Xapama is a traditional Eastern Armenian dish. Armenians usually prepare it for New Year and Easter. It is made of rice, dried fruits, raisins, and walnuts, stuffed in a pumpkin. They also prepare it during social or family gatherings.
History Of Xapama
Each nation is unique not only for its history and culture but also for its cuisine. Let’s now discover the history of one the most popular and traditional dishes, Xapama (Ghapama).
In the Armenian sources, one can hardly ever find the word “Xapama”. Our historians have left very poor information about the Armenian cuisine. Even such a great master of lexicology, Hrachya Acharyan, has no articles in the “Radical Dictionary” about Ghapamas.
The explanatory dictionary of the modern Armenian language gives the recipe of the dish without any explanation, whereas it would be great to know the word etymology.
Finally, after some research, Armenians found the explanation in Stepan Malkhasyan’s “Armenian Explanatory Dictionary”. According to him, the word Xapama is of a Turkish origin and means meat cooked in a bowl.
The second meaning of the word is what we know, the recipe of which is given in the same article. However, there is no Turkish dish called Ghapama. Of course, the Turks have that dish, even the recipe is the same, but they call it differently.
Like many Armenian dishes, Xapama also has a ritual ceremony. It was made for New Year or Barekendan. It symbolized the end of the year for Armenians. The empty pumpkin is the “bin” in which the last year’s results, the harvest and the good that the Armenian family has received are summed up.
The spring, the hard and frustrating works are still far away, and Armenians celebrate and enjoy their fair harvest. The fact that Xapama is prepared “sweet in sweet” also has its own meaning. There are different types of pumpkin but they chose the sweetest type, the most orange one, the larges and round like the sun.
Then, in this sweet “plate”, they placed candies, honey, raisins, dried fruit and so on. The diversity of ingredients symbolized a luxurious and abundant life.
During Halloween, people distort pumpkins, make masks, and various scary things out of it. Meanwhile, during the day of Xapama, pumpkin is the main piece of the table and is used as a meal since that is its true meaning. As a ritual meal, various songs, dances, and jokes accompanied Xapama. Now the day of Xapama has become a tradition celebrated every year.
The Legend Says…
Xapama is a difficult dish to make. In the old times, the whole family participated in the process. There are some legends of Xapama, as Sedrak Mamulyan, the head of the “Armenian cooking traditions development and conservation” NGO, the of the restaurant “Ararat Hol” mentions.
According to one of them, the pumpkin represents the world, rice – the humanity, dried fruits, and nuts, are nationalities.
“According to the legend, on earth, where people have different faiths, different nationalities, goodness, and kindness must prevail. Xapama exists to bring peace in the world, “.
Ghapama is a dessert and has different ways of cooking. In old times time, they filled the pumpkin with groats, meat, fresh fruit. The most famous version, however, is the pumpkin stuffed with rice, dried fruits, nuts and honey.
How Important Is The Dish?
Simultaneously with the arrival of autumn and the harvesting, comes the Xapama time! Autumn is the most popular time for weddings, so juicy pumpkin is present at all wedding tables. Newlyweds prepare it carefully with the wishes of a beautiful, rich family life.
This dish is so traditionally Armenian that the Armenians have even songs about it. One of the most famous Armenian singers, Harout Pambukchyan, sings a song about the dish “Hey, jan, Xapama!”, It is almost a ready recipe for making the most favorite dish of Armenians.
In his song, he talks about how there is a wonderful in the fields, how they chose it in order to make a Xapama. How they brought it home, filled it with delicious things. How guests were waiting for it to be ready.
This comic song is usually performed in the middle of the celebration or closer to its end, when the guests are already full and want fun. And if the hostess prepares everything correctly, Xapama will turn out to be beautiful and appetizing. So appetizing that all the hungry relatives will fill their mouths with the aromatic pumpkin. This is exactly what Harout Pambukchyan sings about.
Here you can listen to the song:
Health Benefits Of The Armenian Xapama
Traditional Armenian dishes are all very tasty and very useful. Xapama is no exception.
- Xapama contains a number of vitamins and minerals.
- The main ingredient of this dish, the pumpkin, has vitamins of group B, vitamins A, E, and T.
- Pumpkin contains a lot of fiber, pectin, and also potassium and zinc. A fruit with so many useful qualities needs a lot of attention!
- Dried apricots, raisins, nuts, which contain active substances more than fresh fruits, fulfill the list of vitamins.
- Dried fruits are useful for preventing cardiovascular diseases, as well as cancer.
- Together with nuts, they are of great help to the body – they soothe, relax, have a beneficial effect on the immune system of a person.
- Armenian Xapama is not only beautiful, thanks to its color, but also very tasty and useful, it is a real storehouse of useful substances.
Finally, we think this was enough for you to want the recipe of this miraculous dish. There are many recipes out there, and many types of Xapama. But they all taste the same delicious way.
Xapama (Ghapama) Recipe
The following recipe is by Heghine, a quite well-known Armenian cook who shows various delicous recipes on her website.
- A pumpkin ( about 3 kg)
- Rice, 3 cups (long grain rice is preferred)
- About 1 cup of raisins
- 8-10 tbs melted butter
- 7-9 tbs honey
- Half a cup of dried plums (prunes)
- Half a cup of dried apricots
- One medium-sized apple
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (you can add more, depending on your taste)
- Walnuts or almonds (chopped or crushed, also depends on your taste)
- Salt to taste
- Water in order to cook the rice (it should cover the rice fully)
How to make:
Wash and then drain the rice. The water needs to cover the rice fully. Then boil, cover with lid and let it sit
Now, clean the pumpkin and prepare it for stuffing. For that, you should wash the pumpkin, cut the top and clean the inside of it from seed.
Pour 2-3 tbs of melted butter, the same 2-3 tbs of honey inside the pumpkin. Cover its inner part with honey and butter mixture, using a brush or hands.
In a big bowl, combine ingredients for the filling. That is dried fruits, finely chopped apples, raisins. Then add the drained rice, salt to your taste and cinnamon as you wish.
2-3 tbs of melted butter, 2-3 tbs of honey mix well then place the ready filling inside, cover firmly with lid. After which you need to put the pumpkin in a lightly greased baking pan.
Bake at 350° F /180°C (also preheat oven) for 45-60 minutes
In order to check whether it’s ready or not, simply stick a wooden skewer or a sharp knife into the pumpkin, if it goes in smoothly, means it’s done. Serve with extra butter and honey. Enjoy!