Like many other neighboring nations, we also have an ongoing regional fight between Armenian food and Turkish food. The controversy about who invented a certain dish has always been a topic of discussion between Armenians and Turks. That’s because food is a part of one’s national identity and culture. So, people tend to get emotional over such topics. 🙂 Let’s compare Armenian and Turkish cuisines together.
Armenian and Turkish cuisines are somewhat similar, due to the geographic proximity of the two nations and the centuries of shared history. Dishes like Dolma, Kebab, Harisa/Keshkek, Manti and many others are loved by both Armenians and Turks. Understandably, each claims these dishes as their invention. Major differences can be observed in the types of spices used in Armenian and Turkish foods.
Let’s learn more about the basics and some similar dishes of Armenian and Turkish cuisines. Also, I will introduce you to a little cultural fight over the food we both claim with our neighbors. 😉 If you want to have a little debate over the topic, I am open to it! Share your thoughts with me on Instagram or Twitter with #ArmeniaTravelTips.
Armenian vs Turkish food: differences
As Armenia and Turkey are neighboring countries with a long history of living in the same region there are lots of overlaps in their cuisines. I think spices are an important part of one’s national cuisines as these are the ingredients that give food a unique and delicious taste. The most common spices in Armenian cuisine are black pepper, cumin, sumac, basil, cinnamon, and summer savory. On the contrary, Turkish food uses a lot more thyme, mint, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, rosemary, and cloves.
With regards to ingredients, Armenian cuisine uses more vegetables, meat, fish, lavash, and lamb. We also like to use cracked wheat or bulgur instead of rice. In comparison to this, you will see a lot more rice in Turkish food. Turks more often include white flour, tomato paste, eggplant, white cheese, red lentils, onions, and olive oil in making their food.
By the way, I think you will have a better idea about the food if you see people reacting to it. So, you can watch how two Korean sisters give their authentic reactions to trying both Armenian and Turkish food. So, check these review videos of these two regional cuisines out.
Similarities between Armenian and Turkish food
Dolma is the most controversial dish when it comes to the list of foods both Armenians and Turks claim as their own. Not to mention that variations of Dolma exist in several other countries across the broader region, from Greece to Lebanon, and beyond.
You will find Yaprak Dolma, or Sarma, in Turkish cuisine. In Turkey, both beef-based and vegetarian variations of dolma exist. And they are delicious! However, arguably the variety of different types of dolma is broader in Armenian cuisine. We don’t only stuff grape leaves, but also cabbage leaves. And we also have interesting Lenten dolma variations. For example, Pasuc dolma, a purely vegan version of dolma, which I haven’t seen anywhere else outside Armenia.
I don’t think arguing over who invented the idea of wrapping something into leaves makes sense. It’s such a trivial idea and such an old one, that the whole thought of claiming it seems bizarre to me. But you can only understand what Dolma means to Armenians when you realize we have a festival dedicated to this dish 🙂
This dish has also traditionally created a sizable deal of controversy between Armenians and Turks. Harissa in Armenia, known as Keshkek in Turkey, is commonly known as a part of the local culinary tradition. I’d argue that the dishes are similar, but not the same. Armenians use lamb in this porridge-like dish, while Turks usually add chicken. Besides, there is a huge ceremony in Turkey associated with this dish, that brings entire villages together, as the whole community is expected to work together to make the dish. We don’t have that in Armenia.
The controversy was inevitable anyway! Especially, when in 2011 UNESCO confirmed the ceremonial Keshkek cooking tradition as a part of Turkey’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Armenian side, obviously, rushed to disagree. 🙂 Particularly, Sedrak Mamulyan, the chairman of the “Development and Preservation of Armenian Culinary Traditions NGO.” came out saying that the methods, utensils, and ingredients used in the preparation of the dish make Keshkek / Harissa a dish of pure Armenian origin.
If you ask me, I think it’s rather a petty game than anything else. After all, it’s not the dish that was noted by UNESCO, but the whole tradition of the ceremony around it. But when emotions kick in, it’s hard to think straight, I guess. Anyway, the dish is worth trying. For us, for Armenians, it has a historical significance too. It played a key role in helping Armenians resist the Ottoman attacks in the Musa mountains in 1915.
Another dish that both Armenia and Turkey have in common is kebab. Turks call their version an Iskender kebab which basically consists of kebab meat, tomato sauce, and pita bread. Armenians also have a kebab called “Lula kebab” which is very similar to the “Adana kebab.” However, it is spiced with cinnamon, one of the spices commonly used in Armenian cuisine, making it an Armenian specialty. Also, I am sure you won’t have difficulty finding delicious kebab places here in Armenia as we’re really good at making them 😉.
Obviously, all people love their national cuisine and think it’s the best. Armenia and Turkey are not exceptions. However, as we’ve lived in the same region historically we share a lot in each other’s cuisines. So, I personally think that claiming the national origin of a certain food is a bit silly. Culture is fluid and it doesn’t recognize borders. And, finally, what’s important is the taste of the food and not the origin. And I genuinely enjoy both Armenian and Turkish food. Never miss a chance to eat either when you’re traveling in these countries.
So, when you come to Armenia definitely try our national food at the local restaurants. Or, order it through one of the local Armenian food delivery apps, and enjoy it at home with your new Armenian friends 😉. By the way, don’t forget to take good pictures of the food you try and share your thoughts with me on Instagram or Twitter with #ArmeniaTravelTips. I am looking forward to your opinions! Also, if you like comparing different cuisines, check out my separate post about Lebanese vs Armenian food.
Featured image credits: Esraa Abuhashem and Markus Winkler on Pexels (edited)