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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Armenia

Culinary Influences

Armenian Food - Nazook pastry
Nazook pastry

Although Armenia seems like its cuisine is based on meats like lamb and chicken, but historically their diet began with fresh fruits. Apricots and peaches both originate in Armenia and these, along with other fruits were the base of much of historic Armenia's diet.

As Armenians began to settle in various parts of the world and became well known international traders and businessmen, international influences were brought to Armenia. Mediterranean influences were introduced as were garlic and onions, which were integrated into many of their foods. Even today, many of Armenia's dishes are essentially Mediterranean at their core.

Another strong influence was from their Middle Eastern neighbors as Levantine foods made a strong impact on Armenia and Armenia influenced Levantine food. Levantine cuisine brought with it the integration of nuts, some new spices, and tahini (sesame seed paste) made a strong impression.

Some foods from the Americas have arrived as well; the tomato has become popular in Armenian foods. Also recently, both lamb and chicken have become more affordable and accessible.

Staple Foods

Bread: a flat bread called pideh or lavash is served with nearly every meal
Olive Oil: not truly a staple, but most traditional meals are cooked with, in, or marinated in olive oil

Regional Variations & Specialties

Bozbash: lamb soup
Khoravats: grilled meats, typically marinated, grilled, and served with flat bread and fresh tomatoes, onions, and parsley

Dining Etiquette

If you're going to a local's house for dinner in Armenia, arrive a few minutes late, but no more than 10-15 minutes. Dress conservatively and in long pants (even if it's hot outside) and you may be asked to remove your shoes after you get inside.

Once inside, shake everyone's hand and follow your host's lead. Dining is somewhat formal and follows traditional European dining, such as keeping your hands in sight and eating with the knife in the right hand and fork in the left. Also refrain from using your left hand while eating, especially if you touch the food for any reason, such as eating bread.

If dining out, some restaurants are divided by sex, particularly all-male restaurants. These places don't restrict women from entering, but women may feel awkward in these settings.

Tipping isn't common in Armenia, but at higher end restaurants, it is appreciated. In these locations tip what you feel is appropriate; 10% is generous.

Drinks

Like a growing number of countries, Armenians are growing more and more accustomed to a cup of coffee in the morning and most prefer it black. Armenia also has a yogurt-based drink called leban or tahn, which is commonly found throughout the region. Other drinks, such as tea, juices, soft drinks, and milk are also available.

For alcoholic drinks, beer is probably the most popular, although few are produced locally. Armenia also produces their own brandy, a couple local wines, and kvas, which is a drink made from bread. Of course imported beers, wines, and hard liquors are also accessible.

There is no consensus on the cleanliness of the tap water in Armenia. Near mountain springs and in the major cities the water is generally clean, but this is more of a tendency than a rule. In other areas the water quality is poor, and perhaps unsafe, so should be avoided. The best course of action is to check with locals for the cleanliness of the local water or be cautious and avoid the tap water entirely. If you do decide to drink the tap water, remember that many people may have troubles adjusting to the local water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013