Summer 2002 (10.2)
Azerbaijani Chefs Abroad
Above: Azerbaijani chefs at the Cooking of
Friendship Festival held in Russia. The team received a bronze
medal for their creative efforts.
Other articles by Tahir Amiraslanov:
Pilaf to Pizza, a Road Map of Azerbaijani Cuisine (AI 7.3,
Chefs from Azerbaijan's National Culinary Center recently participated
in two international food events held in Vienna and Russia. The
first, a Cooking of Friendship Festival held in Kislovodsk, Russia
on April 22-26, was a competition that attracted 25 teams from
CIS countries. Azerbaijan's five-member delegation captured the
For the competition's Art category, Azerbaijani chefs reenacted
a 12th-century feast based on the story of Shah Bahram's wedding
night with the Slavic princess Nasrinush, as found in Nizami's
"Seven Beauties" (Haft Paykar) epic poem (1197).
Left: Tahir Amiraslanov, Director of Azerbaijan's National
Culinary Center, led groups of Azerbaijani chefs to events in
Vienna and Russia.
Tahir Amiraslanov, Director
of Azerbaijan's National Culinary Center, explains: "We
spent eight months researching Azerbaijani cuisine from the 9th
to 12th centuries. In addition to reading Nizami's 'Seven Beauties',
we looked at Abu-Bakr's 'Munisnama', which describes Azerbaijani
dishes, traditions and etiquette of that period."
The Azerbaijani menu included a special type of piti made with
lamb broth, bird's tongue and sparrow's heart. "The dish
called Piti back at that time wasn't as we prepare it today,"
he continues. "Bird's tongue symbolized the quality of being
a smooth-talker, and sparrow's heart represented faithfulness,
because the sparrow never leaves its nest.
"We also found out from the ancient manuscripts and miniatures
that "guymag" was traditionally served on the wedding
night," Amiraslanov says. Guymag is a thick porridge made
of flour and butter with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top.
"Today in Azerbaijan we tend to serve this dish to mothers
who have just given birth because this food is so nourishing.
For the competition, we topped the guymag with a confectionery
called 'nabat' (like rock sugar)."
The Medieval Feast also included wines from Ganja, an ancient
city in northwest Azerbaijan long known for its winemaking. Special
dishes designed by Azerbaijani artist Mir Teymur were incorporated
into the table setting along with a traditional samovar and tea
set to represent the Silk Route, of which Azerbaijan was a part.
Also in Moscow, Tahir Amiraslanov was awarded the esteemed medal
of Russia Public Recognition Academy and Fund for Contributions
to Humanity. To date, only 62 people have been granted this order.
Amiraslanov considers this honor as recognition for Azerbaijan
Three chefs representing Azerbaijan traveled to The World Cooks
in Vienna Festival, held April 26-30 and dedicated to the centennial
of the Austrian Chef Association (Verband der Koche Osterreichs).
In addition to preparing 28 Azerbaijani dishes for the Festival,
the chefs exhibited wines from Ganja with names such as "Seven
Beauties", "Maiden's Tower" and "Elite".
"The Viennese people liked our wines very much," Amiraslanov
says. "They couldn't believe that Azerbaijan produced such
high quality wines."
Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Austria, Vagif Sadighov, helped bring
the Azerbaijani chefs to Vienna. "If Vagif Sadighov and
Abulfaz Garayev [Azerbaijan's Minister of Sports and Tourism]
hadn't urged and pursued us, we probably would have missed this
memorable European festival," Amiraslanov says.
For more about Nizami's "Seven
Beauties", see "Chicago Enchanted by 'Seven Beauties':
The Staging of Nizami's 12th Century Work" in AI 5.2 (Summer
1997). National Culinary Center Director Tahir Amiraslanov is
the author of "From
Pilaf to Pizza: A Road Map of Azerbaijani Cuisine",
AI 8.3 (Autumn 2000).
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AI 10.2 (Summer 2002)
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