nuts and sugar), the shekerlockum and pahlava (a diamond shaped layered sweet pastry with nuts) accompanied by sherbet or tea.

Baku: Azeri tea in an armud - pear shapped - glass (photo by Galen Frysinger)Tea ('çay') is the drink of hospitality, it is central to all social, family and even a lot of business occasions. Tea, mainly black, is served in small pear shaped glasses - the glasses are called armuds, literally meaning pear. Tea is sometimes sweetened with jam, it starts and ends a grand meal. In the traditional chaykhanas (tea houses), you can linger over a pot all day if you like.  Tea can be accompanied with various jams or nuts and raisins. Sometimes when brewing tea dried leaves or flowers of savory, clove, cardamom and other spices are added to give a special flavour. Special tea is also made of cinnamon (darchin) and ginger.

Kvas, although totally unknown to most western Europeans,  is one of the most refreshing things you can drink in a summer day. The word Kvas is Russian by origin and means “sour beverage". It's a non-alcoholic fermented drink, made from malt. As in Russia it is sold on the streets, from little yellow tankers.

Baku - Kvas tank (photo (c) Miguel Torres / are many recipes of kvas, but, in general, they have the same ingredients, just in different proportions: malt, rye or wheat flour, boiling water. This dense mass is blended until it acquires a sweet taste. Then it is put in a well heated oven for 24 hours. Finally it is dissolved in water and left in a room for 2-3 hours. That is the base of kvas making, but kvases differ by different types of flour, temperature of water; some people liked to add sugar, raisins, honey, mint or molasses. Kvas is notable for rich content of vitamin B, and historically was used to prevent scurvy.

Sherbet is one of the most popular drinks in Azerbaijan. It is a refreshing infusion that come in many varieties: sugar, milk, lemon, saffron, seeds of mint and basil and several fruits.

Restaurants, Pubs & Clubs

Azerbaijan - Baku: Döner kebab shop - meat and fire - fast food (photo by Miguel Torres)Baku offers a varied choice of restaurants, for all tastes and purses, from the several sophisticated international cuisine places to the local equivalent of fast food, the kebab places. There's even a McDonald's on Fountain Square. We do not recommend their american junk food, but McDonald's is our favourite global 'toilet chain'.  Turkish fast food is also all over the city, specially Döner and Pide + Lahmacun places.  A place that you should not miss is 'Baku Entertainment Center' on F. Bayramov Street (Khatai District), with a very good restaurant, swimming pool, bowling, health club and several shops. If on a lower budget try Onassis, the Greek place on Inshaatchilar Avenue.

Don't count on finding bargains in Baku. Prices have risen steeply with Azerbaijan's oil fortunes. Up-market places abound, although a few a favoured by expats, its the local patrons that generate the bulk of business. Whether in love or in business Azeris like a little ostentation.

Below are a few places for you to indulge your appetite or enjoy a drink:

