Join twowildtides on the country challenge. Each week, we’re going to be heading to a new country (in spirit). Primarily, we’ll be cooking a meal from each country; but we’ll also be watching travel documentaries, reading travel blogs, and listening to music. During the global pandemic, travel is largely inaccessible. We want to reignite our wanderlust, satisfy our travel bug as much as we can, and learn some new things along the way. I have a feeling our bucket list will have a number of items added to it through this experience as well. We created a simple alphabetical spreadsheet with all the countries of the world, and each week we will draw a random number that corresponds with a country on the spreadsheet.
This week, we find ourselves in a country I’ve never heard of before– and after looking at the architecture and infrastructure, I’m surprised it’s not more well-known and frequently-travelled. The capital city of Baku has some gorgeous modern buildings and fascinating history. I would absolutely add Azerbaijan to an Eastern European backpacking trip.
The national dish of Azerbaijan is one we’re already familiar with in the twowildtides country challenge: plov. Plov was the very first dish we prepared in the country challenge when we visited Uzbekistan, and it’s been a long-time favourite. Check that post out here:
The Azerbaijani plov is a very different flavour from the Uzbek plov, which featured cumin as the primary spice and had carrots and beef as the main ingredients. We were excited to try this hearty dish with a different cultural twist. We tried to keep it authentic and got our recipe from our trusty pals at 196Flavors:
Azerbaijani plov is known for being flavoured with saffron, dried fruits, and nuts. It is featured at the top of various lists about Azerbaijani cuisine, such as this one by Azerbaijan Travel International, this one by Culture Trip, this one by Nomad Paradise, and Taste Essence’s list of national dishes. Little did I know, but saffron is the most expensive spice in the world! And is more expensive than gold. While I wasn’t keen on spending almost $20 on a tiny satchel of saffron, I had to know if it is worth the money and what the most expensive spice in the world actually tastes like.
The preparation of the plov was different than anything else I’ve cooked, but it cooked so well. We used walnuts instead of chestnuts to save some money (and because chestnuts aren’t widely available in our area) and barberries, leftover from our Uzbek plov, rather than sour plums. Toasting the fruits and nuts in butter put such a great aroma through the house.
Everything else was easy. The chicken hardly required any work and the rice was pretty simple as well. We prepared the saffron water and I was surprised that it didn’t have any scent at all. We were intrigued to see what it might taste like.
This dish was absolutely delicious. So filling, so hearty, so healthy. This is a satisfying, guilt-free meal (as most of our country meals have been). Compared to our Uzbek plov, this plov packed less of a punch in terms of spice, but the dried fruits made up for that. The sweet and sour flavours of the berries and the savoury onions and chicken created an awesome balance. HOWEVER, to my unrefined, inexperienced tastebuds, saffron is not worth the money. Rather than creating any flavour, it just added a mild fragrance to the rice. Not bad by any means, but not enough of an addition to make it worth the money. We’re glad we tried it though!!
Stay tuned for next week! Let us know if you try Azerbaijani plov in the comments or on social media.