Levon Avdoyan grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, on what he thought was traditional Armenian food. In 1972, he moved to Soviet Armenia to study for a Ph.D. He said, “It was then I realized that Armenian food in the Caucasus was different from Armenian cuisine in historical Armenia.”
Avdoyan’s ancestors came from Kharpert in present-day Turkey. He grew up eating his grandmother’s pilaf, stuffed grape leaves, lamb, bulgur, and homemade yogurt. But when he visited Armenia in 1972, those foods were nowhere to be found.
The definition of traditional Armenian food depends on whom you speak to. The Armenian people were scattered during times of turmoil, and the food was influenced by the places they moved to.
Armenian cuisine is influenced by Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European foods. Lamb, vegetables, and bread are staples at the Armenian family table. Lots of fresh herbs, nuts, and fresh and dried fruits add to the beautiful array of color, texture, and taste of Armenian food.
A traditional meal in Armenia might include bread, butter, buttermilk, cheese, and fresh vegetables. Lunch might include a meatball soup with sour milk.
Here is a look at some of the favorite dishes your Armenian ancestors may have enjoyed. Click the links provided to see a recipe.
Armenian Breads and Sweets
Lavash—This traditional unleavened bread is a delicious flatbread treat.
Boerag—Boerag is a flaky pastry filled with cheeses, meats, or sweet fillings.
Manti—These boats of dough are filled with meat and spices and can be served as an appetizer or main meal.
Topik (or topig)—Sometimes thought of as a vegetarian meatball, this appetizer is usually served during Lent.
Zhingyalov or jingalov hats—This fried flatbread is filled with greens and herbs.
Gata—With a taste of vanilla, gata is a sweet bread and a favorite Armenian food.
Lahmacun, or lahmajoon—Sometimes called the Armenian pizza, Lahmacun is a round, thin dough topped with minced meat, herbs, spices, onions, and tomatoes.
Baklava or traditional paklava—There is a slight difference between baklava and paklava, but both are sweet treats. Baklava is usually sweetened with honey, while paklava uses syrup. The unique taste of paklava requires clarified butter.
Choreg—Choreg is a traditionally braided sweet bread flavored with fennel and mahlab, a spice that comes from ground cherry pits. It’s made year-round, but especially during the Easter season.
Armenian Meat Dishes
Dolma—Dolma is a satisfying stuffed dish made of minced meat, onion, rice, and spices all rolled up in grape leaves. This traditional Armenian food is sometimes made by replacing the grape leaves with cabbage leaves.
Basturma—Basturma is a highly seasoned, air-dried, cured beef.
Tjvjik—A traditional fried beef liver dish with onions and seasoned with salt and pepper is what your Armenian ancestors would have called tjvjik. Today, the dish may be found with additional ingredients such as tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.
Harissa—This hearty dish is similar to a porridge made of stewed meat and coarsely ground wheat. Traditionally, harissa was made with lamb, but today chicken is often substituted. It is often served on Easter day.
Armenian Soups and Sides
Khash—Eaten mostly in the cold season, this soup dish is made of boiled cow or sheep parts.
Ghapama—This pumpkin dish can be eaten as a main dish, a side dish, or a dessert. Ghapama is beautifully and colorfully adorned with raisins, dried plums and apricots, nuts, and cinnamon.
Eech—This Armenian salad is also known as Armenian bulgur salad. It is made with cracked wheat, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and parsley.
Do you have Armenian ancestral roots? How about some Armenian food recipes that have been passed down to you? Be sure to add your heritage recipes to the Memories section of the FamilySearch Family Tree.
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