Armenian flatbread – Lavash

Armenian women producing traditional Armenian flatbread, a production method that has not changed since ancient times. The UNESCO cultural and scientific organization has decided to include Armenian flatbread on its intangible cultural heritage list, recognizing the importance of the foodstuff to the country’s inhabitants. Lavash, a staple of Armenian cuisine, is a type of soft and very thin flatbread that can be consumed as a wrap for cheese, meat or vegetables. It is also popular throughout the South Caucasus, and in Iran and Turkey. According to a note on the UNESCO website, preparation of lavash “requires great effort, coordination, experience and special skills” and “strengthens family, community and social ties.” Lavash was accepted onto the list on Wednesday, with the UNESCO organization saying on its site that it acknowledged “the preparation, meaning and appearance of [the] traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia.” The Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, a daring attempt to recognize and preserve immaterial culture, have been compiled since 2008, and entries from 103 countries are currently recognized by UNESCO. The lavash puts Armenia, a small, ancient South Caucasus nation of 3 million, ahead of much of the pack with a total of four entries on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Other Armenian entries recognized by UNESCO include the reed wind instrument duduk, the performance of the medieval epic “David of Sassoon,” and the art of stone cross making.

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UNESCO describes Lavash as the following: Lavash is a traditional thin bread that forms an integral part of Armenian cuisine. Its preparation is typically undertaken by a small group of women, and requires great effort, coordination, experience and special skills. A simple dough made of wheat flour and water is kneaded and formed into balls, which are then rolled into thin layers and stretched over a special oval cushion that is then slapped against the wall of a traditional conical clay oven. After thirty seconds to a minute, the baked bread is pulled from the oven wall. Lavash is commonly served rolled around local cheeses, greens or meats, and can be preserved for up to six months. It plays a ritual role in weddings, where it is placed on the shoulders of newlyweds to bring fertility and prosperity. The group work in baking lavash strengthens family, community and social ties. Young girls usually act as aides in the process, gradually becoming more involved as they gain experience. Men are also involved through the practices of making cushions and building ovens, and pass on their skills to students and apprentices as a necessary step in preserving the vitality and viability of lavash making. Armenian lavash has been prepared in the same way for thousands of years. Archaeologists in Armenia have uncovered ancient fire pits all strikingly similar to the tvonir ovens that are still used to bake lavash. According to the Encyclopedia International, “Common to all Armenians is their traditional unleavened bread, lav-ash, which is a staple in the Armenian diet.” Sources: • PeopleOfAr. (2014, November 28). Armenian Flatbread ‘Lavash’ is inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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Armenian Bread Declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. instagram.com/historyofarmenia

Armenian Old New Year

Did you know that the Old New Year is still a traditional holiday celebrated on 14th of January according to Julian Calendar.

The celebration starts on 13th January at 12:00. Even though it’s become an informal holiday, armenians still gather and enjoy the beginning of a Year, this year the Republic Square will host annual concert despite the cold weather.

People of Armenia  look forward the magic moments and realizations of dreams for the coming  New Year.

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Armenians have been celebrating 3 New Year Holidays : Kaghand, Navasard, New Year.

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Ancient Armenians  were celebrating New Year on 21st of March : the vernal equinox day and also the birthday of the mythical God Vahangn, in whom believed the pagan Armenians about 10 thousand years ago? The hero of the Holiday /Armenian Santa was Kaghand Papy/ Kagand Grandpa.  The typical food for Kaghand consists of beans, lentils, dry fruit, nuts. The most important from the eatables is “Tary hats” / Year Bread. “Big mamas” of the family put coin inside the bread and the one who get it, according to the tradition, get a lot of fortune for the upcoming year.

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Navsard, which was celebrated in 1th of November is the day when Forefather Hayk won Titanian Bel. This celebration was accompanied by traditional songs and dances, traditional food and collective events.

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And after the 18th century Calendar reform made by Simeon Yerevantsy . Armenians started celebrate The New Year on the 1st of January. many traditions of Kaghand and Navasard are maintained nowadays, some of them are modernized  and changed.

After the Soviet Union New Year holiday got some soviet traditions , changed some traditional staff and become quite original.

