Armenian cuisine is one of the oldest in Asia. Armenian culinary traditions date back to ancient times and the recipes of many dishes have not changed for millennia.
A lot of spices and aromatics are frequently used in Armenian food, such as black pepper, cilantro, mint, tarragon, basil, thyme, garlic and onion. Meat dishes are very popular in Armenia. The star is khorovats (barbecue). It is usually made with pork, but sometimes with lamb or beef. It’s very simple – just marinated meat grilled on hot coals. Despite its simple recipe, a really tasty khorovats is made only in Armenia.
Another popular local dish, dolma, is made from minced meat with rice and spices and herbs. In the spring, it is wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves, while in the summer and fall, it’s stuffed into apples, quinces, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables. Actually, there is one more kind of dolma called pasuts (Lenten), which as you might guess, is vegetarian. In this version, cabbage or other vegetables are stuffed with mixture of beans and grains.
The Sevan trout and Sevan whitefish are special delicacies. They are local fish species that are prepared using dozens of reciped. As far as snacks go, basturma (a sort of dried spiced meat jerky) and sujukh (a spicy sausage) are loved everywhere. Lavash, the Armenian national bread, is a thin flatbread made without yeast.
Vegetables and fruits are a must for an Armenian feast. Though they don’t look any different from vegetables and fruits in other countries, their flavor is something special. It’s hard to describe – you just have to try them. Vegetables and fruits are frequently used in meat and fish preparation. Aubergines, bell peppers and tomatoes are often grilled on the barbecue and are served with the meat. All the subtleties of Armenian cuisine can be learned in numerous restaurants both in the center and in the suburbs of Yerevan.
Fast food is quite popular in Armenia. But remember – there is no MacDonald’s in Yerevan and burgers are not very popular. Nonetheless, practically everywhere in the city you can buy shawarma and if you have a little time, you can visit a snack bar and order a lyulya-kebab. Besides shawarma, lahmajo is also very popular in Yerevan. It is a thin pancake-like bread with minced meat and spices. Many call this dish Middle Eastern pizza. However, there are plenty of traditional pizzerias in the city, too. In the city center, you can treat yourself to all this delight of fast food till late at night.
Several types of Armenian beer are sold in Yerevan. You can buy them in any supermarket. Armenian beer usually costs 400 drams for a bottle (0.5l). The most popular brands are Kilikia, Kotayk, Gyumri and Dargett. Some bars carry them on tap. Local beers are usually quite bitter. Most stores also carry European and Russian varieties. Beer is a popular beverage in Armenia, on the menus of most restaurants and snack bars.
Armenia produces several red and white wines. We recommend having glass of wine on a warm Yerevan evening, sitting in a open-air café and enjoying the view of the city. Local fruit wines are also worth trying. Pomegranate wine and homemade cherry wine are especially popular. You can buy them at any supermarket. Also, do not hesitate to taste young, not fermented wine, called machar, in the fall.
Local brandy is the pride and joy of Yerevan. You must pay a visit to the Yerevan Brandy Factory, where you will not only be shown in the technology of brandy making, but also have a chance to taste it. We highly recommend drinking brandy in one of Yerevan’s jazz clubs while listening to good music. It’s such a nice experience that you’ll probably want to take a bottle or two back with you.