Kâmil Toygar-Nimet Berkok Toygar
The most important characteristics of Azerbaijani cuisine are its variety and its being based on natural ingredients. This wealth has been documented by various travelers in the region. English traveler Anthony Jenickson, who visited Azerbaijan in the 16th century, writes thus of a meal served to him in the home of Abdullah Han in the Şamaha region:
Sofras were spread on the floor, and they were covered with every type of food. The dishes were grouped according to category. I estimate that there were close to 140 dishes on the sofra. After a time, the sofras along with the food were collected, and new sofras were brought, with 150 types of sweets and fruits. Thus there was the opportunity to taste 290 different foods.
The year round availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, and their use alone or in harmony with other natural foods has given rise to the richness of the Azerbaijani cuisine.
Also playing a role in this wealth are the many different cooking techniques and cooking utensils employed.
There has been much mutual interaction between the neighboring Caucasian tribes, as well as Turkish, Iranian, Arab, Chines and Indian cuisines. The element that must be highlighted here is the Silk Route. As with many other cultural elements as well, the historical Silk Route provided a means for different culinary cultures to come into contact with each other.
In the same way, we see many dishes deriving from Azerbaijani cuisine such as certain types of dolma, pilafs, haş (A cold dish of head and feet), bozbaş (a stewed meat dish), çığırtma (eggs over sautéed chicken), soups etc. in the cuisines of the peoples previously mentioned.
The traditional dishes of Azerbaijan hold a special place within the culinary cultures of the Turkic world.
The varied and flavorful Azerbaijani dishes generally consist of meat, vegetable, milk and dough-based dishes, as well as pilafs and soups. There are no olive-oil dishes.
One notable feature of Azerbaijani cuisine is the extremely broad variety within one particular type of dish. There are fore example over 30 different types of sarma and dolma, and over 100 different pilafs. The same also holds true for soups, baked goods, meat and vegetable dishes, sweets and salads.