Our culture, our traditions, and our language are the foundations upon which we build our identity. Traditional foods make a big part of the culture.
People frequently associate various nations or countries with certain foods. For example, many people associate Italy with pizza and pasta.
For Armenia, the one of a kind Dolma or Tolma is symbolic, so it’s most likely associated with this delicious food. This is the reason why in Armenia a festival dedicated to it takes place every year.
What is Dolma?
Dolma is a traditional Armenian non-vegetarian dish made of ground beef, mixed with rice and spices folded in grape or cabbage leaves, and vegetables.
Dolma with grape leaves is the more sophisticated one. The ones with cabbage and eggplant are called “summer Dolma”.
According to historians, the first Armenian Dolma was introduced in Sardarapat town around 3000 years ago.
Dolma is a very popular traditional Armenian dish. Armenians most of the times prepare it for some festive tables such as the New Year. They also prepare it just for special guests. In different parts of Armenia, people cook dolma differently, like people from Ashtarak and Echmiatsin make dolma with lamb. Additionally, In Ashtarak, they often make dolma by stuffing apple and quince.
Other than “summer” dolma, there are also “pasuts” dolma and “sut” dolma.
Pasuts dolma is a vegetarian dish served for fasting. There is no meat in this kind of dolma. Instead, it includes beans, various peas, rice, lots of spices stuffed in sour cabbage. Usually, Pasuts dolma is comparatively large. Furthermore, most of the times one dolma is enough to satisfy one’s hunger.
Sut (means “fake” in Armenian) dolma is made of rice, oil, and spices. It looks like real grape leaves dolma, but there is no meat, hence the name “fake”. Just like all kinds of dolma, this one is also very tasty, and although it takes relatively a long time to prepare, one eats it really quickly.
Usually, Armenians serve the actual grape leave dolma with garlic and matsoun (the national sour yogurt).
Dolma is not only delicious but also has a unique taste because of the different ingredients added to the meat. This includes rice, onions, greens and salt and pepper. Sometimes it can contain parsley, oregano, mint, coriander and so on. It depends on one’s preference.
Just biting a small piece of dolma will leave you with the deep taste of meat juice. Especially for meat lovers, this is undoubtedly one of the best dishes you can ever try.
Dolma is also a big part of the Armenian culture, so Armenian people really love it. It definitely has a heavenly taste!
Since you already know what dolma is and how delicious it actually is, let’s talk about the festival!
Note that in the end, we will provide you with the recipe for this marvelous dish and also some more additional information!
About Dolma Festival
The aim of the festival, however, is not only introducing the dolma but also, the traditional Armenian meals the cuisine overall.
Since then, the festival called Pan-Armenian Dolma Festival takes place each year in various regions of the country.
The festival starts with a performance by the Sardarapat Dance Ensemble. During the festival, different cooks introduce their varieties of dolma and the jury decides the best dolma cook in the participants of leading restaurants of Armenia. Individuals from Yerevan and other regions also take part.
On May 21, the festival took place in Musa Ler town in Armenia. Participants from various parts of Armenia presented Dolma which had various tastes like the sweet Dolma with a tasty filling made from ostrich eggs.
The dish is usually served in ceramic dishes.
Participants competed in three nominations: Best Taste, Best Appearance, and Best Idea.
In the nomination for the Best Taste, the Bronze medal or the third place went to “Delicious Point” team. The Silver won the Restaurant Complex “Naberejny”, the gold medal went to the “Hay Rest” Restaurant.
In the nomination Best Appearance, the Bronze medal won “Bayazet” Company. The Silver medal went to “Ararat Hall” Restaurant and the gold medal to the“Delicious Point” (first place).
For the nomination Best Idea the Bronze medal won the “Hay Rest” Restaurant. The Silver medal went to the Company “Bayazet” and the “Delicious Point” took the gold medal.
Furthermore, cups for the Sympathy of Beholders, Youngest Pavilion, Best Participation were also present. The team presenting non-traditional (such as sweet) dolma made with ostrich eggs and meat won the Special Cup award.
In addition, there was also the main prize. As the jury stated, the team that would win the main prize, would not participate in the other nominations. In the end, “Karas” company got the main prize.
“Art Laj” presented the longest Dolma in the competition which was worth 23 meters-long.
At the end of the Festival, the organizers awarded “Thank You” notes to each team that participated in the festival.
This festival is one of the culinary festivals that takes place annually in Armenia. For example, there is also a Bread Festival which takes place in June, also, Barbeque and Harissa Festivals take place in September. Hence, you should definitely visit Armenia and enjoy the infinite culinary delights.