Baku - Azerbaijan: lamb and chicken saj with lavash - Azerbaijani cuisine - food - photo by N.MahmudovaRestaurants:
·  Anadolu Turkish/European Restaurant/Catering (Pushkin Street 5) and (Rasul Rza Street 3/5) tel: 498-87-58
·  Assados International Cuisine (6 T. Aliyarbekov Street) Tel: 5981022
·  Azza Restaurants International Cuisine (throughout Baku city centre)
·  The Brewery European Restaurant (28, Istiglaliyyet Street) tel: 497-14-00
·  Beh Beh 1 Azerbaijani Restaurant (Nobel Av) tel: 4902832
·  Beh Beh 2 Azerbaijani Restaurant (9 T.Aliyarbekov Street) tel: 4988734
· Baku, Azerbaijan - al fresco restaurant by the Caspian sea - Mirvari, the Pearl / cafe - photo by F.MacLachlanBeyrut Lebanese Cuisine (2, Taghiyev Street) tel: 5980665
·  Bibi Iranian Cuisine (Inshaatchilar Street, Abdulla Shaig Ave, near Samsung/New World) tel: 5102632
·  Bombay Palace Indian Cuisine (25 Bul-Bul Avenue) tel:4932446
·  Chateau Le ‘R’ International Cuisine (123/6 Lermantov Street) tel: 4372180
·  Churasco Steak House (14 Gadjibekov street) Tel: 4985409
·  Corleone Italian Cuisine (40, Khagani Street) tel: 498-82-46
·  Dalida International Cuisine (Nargiz Cantre, 3rd floor) tel: 4968804
·  Deniz  Fish Restaurant (42, Inshaatchilar Ave) tel: 4470440
·  Dolce Vita Italian Restaurant (9, Aziz Aliyev Street) tel: 492-75-72
·  Dukhan Georgian Cuisine (81/13, Nizami Street) tel: 598-22-29
·  Fayton Klub Azerbaijani Cuisine (17, R. Behbudov Street) tel: 4988101
·  Fellini Italian Restaurant (5 F. Agayev Street) tel: 5102378
·  Filharmonica Italian Cuisine (Baki Filharmoniyasi, Istiglaliyat,2) tel: 4927788
·  Gazelli Evi International Cuisine (93, Nizami Street) tel: 493-96-88
·  Georgian Home Georgian Cuisine (18, Mirza Irahimov Street) tel: 493-43-85
·  The Great Wall Chinese Cuisine (26, Uzeir Hajibeyov Street) tel: 4937672
·  Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant (38 Inshaatchilar Avenue) tel: 4369001
·  Jennet Baghi Azerbaijani Restaurant (82, Acad, Hasan Aliyeve Street) tel: 449-91-98
·  Kohna Sheher Old City Club (24 V. Mammedov Street) tel: 4920555
·  Park Inn's Glory European Cuisine (1, Azadlig Avenue) tel: 944 012 490-00-01
·  Grand Hotel Europe International Cuisine (1025/30 Tbilisi Avenue) tel: 944 012 490-70-90
·  Greasy Barney’s Sandwich Shop (G. Abbasov 72, apartment 1 A ) tel: 944 012 491-23-63
·  Half Way Inn International Cuisine (6, 28 May Street) tel: 944 012 598-09-05
·  House of Sultans International and Azeri Cuisine (Boyuk Gala Number 20, Icheri Sheher) tel: 944 012 437-23-06
·  Il Gusto Italian Cuisine (7 Gogol Street) tel:4948318,4971864
·  Imereti Georgian Cuisine (13 Khagani Street, near Malakan Gardens) tel: 4934181
·  Intergrand Turkish Restaurant (5, A.Alizade) tel: 4934692
·  Kalinka Russian Cuisine (9, Gogol Street) tel:5962470
·  Karvansara Azeri Cuisine (1 Gala Street, Ichiri Sheher ) tel: 944 012 456-62-33
·  Khutor Ukrainian Cuisine (9, M. Mukhtarov Street) tel: 944 012 437-22-23
·  Lebanese Lebanese Cuisine (12, Z. Taguyev Street) located on fountain square tel: 944 012 493-78-49
·  Liman Azerbaijani Cuisine (by port) tel: 050 3616958
·  McDonald’s American "Cuisine" (Throughout Baku)
·  Mado Japanese Cuisine (33, Inshaatchilar Ave) tel: 4975544,4975588
·  Maharaja Indian Cuisine (6 A. Alizadeh  Street) tel: 4924334
·  Mediterranea European and Azeri Cuisine (11 Hagigat Rzayeva Street, Icheri Sheher) tel: 4929866
·  Mexicana Mexican Cuisine (17, Z.Tagiyev Street) tel: 944 012 498-90-96
·  Mezzo Mediterranean Cuisine (Located in Hyatt Hotels, Bakikhanov Street) tel: 944 012 496-12-34
·  Mugam Club European and Azeri Cuisine (9, A. Rzayeva Street) tel: 944 012 492-40-85
·  München German Cuisine (125, Nizami Street) tel: 944 012 493-76-00
·  Ocean Deck European and American Cuisine (Located in Malakonsky Park) tel: 944 012 493-02-23
·  Onassis Greek and International Cuisine (3, Inshaatchilar Avenue) tel: 944 012 439-17-34
·  Pancera Azerbaijani Cuisine (245 Abdulla Shaig Street) tel: 5103700
·  Pancho’s Mexican Cuisine (19/13, Khagani Street) tel: 493-11-01
·  Pauza International Cuisine (4, 28 May Street) tel: 944 012 493-70-03
·  Pizza Holiday Pizza and Italian Cuisine (119, Lermontov Kuchasi, Near Baku Soviet) tel: 944 012 497-37-72
·  Respublika Luks European and Azeri Cuisine (24, Khagani Street) tel: 944 012 598-10-56
·  Sahil Greek Cuisine (on boulevard with pleasant roof terrace)
·  Scalini’s Italian Cuisine (2 Bakikhanov Street) tel:5982850
·  Shanghai Chinese Cuisine (31, Rasul Rza Street) tel: 944 012 495-45-10
·  Sheki restaurant Azerbaijani Cuisine (8/24A Axundov Street, 11/16 Ataturk prospect) tel: 4655876
·  Solaha Ukranian Cuisine (61, Academic Mirali Gashgay) tel: 012 4403031
·  Sultan Inn International Cuisine (Boyuk Gala no 20, Icheri Sheher)
·  Sunset Café American Diner (by Azerbaijan Cinema) tel: 4922292
·  Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine (18, Khagani Street) tel: 4930049
·  Terrace Garden European and Azeri Cuisine (20, Boyuk Gala, Icheri Sheher) tel: 944 012 437-23-05(ex. 10)
·  Toscana Italian Cuisine (12, Basti Bagirova Street, Kermur Plaza) tel: 944 012 436-80-47
·  Western Bar /Diner British Restaurant (Bakikhanov Street) tel: 4367756

