Khorovats is something you might have heard but never tried. This is the most typical Armenian food. You can eat and enjoy this meal in all the Armenian restaurants, during celebrations and various events. Armenians love both to cook and eat it. Some people think that this food is the same as barbecue, but it is different. Khorovats is more delicious.
Khorovats is an inseparable part of every Armenian gathering, be it a summer picnic with friends or a wedding celebration. Armenians even have songs and dances about this meal. The singers perform a song when the food is served. The waiters dance while bringing it and putting it on the table.
Each year on mid-September you can take part in a khorovats festival in Akhtala, Lori Province, Armenia. In 2012, John A. Heffern, the US ambassador to Armenia, was among 15,000 guests of the festival. The organizers of the Barbecue Festival aim to raise the popularity of Armenian national cuisine at world level. Don’t miss the chance to participate in the upcoming Barbecue Festival in Armenia in September this year.
It is very difficult for foreigners to pronounce the word khorovats. The word khorovats means “grilled” in Armenian. Western Armenians do not use that word. Instead, they use the word kebab to all meats that are put on skewers and barbecued. It is an inseparable dish of Armenian cuisine which an Armenian people made of chunks of meat and grill it on a shampoor or skewer.
Though Armenians are meat lovers they also have other options for vegetarians. One of these dishes is “summer khorovats” that includes a wonderful mix of grilled vegetables, normally eggplants, bell peppers, chili peppers, and tomatoes. This can be served both separately and as a whole. This staff is grilled on the flames while the meat is barbecued over the coals with potatoes and pork fat.
Importance of Khorovats for Armenians
In a film “When September Comes” shooted in1976, famous actor Armen Dzhigarkhanyan (Levon) prepares khorovats with his grandson in the balcony of his daughter’s Moscow apartment. When his neighbors notice smoke coming out of the balcony they call the firemen. A fireman arrives and everything settles down. The whole neighbors gather at Levon’s house to enjoy this meal.
The crown jewel of any festive menu is khorovats, the beloved Armenian barbecue. A food of temptation and satiation, khorovats is an Armenian word for a life lived to the fullest and the celebration of good weather. There is no specific day for barbecue season to start in Armenia.
There is no wedding, engagement, baptizing, or other celebrations without Armenian khorovats on the tables. Armenian barbecue is totally different from the American one. Every tourist who visits Armenia doesn’t leave this country without trying it. Armenian barbecue is usually made outdoors.
A successful dentist explained his decision to stay in Armenia; “Life is not bad at all for me. I am able to regularly make khorovats for my children”. Devoted barbecue fans have a set of skewers called shish or shampoor and mangal, the grill. The skewers should be of the flat-metal variety, to sear the meat from within.
Sometimes 2 or more neighbors share the same mangal and set of shampoors. Many Armenian people prefer buying ready-made khorovats from food places or supermarkets though there is not so big difference in the cost of cooking it by yourself at home.
The growth of Khorovats Business
This meal can be made of beef, chicken, lamb and even fish. Armenian people marinade the khorovats a day before cooking. It can be eaten with friends or family; sometimes even with people you just met!
Many people gather and cook it in order to enjoy themselves.In old times the wives of ill-tempered husbands always kept those potential weapons in a safe place.
The first place that gets involved in khorovats economy market was Proshian Street in Yerevan, located across from the American University. Foreigners called this area ” Barbecue Street”. These parlors were some of the first private entrepreneurial ventures in Yerevan.
Many of the residents began to copy each other’s success and started to cook barbecue in their front yards, selling directly to passersby in the street.
For some vendors, business went so well that they remodeled their old houses reopened them as restaurants.
Khorovats-making is exclusively a man’s job. Though, as economic condition requires so many men to find work, women often become the family breadwinners. And, as a result, lots of women have become skilled khorovats makers.
In present-day Armenia, you will see many women over age 45 cooking khorovats for sale along the roadsides.
In comparison, women have not made many advances in the government of the Republic of Armenia. With rare exception, men hold all the key offices and appointments only at the mangal (grill) have women gained true parity.
