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Feb 07th
Home Sections Food The Many Cultural-and-Culinary Flavors oif Azerbaijan
The Many Cultural-and-Culinary Flavors oif Azerbaijan PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Food
Written by Bobby M. Reyes   
Tuesday, 17 December 2019 16:29

By Bobby M. Reyes

The Consulate General of the Republic of Azerbaijan presents a culinary-and-cultural event called "THE FLAVORS OF AZERBAIJAN."

The event features a Special Focus on Azerbaijan’s Dolma-Making & Sharing Tradition, which has been inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The event features also an Azerbaijani Musical Performance.

It will be held tomorrow, December 18, 2019, at 6:45 p.m. The venue is the Olympic Collection Banquet & Conference Center, 11301 W. Olympic Blvd, #204, Los Angeles, CA 90064.

A Historical Background of the Dolma -- according to the Wikipedia.


Names and etymology

The word dolma is of Turkish origin from the word dolmak (to fill).[4] The plural form in Greek is dolmades and this is sometimes preferred in English usage instead of "dolmas".[5]

The origins of dolma are unknown, but the dish is found in the cuisines of the Turkic countries, the Balkans, South Caucasus, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, Egypt, Arabia, and the Middle East. The word varies between Turkic dialects called dolama in Turkmen and tulma in the Tatar language. The word dolma most likely comes from Ottoman palace cuisine, but stuffed vegetables have other names as well like yemistos in Greek and mahshi in Arabic.[6]


Dolma have been a part of Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries.[7] Though the word dolma itself most likely has its roots in the cuisine of the Ottoman Topkapı Palace, stuffed vegetables are attested to in pre-Ottoman Arabic cookbooks that include recipes like eggplants stuffed with meat. Likewise, in Ancient Greece, fig leaf stuffed with sweetened cheese was called thrion.[6]

The exact origins are unknown, but the Persian variety has been traced to at least the 17th century and in the 19th century Naser al-Din Shah Qajar's chef records several varieties including stuffed grape leaves, cabbage leaves, cucumbers, eggplants, apples, and quinces. The recorded stuffings included ground meat, sauteed mint, rice and saffron.[8]

Dolma is a common dish in Iraqi cuisine, which includes a version of stuffed cabbage leaves, onions in aubergines cooked in tomato sauce.[9] Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Iraqis and Iranians have been making stuffed grape leaves for centuries. Over time, regional variations developed. In the Persian Gulf, basmati rice is preferred, and the flavor of the stuffing may be enhanced using tomatoes, onions and cumin.[7] Muslim families often serve dolma as part of the iftar meal during Ramadan and during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations that mark the end of the holy month. Assyrians prepare meatless dolmas for Lent. Large pots of dolma are prepared during the Norouz festival.[10]

Stuffed green pepper and zucchini

Dolma are part of cuisine of the Sephardic Jews as well.[11] There are some variations in Jewish family dishes that are not found in other versions. Iraqi Jewish families had a version of dolma with sweet and sour flavors that were not found in other versions.[12] During winter months cabbage was a staple food for peasants in Persia and the Ottoman Empire, and it spread to the Balkans as well. Jews in the Ottoman Empire used locally grown grape leaves and adopted the Turkish names of the dish. Jews in Eastern Europe prepared variations of stuffed cabbage rolls with kosher meat—this dish is called golubtsy in Russian, holubtsi in Ukrainian, gołąbki in Polish and holishkes or teibel in Yiddish. As meat was expensive, rice was sometimes mixed in with the meat. Jews in Europe would sometimes substitute barley, bread or kasha for the rice.[13]

Dolma in India is limited within Bengali Cuisine. The bengali dish potoler dorma or stuffed pointed gourd is the most common example of all.[14]


A Brief Historical Profile of Azerbaijan.

To my limited knowledge as a serious student of history, the Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. The result was the then-Old World was no longer divided between the Western-and-Eastern parts of the Roman Empire, which basically was in the Mediterranean Sea and neighboring lands. New kingdoms emerged and soon some merged or were forced to become parts of new empires. To cut the story short, the powers at that time decided to create a new dividing line between the West and the East.

Countries west of the Caucasus Mountains formed the West. And counties east of the Caucasus composed the Eastern World. The East was in turn divided into three sections: The Near East, the Middle East and the Far East.

Azerbaijan is one of the countries in the Near East. When it regained its independence in 1991 from the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR), its leaders decided to continue with its tradition of being a secular country that practices freedom of religion. Its 10-million population is 90% Muslim that is composed of the majority Shiite and the Sunni minority. It has also a small Jewish population that has existed in the mountains near the capital of Baku for more-than two millennia. The rest is composed of Christians, mainly of the Orthodox denomination. But all the members of the world's three main religions that trace their ancestry to the prophet Abraham live in peace. And wonders of wonder, the Shiites and the Sunnis of Azerbaijan intermarry among them. The country is perhaps the leading secular Muslim-majority country and is considered one of the most-progressive and developed-nations in the Islamic World.

Being almost in the center of the traditional dividing line between the West and the East explains why Azerbaijan sponsors events like the Dolma-"Making & Sharing Tradition." 

(To be continued by next week -- after the Azerbaijani culinary-and-cultural event.)


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