Bars and Pubs:
· Azerbaijan - Baku: wood carving representing Baku's old city - façade of the 'old city club' - Iceri Seher (photo by Miguel Torres)Beluga Bar (Bakikhanov Street, located in the Hyatt Hotel) tel:012-496-12-34
·  Britannia Pub (Bakikhanov Street, located in the Hyatt Hotel) tel:012-496-12-34
·  Caspian Bar (1025/30, Tbilisi Avenue) tel:012-490-70-90
·  The Corner Bar (77, Nizami Street, the corner of the R. Rza and Tolstoy Streets) tel:0506498747
·  Finnegan’s (4, A. Aliyev street) tel:012-498-98-57
·  Golden Ridges Pub(5, Mardanov Gardashlari Street) tel:012-493-17-72
·  Hampstead (12, Basti Bagirova Street) tel:012-436-79-81
·  O’Malley’s (Next to ISR Plaza) tel:012-598-43-32
·  Pub Viking (49, Bul-bul Street) tel:012-499-18-86
·  Queen’s Head (95, Neftchilar Street) tel:050-368-77-33
·  Rig Bar,  -live ‘expat’ band Saturday evenings - (Samed Vurgun Street, near City Mart)
· Azerbaijan - Baku: English spelling, Caucasus style - the William Shakespeare pub - photo by Miguel TorresShakespeare’s (6 Mardanov Gardaslari Street) tel: 4989121
·  Shark (4, Khagani Street) tel: 493-9669
·  Tequila Junction (Next to ISR Plaza) tel:012-598-43-32
·  Tiger Bar (19, Mamed Aliyv Street) tel:012-598-41-21
·  The Phoenix Bar(10, Mammadaliyev Street) tel:070-333-3031
·  Tj’s Pub (9, Aliyarbekov Street) tel:012-498-46-21
·  Park Inn's Victor’s Bar (1, Azadlig Street) tel:012-490-60-00
·  Universal Club International Cuisine (16, Z. Tagiyev Street) tel: 944 012 493-29-12
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A to Z of Azerbaijan / A dan Z ye Azerbaycan