As a rule of thumb, all tourists and travelers leave Armenia with national souvenirs, jewelry, positive emotions, and, of course, several extra pounds gained. Armenia is not only a highland of adventures and discoveries after all but also a whole new world combining unique flavors from East and West.
Flavors of Shirak
Each region of Armenia is famous for its traditional dishes and sweets. It is interesting how a small country like this can incorporate such a wide variety of different regional meals. All you need is to travel from region to region and taste everything locals offer.
At Shirak, Gyumri - the cultural city of Armenia should be your first stop. The Russian army is stationed in this city, bordering Turkey and Georgia. Once besieged by the Persian and Russian Empires, Gyumri now incorporates the architectural, traditional, and gastronomic features of both.
The weather in this region is cold, making the locals mainly prefer hot dishes and meat.
Dolma is Armenians’ most favorite dish, which is, however, famous all over the Caucasus. You can try mouthwatering and flavorsome Dolma at every eating corner in Shirak. The meal is prepared with meat, rice, and onion rolled up in fresh young grape leaves. Dolma is often served with Armenian yogurt mixed with some garlic.
The next dish meat-lovers will surely admire is called Kololik, with a recipe quite varying from region to region. The main ingredient of Kololik is floured meatballs fried in oil. The peculiarity of this dish in Shirak is that locals add fresh onions, tomatoes, and pepper to the already fried meatballs, then put the meal in the oven for another 15 minutes. All you have to do is pour plenty of greens on the dish and taste it.
Kufta is the pride of Armenian cuisine. In ancient times, to prepare kufta, beef tenderloin was beaten on a stone board with a wooden hammer for hours until it became a homogeneous mass. Hence the name “Qari kufta,” literally meaning stone kufta in Armenian. And though today’s technology allows meat to be processed in a blender, many locals in Shirak prefer to beat the meat by hand, after which only a little water/milk and salt are added. The mince is divided into large balls and boiled in salted water. As simple as that!
If you are a vegetarian, you have nothing to worry about in Shirak because the local kitchen offers many vegetarian meals. Tatar Boraki is among the most famous ones. It is a simple and filling dish, which is fresh pasta with sautéed onions and garlic yogurt. This dish tastes so good - you can hardly stop eating.
Qalagosh can become another favorite Shirakian dish for vegetarians. It is a lentil yogurt soup that is prepared with cooked and strained lentil, yogurt, onions, garlic, and butter. The meal name presumably comes from “Gayla chash,” literally meaning “meal for wolves'' in Armenian.
If you are, however, searching for something way too easy and simple to try, a centuries-old Armenian Panrkash can become your go-to in Shirak. Panrkash translates to “boiled cheese” and is made of cheese, Armenian bread lavash, onions, and boiled water. You place all the ingredients on a plate, pour boiling water, close it for 5-10 minutes, and the meal is ready. So simple but so delicious!
You can’t leave Shirak without trying out the famous sweets of the region, especially Gata. The story of Gata goes back to the 13th century, when people put a coin inside Gata before baking it. The one getting the coin had good fortune. The recipe of this deliciousness is simple and can vary from region to region. The pastry can take a range of shapes, sizes, and decorated versions. Try the one with sugar and nuts and one with butter only to decide which is your favorite. And remember! Gata is not just a pastry - it is the flavor of childhood, motherly warmth, and granny’s kindness. Gata tastes like home, love, and coziness.
So what? Are you still waiting for a sign to visit Armenia, or are you already packing your things? Don’t think twice! Visit Armenia because it’s a spectacular place full of landscapes to see and flavors to taste. And prepare for a vacation long enough, because most probably you won’t want to leave the country soon.