Leyla and I are from Azerbaijan, which is a country in Eurasia. Azerbaijan is located on the Caspian Sea, and shares borders with Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, and Iran. Food from Azerbaijan is referred to as Azeri food. Since we’re now serving more Azeri food at Cafe 21, I thought it would be a good time to tell you more about the cuisine of our native country.
By way of background, Azerbaijan is beautiful. It has an extremely rich and varied climate, and very fertile land. This not only leads to a gorgeous landscape, but also makes it possible to grow a broad range of crops and herbs, and contributes to a very diverse and delicious cuisine.
Azeri dishes include beef, poultry, fish, fruit, and an absolute bounty of vegetables – Azeri food can’t include enough greens, pickles, herbs, and spices! Sometimes, herbs are presented on their own plate. Herbs and spices, including salt, saffron, black pepper, mint, dill, parsley, cilantro, basil, leeks, thyme, and chives are used with great abundance.
Soups are popular, and are sometimes cooked in a clay pot or using copper cookware. Other starters include salads with vegetables, lavash, and, of course, pickles, greens, and herbs. Classic meal staples include gurza (beef raviolis), dushbara (meat dumplings cooked in lamb broth), flavored rice pilafs, dolmas, kebabs, kutab (dough stuffed with meat), and more.
Black tea is also very important – it’s the national drink of Azerbaijan! Tea can be served before or after a meal with sweets (baklava and other pastries, cookies, caramels, and candies), fruit, nuts, and especially jam. Drinking tea is a way of showing hospitality, and very much influences Azeri culture. The tea is usually served in a pear-shaped glass known as armudu.
Leyla and I invite you to come in to Cafe 21 today and try our Azeri cuisine. The dinner menu at our Gaslamp location includes gurza and dushbara, both of which are authentic and delicious. All of our dishes are made with love, and we’re especially proud and excited to introduce you to the food of our native country. One bite, and we know you’ll love Azeri food, too!