Almost all the Armenians do a lot of preparations for it. Some people /especially armenian women/ are busy on cooking, cleaning, decorations, new dresses, some people / esp. men/ busy on buying New Year meals ingredients /meat, dry fruit, drinks/ , some of us make a lists of relatives to visit and many young people just get together and spend good time 😉

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Everybody likes New Years’s dishes, everybody enjoy cooking and testing it wherever they go. Almost all Armenians have dolma, khorovats/ barbeque, qyufta, ishly qyufta  or any other interesting traditional dish with meat, dry fruit and different types of nuts, fruit and traditional sweets like gata, choreg, pakhlava on their festive table.

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And it’s important to have drinks on the table to make good tosts and wishes for the coming year.

Usually The President congratulate everybody for the upcoming year on TV, then the same does the Catholicos on armenian TV and the celebration of Amanor / Nor Tari (New Year) considered to be officially opened.

 

There is some magic in all this activity, enjoy the beginning of the New Year, New Hope and New Beginnings. Spend it with those whom you love and who love you and of course visit Armenia. Believe me you’ll enjoy armenian holidays !

 

SAKURADA – New Japanese Restaurant in Yerevan

I remember when I was a child there were not so many restaurants in Yerevan. To be more precise, there were, but they mainly served Armenian food, and were more meant to provide entertainment rather than culinary experience. However, in recent years the number of cafes and restaurants has grown, and now you can try Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian, French, Mexican and other cuisines.

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As I am a big fan of Asian food, I never miss my chance to try delicious Japanese or Chinese food. Recently I went to a newly opened Japanese restaurant called Sakurada. It’s on the intersection of Nalbandyan and Tumanyan streets, not so far away from the Republic Square. When I entered the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mr. Sakurada, the owner and chef of the restaurant, and his Armenian staff were all dressed in yukatas (casual summer kimonos), and the interior was decorated in Japanese style. Although there are quite many Japanese restaurants in Yerevan, I can say without hesitation that Sakurada is the most authentic one, as it has a Japanese chef who uses ingredients imported directly from Japan. The place serves mainly UDON, thick wheat flour noodles. By the way, those are homemade noodles, prepared by Mr. Sakurada himself. Here you can try Udon with tempura, curry sauce, chicken, etc., as well as Japanese style curry and rice, karaage (the most delicious deep-fried chicken ever!), rice balls, oyakodon (rice bowl dish with chicken and eggs, yummy), and some salads.

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This time I tried Kaki-age bukkake udon, cold noodles with vegetable tempura, and …it was delicious! Noodles had very pleasing texture and taste, and tempura was made with local seasonal vegetables. My friends tried udon with karaage and zaru udon, and they were both happy with their choice.

So, if you want to try something new in Yerevan, I recommend you to visit this place. But attention, this place doesn’t serve sushi and sashimi! Here you can try what I mentioned above, delicious, authentic Japanese udon noodles.

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Address: Nalbandyan 23

Reception party by the Embassy of Armenia to Japan

Today, there was a reception part in Hotel Okura Tokyo, which was organized by the Embassy of Armenia to Japan in order to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of its independence. I was invited to the party and enjoyed a good time there, meeting nice people and eating delicious meals.

 

The ambassador of Armenia is having speech to the guests

The ambassador of Armenia is having speech to the guests

The party was held at Hotel Okura, located at Kamiyacho, Tokyo. The hotel is one of the most prestigious hotels in Japan with its long history (There have been held a lot of parties and receptions by the governments as well as other embassies).

Hotel Okura

Hotel Okura

The participants include those working at the government, presidents of some companies, professors, and some people who have something to do with Armenia (like me!). Everybody came with nice clothes (men in suites and women in party dress).

 

Me with Ambassador

Me with Ambassador

Well, it sounds just another party of embassy and government. But, what made it distinctive from other parties as Armenian was that they served Armenian Cognac!!! Unfortunately, I could not get 20 year old Armenia Cognac this time because it was so popular that everything had gone in 10-15 minutes So, I ended up having 6 year old one instead… Also, another one was probably “dolma”. Of course, the dolma I mean is the genuine Armenian dolma which was made of leaf of grape!!! I heard of a rumor (just a rumor so I don’t know if it is true or not) from someone last year that the recipe of the dolma was provide to the hotel chef by the wife of the ambassador. Viva ambassador’s wife! The taste was of course excellent! I guess that the guess was able to understand the taste of Armenian dishes by its dolma at least.

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Anyway, it was a good time. You can see several photos from the party (I hope those photos would make you feel how it was even a little.

I will visit Tourism Expo tomorrow (Currently, it is being held in Tokyo) and stop by the Armenia booth.

