Many European dishes are based on Armenian traditional recipes. According to culinary expert Sedrak Mamulyan, our compatriots, mostly settlers from the kingdom of Ani, had brought their recipes with them to Europe.
Sedrak Mamulyan, the chairman of the organization “Development and Preservation of Armenian Culinary Traditions”, came to this conclusion after ten years of studying and restoring traditional Armenian cuisine recipes both in Armenia and abroad.
About how the modern Armenian cuisine had changed in ten years, the discoveries of old recipes, and the idea of founding the organization, Mamulyan told Laura Sargsyan in his interview.
Sargsyan: How did the idea to establish your social organization occur?
Mamulyan: Any public organization should be established based on the needs of society. Ten years ago, we realized that much needs to be done in the area of restoring Armenian cuisine, we realized that the society needs us.
We gathered with our like-minded people, among whom were Ruzanna Nahapetyan, Artavazd Sarukhanyan, Garik Gevorkyan, and Grisha Antinyan, and established the organization “Development and Preservation of Armenian Culinary Traditions.”
Soon, graduates from ethnographic departments came to support us. Our activity began with the study of traditional Armenian dishes served during folk and religious holidays.
We visited various areas of the country to find recipes. Ten years have passed, but for us, nothing has changed – we still collect recipes. However, we have expanded our geographical scope. Our specialists with the assistance of communities and embassies abroad are studying the archives of foreign countries.
Sargsyan: How did you manage to restore the kitchen of the times of Ani?
Mamulyan: At first, we established that our ancestors had migrated from the territory of the kingdom of Ani through the Crimea to Moldova, Lithuania, Romania, and Ukraine. The only testimony that those people have been our compatriots is their kitchen.
They no longer resemble Armenians, do not remember their language, and follow the Catholic Church. We sent our ethnographers to the cities where most of the descendants of the Armenians of Ani are now residing. As a result of conversations with them and studies of archives, we were able to recover about 60 recipes from this period.
We also studied the library of the Mekhitarist Order in Venice; we plan to send our specialists to Egypt and Jerusalem in the future. The data collected by them will help us restore the image of the Armenian cuisine of the Middle Ages.
The key for us is the transfer of the gathered knowledge to the younger generation. For this, we founded a studio school with a three-month course of lectures and practical classes on the Armenian cuisine.
Sargsyan: What should be done in terms of gastronomical tourism?
Mamulyan: Since 2009, we held various culinary festivals. However, the Armenian dolma and shish kebab festival was the most popular among the Armenian population and tourists.
Today, our main goal is to restore the “Tonraton” festival dedicated to the tonir (an Armenian in-ground oven resembling a tandoor) for the holiday of Navasard (ancient Armenian New Year, celebrated on August 11). If restored, it will be held at Tatev Monastery.
In 2018, in Lori Fortress, we plan to showcase the kitchen of Ani, the last refuge of the Bagratuni dynasty. We also plan to join the Armenian Church and jointly celebrate the holiday Barekendan on a larger scale.
Sargsyan: How many recipes have you managed to restore during this period, and how is the Armenian cuisine different from others?
Mamulyan: We have restored up to 600 recipes. However, this is a long process. I am most impressed by our technique and technology of cooking and processing dishes and ingredients.
Many of them, including recipes, underlie in the preparation of European dishes. For example, the poached egg cooking technique popular today among the world’s chefs was discovered in the sources of the Kingdom of Van (Urartu).
Sargsyan: When you tell Europeans about his, are they not surprised, aren’t they objecting?
Manulyan: The biggest surprise for them is the technology of cooking and the combination of seemingly incompatible ingredients. In the beginning, we were a little surprised how a dessert from radish could be made. In the recipes coming from the times of Ani, there is a dessert called “Sweetness of Ani”. It is based on just radish, honey, and peanuts.
After we explain the logic of creating dishes, our foreign colleagues get delighted. Our ancestors, unlike us, consulted with doctors before creating a recipe for a dish or dessert. They believed that desserts should promote digestion, so for them, the radish in the processing was acceptable.
We discovered that molecular cuisine was developed in Armenia at the time as well. The dish “Kati ser” is fully consistent with this. The composition of this high-calorie dessert includes honey and milk foam.
Sargsyan: How did the attitude of restaurants in Armenia to the national cuisine change?
Mamulyan: Today, thanks to the work we have done, the Armenian traditional cuisine dishes are increasingly included into menus.