Khorovats Cooking Rules
- You should keep a distance between the fire and the skewers. It must be approximately 12 to 15 centimeters.
- You must place the largest pieces of the meat in the middle because there is more heat for the fire
- And finally, you need to place the Shampoors (skewers) close together in order to concentrate the heat from the cooking fire
Preparation of Khorovats
Khorovats Making Techniques
- First, you must marinade the meat a day before cooking process. For this process, you need salt, black, red pepper, and chopped onions. As a result, you will get all the aroma of the marinade and the meat will become softer and much more delicious.
- After a day, you need to make fire and wait for it to become cool. Generally, the most delicious khorovats is prepared on apricot tree coals. But you will also get a delicious khorovats if you cook it on the coals of the grape tree. Thus it is very important to know what kind of wood or coal to use for preparing this food as the wood and coals give special; aroma of the meat.
- For making khorovats you must use a rack. Though Armenians use large “shampoors” for that. Shampoors are metal barbecue sticks. Then all you need is to place few pieces of meat on one metallic stick and put it on the special barbecue equipment which is called ”manhgal‘. Manhgal is put where the coal is stored.
- One of the most important attributes of khorovats serving process is lavash which is Armenian bread. This food cannot be served without lavash. You must certainly taste lavash of khorovats, as it is very delicious. So when the takes khorovats from the fire he puts it on lavash instead of a plate. Thus Lavash gets the entire aroma and most importantly the juice of the meat.
- If you are vegetarian then do not worry. As mentioned above, Armenians have khorovats of vegetables. Vegetables include tomatoes, green bell peppers, hot green chili peppers, eggplant, and corns.
There is a popular khorovats-aroma story circulating in different versions all over the Middle East. In the Armenian version, a greedy vendor notices how a pedestrian is enjoying the aroma coming from his khorovats shop and decides to charge a fee for the smell. The quick-witted passerby jingles the money in his pocket, and says, “Did you hear the sound that my coins make? That’s my payment for smelling your khorovats. Go and get it, if you can.”
Actually, the aroma of roasted meat is so good that you don’t even have to see what you are eating:
Here are several quotes about khorovats.
- Dmak on sheep is not a burden.
- Cheap meat never makes a good khorovats.
- We thought that they had been making khorovats, but they were scorching a donkey.
- Do it in the way that neither shampoor or shashlik burns
Foreigners about Khorovats
No single Armenian dish is used in so many different metaphors and homilies as khorovats.Many Armenian and foreign writers wrote about it in their stories and poems. In the story “Beautiful” written by famous Russian author Anton Chekhov, the hero travels through the Armenian -populated province of Don. He stops at a tavern to feed his horses and encounters Masha, a stunningly beautiful 16-year-old Armenian girl, the innkeeper’s daughter. At the end of the story, Masha disappeared into the kitchen where “a smell of roast mutton and the sound of angry Armenian voices” came from. The Russian writer Osip Mandelshtam wrote;
O Yerevan, Yerevan,
You are not a city. You are a roasted meat.
I love the crooked turns in your big-mouthed streets.
English authors refer to khorovats as an Armenian shish kebab. In an article “Celebrate St. Nicholas, not Santa Claus” written by Lisa R. She suggested adding food from the Eastern Christian culture on the Yuletide table. So the main food on Goodell’s holiday menu is the Armenian Shish Kebab.
Another US journalist included this curious detail about life in the Diaspora community: “An Armenian retirement home in Los Angeles has a peculiarity, unlike any other assisted-living facility. The retirement home’s kitchen is equipped with a large grill, especially for cooking khorovats”.
An Armenian journalist had an interview with Thorda Abbott-Watt, UK Ambassador. The journalist asked her;
Is there anything that the British can learn from Armenia?
So, if you haven’t tried khorovats yet, do not waste your time. Make Armenian khorovats by yourself or order it from the nearby area and don’t forget to let us know your opinion about its taste!