Azerbaijani Meat Dishes
Meat is the essence of Azerbaijani cuisine, served as a main course and garnished with fruit, vegetables, spices and sauces. Meat can be served as a meal per se, or it can be an ingredient of a more complex dish, such as pilaf, Azerbaijan’s popular meat and rice platter.
Undoubtedly, the most well-known of Azerbaijani meat dishes is kebab, which is omnipresent on Azerbaijani tables. While commonly made from mutton, kebabs of poultry, beef and fish are not unusual. The most popular kebabs include:
Lyulya kebab, which consists of minced lamb seasoned with onion and spices. The meat is placed on skewers and fried over a coal barbecue called a mangal (manqal). It is frequently served with lavash, a soft, thin, unleavened flatbread.
Tava kebab, minced mutton or beef blended with onion and garlic that is shaped into meatballs and fried. Various vegetables are often added, and sometimes chefs will even pour beaten or sunny-side-up eggs on top of the dish.
Baliq, or fish kebab, which is made of skewed, slated and grilled fish served with a sour plum sauce.
Azerbaijani meat dishes are hardly limited to kebabs. Be sure to try these other popular meals:
Dolma is another prevalent meat dish which is also well-known in Georgia, Armenia, the Balkans, Central Asia and the Middle East. Dolma consists of minced meat, rice, spices and herbs that are mixed, wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves, and cooked. Chefs will commonly wrap dolma in the leaves of sweet-and-sour cabbage or put it inside an eggplant, tomato, or any other vegetable that can serve as a container for the scrumptious filling. In 2017, the Azerbaijani tradition of preparing dolma was enlisted on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Qovurma, or korma, is a simple yet delicious dish featuring mutton spiced with saffron and stewed with onions and tomatoes. A variation of this meal, called sabzi qovurma, is made of lamb stew garnished with herbs. Turşu qovurma combines lamb with preserved lemons, dried apricots, and turmeric, while nur qovurma includes mutton and pomegranate. Qovurma can also be prepared with chicken.
Kufta (kofta) are diverse meatball dishes and a staple Azerbaijani food. Recipes vary, with one of the most popular being riza-kufta, which came to Azerbaijan from Iran and includes mutton or beef in tomato sauce and flavored with onions, salt, pepper, sugar, and vinegar. Arzuman-kufta features a raw meatball with a small hole in the middle. A piece of butter or an egg is placed inside the opening and covered. The dish is then fried and garnished with greens.
Lavangi is the opposite of kufta. The dish features a whole baked fish, chicken, or duck which is filled with walnuts, onions and special Azerbaijani spices before being baked again. Lavangi is particularly popular in the coastal regions.
Tabaka resembles lavangi but involves roasting the stuffed chicken under a heavy object. The extra pressure flattens the meat, allowing it to cook faster and more evenly.
Jiz biz consists of fried organs and is perhaps one of the most unusual foods to try in Azerbaijan. The liver, kidney, lung, heart, and intestines are prepared in a specific order and with particular techniques. Modern variations of this meal often include only the liver, which is usually mixed with onions and potatoes.
Buglama is made of lamb cut into small pieces and stewed with vegetables and spices. The name of the dish means "steamed" and refers to the meat being cooked in its own juices. It's not uncommon for buglama to feature fish, as well.
Dushbara is the name for tiny meat-filled dumplings cooked in a mutton bone broth. Once ready, the dumplings are fished out of the liquid and garnished with coriander and fresh mint before serving. The preparation of dushbara is very time-consuming, for according to tradition, the dumplings must be so small that ten of them can fit onto a tablespoon.
Chigirtma is an egg dish featuring chicken or lamb mixed with vegetables. A preboiled chicken is first fried with onions, lemon juice, and spices, then simmered in a bit of broth. Finally, eggs are added to the chicken and the whole concoction is cooked to perfection.