A newly opened place! “Café Abovyan 12 & Dalan Art Gallery”

There is a souvenir shop in the center of Yerevan that I visit every time I am in Armenia to buy presents for my friends in Japan. It’s called Dalan Art Gallery. Why art gallery? Because they not only sell souvenirs but also exhibit works of contemporary Armenian artists. You can go there and enjoy art works without paying any entrance fees, as well as have a pleasant conversation with their staff. The exhibition is different every time, so if you visit the place once in a while, you can enjoy works of different artists, and what’s more important, you can know what’s going on in Yerevan’s art life.

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This time I went there as usual to look at some souvenirs and I discovered that they had opened a lovely café! It’s in the backyard; you go there right through the souvenir shop and find yourself in this very green and a little rustic space right in the center of Yerevan. This outdoor café and restaurant serves Armenian style barbeque, tolma, salads, and many other popular Armenian dishes. They have an open kitchen, and you can actually see what and how they cook, what ingredients they use, etc. Unfortunately I went there right after lunch, so I was too full to eat, but I didn’t spare my chance to have a glass of beer and engage in conversation with the staff. Next time I go there, I’m definitely going to try some delicious barbeque, yum-yum.

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What I really loved here is the atmosphere! This is such an amazing, green little café that will make you relax and enjoy even the hottest Yerevan days. And I am also sure you will enjoy talking with the staff, too. They (well, some of them) speak not only English and Russian, but also German, and sometimes other foreign languages. They also told me they have regular cooking lessons for foreigners and Armenians who want to learn to cook amazing Armenian dishes. If you have always wanted to learn how to cook tolma, here you go!

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Address: Abovyan street 12

It’s just 5 minutes’ walk from the Republic Square. You walk to Abovyan street and go straight for several minutes until you see Dalan Art Gallery.

Armenian Breakfast: then and now

“We would wake up early in the morning and gather around the table, await for my grandmother to bring our breakfast to the table. Fresh eggs, fresh milk… everything was fresh and 100% natural. We could not even imagine how we would be missing our holidays there in the village without grandma.”

My mom still remembers the breakfast her grandmother used to make when she was a little kid. She tells me how she used to enjoy those breakfasts. The way she describes them, every time makes me jealous, because I can imagine how good and tasty the morning breakfast in a village can possibly be.

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Traditional Armenian breakfasts are usually full and kind of heavy. But this is only from the very first sight. A traditional breakfast would usually look like this – boiled eggs, homemade cheese with greens in it, fresh milk, Armenian fried bread lavash (read more here), and of course homemade butter.

But of course time changes and the Armenian breakfast had slightly changed too. You would usually recognize. Now more often there is also meat like sausages is present for the breakfast. People drink more tea than milk (It defers from family to family).  As of my family we usually have omelet, butter with some marmalade, usually tea and most importantly cheese. The breakfast cannot be full and satisfactory if there is no cheese. And I think this is the case for maybe 90% of Armenian families. Sometimes we like to have really heavy breakfast with a lot of meat like khorovats or Kebab, but this happens from time to time. In general breakfast Is considered to be one of the main courses of the day, but maybe the most important one still stays supper.

And what is more than common is the sweets people put on the breakfast table. By sweets we don’t mean candies instead we mean traditional Armenian cake especially gata, which is not too sweat and it is healthy.

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You EAT and TALK a lot, Mate!!!

On last Sunday, I was having lunch with some Armenian friends who are currently staying in Tokyo. We went to a Chinese restaurant nearby Roppongi (Central area of Tokyo) where they offer Peking Duck for very reasonable price; rather, cheap.

Armenians in Tokyo

Before ordering Peking Duck, I ordered a dish made of beef tripe marinated with soy-source. The look of the dish is kind of disgusting at the first glance especially if you have never tried. One of my Armenian friends said “What the hell is this???”, sounding like he saw something very weird and strange. I told him that it was beef tripe and actually very tasty despite the look. After the persuasion, he tried and actually got to love is a lot!

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I don’t remember if there are some dishes of beef tripe in Armenia but if I happened to open a restaurant someday in Armenia, I would have to include it in my menu list.

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Apart from the beef tripe, there were so many dishes ordered with two Peking Duck which weighs almost 2 kg. They finished all!!! Viva Armenian appetite! Well, actually, I have bigger appetite than them :p.

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As a non-Armenian guy, what I always think when I am with them is that they never stop talking… I wonder why they can actually do that. It is like one person starts talking and the other people continue the conversation even without stops. I am always impressed by the communication skills of Armenians…