The festival is organized within “Golden Apricot” international film festival. As already stated above, the purpose of the event is the introduction of the traditional Armenian dishes. The festival is held to preserve Armenian cuisine, which is surely one of the Armenian intangible values. Another purpose, however, is to represent dolma as a national Armenian dish, disproving the false opinion, that it has Turkish origins.
And… here is the recipe of the delicious Dolma!
Recipe of Dolma
- 1 kg of minced meat (pork and beef)
- 1 cup of rice (round)
- 2-3 onions
- tomato sauce (1 table spoon)
- butter (150g)
- pepper (black and red)
- salt (1 table spoon)
- 1 kg of grape leaves
- Other ingredients (parsley leaves and also coriander, depending on your taste)
- Massage the minced meat with the hands and add half a cup of warm water, chopped onions, rice, tomato paste, butter, salt, and pepper as well as other ingredients.
- After mixing them well, let the current mass take a rest for about 3-5 minutes.
- Then, put about one spoon of the mixture on each of the opened grape leave and then roll it up.
- Bring a saucepan and put the opened grape leaves on the bottom of it.
- Put the dolmas on the leaves and add water till it covers them.
- Put the saucepan on the fire and turn the fire down.
- Depending on the fire, after about 30 minutes up to an hour, dolma is ready.
(if the rice inside is cooked, then dolma is ready, so to check it out, one should taste the rice)
Dolma with cabbage recipe
- Cabbage – 1 Large Head – Blanched
- Ground Beef – 1 Pound
- Round Grain Rice – 1 Cup
- Parsley – 4 Tablespoon
- All Spice – 1 1/2 Teaspoon
- Black Pepper – 1 Teaspoon
- Dry Mint – 1 Tablespoon
- Garlic – 2 Head whole Cloves
- Garlic – 3 to 4 Clove – Crushed
- Paprika – 1 Tablespoon
- Onion – 1 Count – Finely Chopped
- Tomato Sauce – 1 Can (15 Ounce)
- Lemon Juice – 2 Whole Lemon or Lime Juice
- In a big pot, add 3 cups of water and boil. Peel the cabbage leaves and place some of them carefully into the boiling water and press down with a spoon. Blanching takes about a minute per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon. Repeat the same with the rest of the cabbage.
- In a bowl, place the ground beef, parsley, mint, rice, paprika, allspice, black pepper, crushed garlic, tomato sauce, lemon juice, salt to taste. Mix together well.
- Take each cabbage leaf and place a tablespoon of stuffing. Then fold the two sides inward and roll until one end reaches the other.
- In a pot, place each roll so that doesn’t unravel. For each layer sprinkle with a little salt and several cloves of garlic. Until you finish with all the stuffing and cabbage. Pour water until it reaches the top of the cabbage rolls.
- Place a heat resistant plate or kitchen weight, cover the pot with its lid.
- Cook on medium heat for about 40 minutes. Check to see if the rice is cooked, and also use a fork to see if the cabbage is very tender, which means that dolma is ready.
There is also another recipe for making dolma, which is usually for the summer. In this case, vegetables replace the grape leaves.
Places to eat the tasty Dolma
In Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, you can eat tasty dolma nearly in every corner. Furthermore, almost all restaurants offering national Armenian dishes have dolma on their menu.
Now, 3 popular places are the main recommendations for you to taste dolma when you visit Yerevan.
- Dolmama Restaurant
In this restaurant, you will enjoy dolmas in different tastes and styles. This restaurant’s specialization is to make the most delicious dolmas. Probably, you can understand that from the name, “dolmama”. It is located on, 10 Pushkin Street (just a few feet from the Abovian Street)
- Karas National Food
If you feel hungry and you want to eat dolma as fast as possible, visit Karas National Food. This is an easy and fast food place so that you will not have to wait in order to taste Armenian dolma!
- Tavern Yerevan Restaurant
It is also a great place for dolma. There are also some branches of this restaurants at different locations.
( 91 Teryan Street, 5 Amiryan Street, and 7 Paronyan Street.)
Dolma has a ritual significance for Armenians. If you have the wish to know the Armenian nation better and to understand their history, culture, and life better, dolma is surely a way to go. Therefore, when tasting dolma, you should also feel the souls of the Armenian people inside the dolma.
The process of making Dolma is pleasant itself since the whole family gathers and close friends come around. When it’s ready, everyone enjoys the tasty dish made by love. The atmosphere is unbelievably warm and cozy.
In addition to the irresistible taste, dolma is also rich in nutrients including lots of proteins from meat and carbohydrates from rice. Also, other ingredients such as grape leaves and vegetables add vitamins as well as minerals to the Armenian dish.