12 Most Popular Armenian Easter Foods
Easter has a long history in Armenia as it was the first country, in 301, to adopt Christianity as the state religion. The holiday therefore has a special place in the heart of most Armenians. It is both the brightest and the most solemn holiday in the Armenian Apostolic Church calendar.
It is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, deliverance from sin, and return to God. Armenians enjoy the whole palate of activities: from going to church to fasting before Easter, from fun games with colorful eggs to all the delicious food served in celebration.
The cuisine is probably the most colorful element of any national culture and Armenian cuisine reflects the mix of geography, history, and traditions of the people of the land. Little has changed in the recipes and how they are cooked as culinary secrets have been passed down from generation to generation. The preparations begin long before the actual day of celebration as the Armenian Easter table involves dishes that carry unique meanings.
In the past the whole community would be involved in preparing and celebrating Easter together. But today it is more of a family holiday celebrated at home with friends and relatives. Throughout the Easter holidays in Armenia there is a holiday atmosphere that draws us all in.
After 40-days of Lent, in which those who fast abstain from all animal products, even the most staunch believer looks forward to a celebratory meal. The Easter table is carefully prepared to properly and solemnly celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord while sharing the joy with loved ones.
1. Easter Eggs
Easter egg dyeing is the most eagerly awaiting Easter activity in Armenia. Eggs are painted mainly in red, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. In the past, the red was achieved by boiling the eggs in red onion skins.
But many Armenians unleash their creativity and dye eggs in various patterns and colors to the delight of their guests.
2. Rice with raisins
While Armenians aren’t great fans of rice, this rice-based dish is a crucial part of the Armenian Easter table.
The rice is cooked with raisins, where the whole grains of rice represent purity and raisins represent the apostles – they may be less visible but they give a sweetness to the whole dish. Almonds are also added to some rice & raisins recipes.
3. Fish (Baked or Boiled)
Fish is an important part of the Armenian Easter traditions, and this is not by chance. The New Testament connects the symbol of the fish with Christ in the ancient acronym that sounds exactly like that in Greek – ichtus.
While Armenia is a land-locked country, its rivers and lakes abound in freshwater fish. The most popular and delicious is Ishkan, a trout from Lake Sevan, Armenia’s largest lake.
4. Red Wine
It is impossible to imagine the festive Armenian Easter table without red wine. After all, the vine is the symbol of God’s chosen people, and the Lord is called the vinedresser in the New Testament, and the branches are the Christians.
As a result, the cup of wine is a symbol of salvation, embodying the blood of Christ. And if the wine of the grapes that grow at the foot of the biblical Mount Ararat decorate the festive table, this will considerably raise the mood.
5. Spinach and Lots of Greens
The Easter table is usually loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and greens, as well as vegetables-based dishes.
Greens and spinach are essential Armenian Easter ingredients. While some are eaten raw like green onions, spinach is usually boiled or cooked with nuts.
6. Armenian Easter Bread (Choreg or Chorag)
Choreg is a traditional Armenian-braided yeast bread. Some are sweet while others are slightly savory, as the recipe varies from family to family, but it is a must for an Easter table. Choregs can be prepared with raisins, nuts or seeds such as sesame, poppy.
Gata is an Armenian pastry or sweet bread with a strong cultural and symbolic significance. Gata is easily considered one of the most popular Armenian desserts.
The origin of the gata is closely related to the establishment of the monastery in Armenia. The church founded by St. Gregory the Illuminator was built after Christianity was first adopted as the state religion.
By fasting through 40 days of Lent, Armenians have certainly earned the right to enjoy one of the most traditional, mouth-watering, and flavorsome sweets – baklava.
The story goes that baklava was made from 40 layers of dough to mark the 40 days of Lent. The result? A sweet puff pastry with crushed walnuts and syrup or honey, which is very crunchy, flaky, and nutty.
Ghapama is a traditional Armenian food most often prepared for New Year and Easter. The top of a pumpkin is removed and kept as a lid, the pumpkin seeds are removed, and boiled rice, raisins, oil, honey, and spices are poured in. It is then cooked in the oven in a clay pot.
Ghapama is also cooked with meat, which can be mixed with wheat, onion, and basil, and cooked for about 5-6 hours in a pot covered with a lid and dough.
10. Cheese and Spinach Boreg (Pie)
Another delicious addition to the Eastern table is cheese and spinach pie, which is not only delicious but also unique, due to its flaky, buttery outside and fluffy, cheesy inside.
This used to be made with 33 layers of dough – the number of years Christ lived.
11. Armenian Potato Salad
Armenian potato salad is completely different to any other and is especially delicious. Served drizzled with olive oil and garnished with fresh mint, this side has an extraordinary flavor and can be served hot or cold.
Refreshing, light, and easy to prepare, it is perfect for the Easter table.
12. Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolma)
Dolma is considered the most adored of all Armenian dishes. As the delicious aroma of the plated dolma spreads around the room, everyone will start feasting. Easter will never passes without stuffed grape leaves.
Dolma comes in two varieties: one with spicy meat, the other with spicy rice, both wrapped in fresh young grape leaves. During Easter, Armenians prepare dolma with rice, and what makes it so special is the filling and its special ingredients such as onion, rice, salt, pepper and herbs such as parsley, mint. Grape leaf dolma is always served with a special local yogurt sauce called matsun and grated fresh garlic.
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