CNN: Azerbaijan culinary gateway to the East

Today, the cuisine of Azerbaijan has an Eastern edge, rubbing shoulders with dishes from its neighbors Iran and Turkey, Trend reports via CNN.

The local takes on the kebab and pilaf are rich and satisfying, but there is also anabundance of fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables to be enjoyed.

In the summer heat Azerbaijanis love to drink hot tea, which is believed to help the body cool off naturally. In the regions, tea is almost always prepared with keklikotu (oregano) or cinnamon and while the water is boiled on a samovar, heated by the burning tree branches, the water is infused with the unmistakable aroma of the woods.

According to CNN, while meal preparation may vary around the country, with local twists often added to the usual interpretation, breakfast is pretty identical in all part of the country.A wide variety of colorful components orbit around the star of this show: freshly baked tandir bread.Whether it’s honey and qaymaq (a thick cream), goat’s cheese, butter or scrambled eggs with tomato, the crispy bread is a welcome companion to all those food combinations.

Reportedly, when preparing scrambled eggs with tomato, the finely minced tomatoes are fried first, until the pan’s sizzling with juice. Only then are the eggs added, and the dish is taken off the stove with a consistency more liquid than regular scrambled eggs. Alternatively, kuku is a pie-looking omelette, a great option for those who like greens. Fresh coriander, dill and green onions are finely minced and mixed with five or six eggs and then fried in the pan until crispy.

When it comes to street food, Azerbaijan is well-known for doners — Turkish-style meat sandwiches but qutabs are a lighter option. Made in lavash (a thin flatbread), the classic qutab is filled with minced meat; the vegetarian version may include pumpkin or fresh herbs such as spinach, cilantro, onions and dill, folded in a moon shape and fried on a flat pan without oil. For true gourmands there is also a smaller-sized variation of qutab filled with minced camel meat, called jorat qutab.

Particularly deserving of attention among salads is mangal salad, the name originating from the way the main ingredients eggplant, bell pepper and tomato are roasted on a mangal, a Caucasian-style grill. After the roasted vegetables are chopped, onions, cilantro, dill, olive oil and purple basil are added and mixed together.

Levengi chicken may resemble a standard grilled chicken on the outside, but it hides a delicious secret. Inside, the stuffing consists of fried onions, roasted walnuts, raisins, dried plums, dried pitted Cornelian cherries are all minced and mixed into a paste. Levengi stuffing can also be used in fish.

While Azerbaijani culinary books are abundant with a variety of dolmas, yarpaq, (grape leaf) and uch baji (three sisters) are the two most noteworthy. The firstmade from minced meat wrapped in grape leaves and cooked on a slow fire — is served with qatiq (plain natural yoghurt) and garlic. The uch baji version consists of the trio of aubergine, tomato and bell pepper, stuffed with minced meat and prepared in their own juices.

Azerbaijan’s most beloved pastries are traditionally baked during March, the month of the Novruz spring festival.

Pakhlava, a diamond-shaped pastry found across the Middle East, is among the favorites. The Azerbaijani version, especially the Sheki variety, tends to be softer and oilier than other versions.

Shorgoghal, a flaky spice-filled crispy bread, can be made sweet (with white sesame seeds at the top) or savory and salty (with black sesame seeds at the top).

Shirin chorek, sweet bread filled with nuts and dried grapes, is another top pick.