It is a dish that you will not find in any of Julia Child’s cookbooks. And I am confident that Julia would have raised an eyebrow if were on offer at a dinner party. If you are curious, this gives some initial insight (from Saveur)
Mehriban Kazimova, the 69-year-old mother of my Baku friend Zulya, is sticking long iron nails of the hardware variety into a pomegranate the size of a baby’s head. She then lowers her spiky work into a pot bubbling with a slurry of ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses. Then she heats a horseshoe over a burner. A horseshoe. Grabbing oven mitts, she screams an incantation in Azeri and drops the red-hot horseshoe—splosh! clunk!—into the pot, leaving the whole fairy-tale brew to simmer just short of forever, until it’s time to strain out the metal.
Errr … why the screaming? Apparently that is needed to frighten the stew into blackening. Of course! One can imagine — with a bit of trepidation — what an apartment block might sound like just before dinner time. A good reason to stop on the way home from work for a pop … or three.
After the extended exertion, you might get something like this
That is the fisinjan in the foreground.
I took the above quote from Anya von Bremzen’s rather colorful article about her culinary experiences in Baku. The ending captures the flavor of the thing
Zulya taps my shoulder, as if reading my mind. “Anya…Anyechka,” she cajoles. “Next time you come to Baku, we’ll make you a whole huge Caspian fish stuffed with walnuts!”
But back to fisinjan. Let’s be honest. I am sure that the dish is delicious, but it does have a certain “been in the backyard under the deck for a week or two” look about it. That unfortunate aspect is admitted even by its champions (from Flavors of Baku)
Pilaf is the signature dish of Azerbaijani cuisine. It is usually served on special occasions and known in Azerbaijan as Ash or Plov. Azerbaijani cuisine has dozens of different types of pilaf, one of the most delicious of which is Fisinjan Plov–a pilaf with chicken or meatballs, cooked in a sweet-and-sour sauce, made of crushed walnuts and Narsharab (pomegranate syrup/molasses). Fisinjan (or Fesenjan) is an ancient dish of Persian origins. It certainly isn’t one of the most beautiful dishes in Azerbaijani cuisine, in fact, some describe it as unappetizing looking dish, but you will change your mind as soon as you taste its delicate, rich, and flavorful sauce.
This photo says it all
I like the phrase “… some describe it as unappetizing …”. I would fit safely into that category.
Perhaps this is the start of a thread in this blog — dishes to write home about? This comment about a Baku restaurant sets the stage
… Upstairs, there’s a club with a view of the Caspian Sea. Yes, you can drink, and you ought to. You’re in remote Azerbaijan, for goodness sake — celebrate!
God bless! And I am curious. What does a really well prepared fisinjan taste like?
If you are in the mood for more “meals to write home about”, you are in luck! Tony Bourdain has been offering these for years. And if you are looking for some entertainment with your Sunday coffee, you could do worse than watching Tony’s Tanzanian adventure. Tony at his snarkiest! His warthog butt makes fisinjan look like filet!