Khorovats Are The Delicious Armenian Version Of Shish Kebabs You Need To Try

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Just as much as sunny days call for grilling, a good barbecue calls for food on skewers. It doesn't matter if it's meat, vegetables, or a combination of both. Just about anything you can cook seems to benefit from the smoky aroma of a grill (even desserts taste better when it's a s'more), and using skewers is one of the best ways to do so.

According to The Independent, cooking foods on skewers (whether wooden or metal) seems to have developed in cultures throughout the world. Whether it's West African street kebabs, Japanese yakitori, or a classic Turkish beef kebab with mushrooms, just about everywhere has some variation on this dish.

According to The Smithsonian Magazine, one stand-out culture for skewered foods is Armenia. Its version of a classic shish kebab is called the khorovats. Khorovats may be similar to shish kebabs from Armenia's neighbor Turkey, but the passion for this delicious grilled food among Armenians puts them above the rest. iArmenia claims that at every celebration khorovats will undoubtedly be served, songs about khorovats will be sung, and khorovat bearing waiters will dance as they feed the hungry crowd.

What are khorovats?

Khorovats is a style of Armenian skewered food. Phoenix Tour says that like many other skewered delicacies, there are multiple ingredients used in khorovats. In fact, it might be more accurate to describe it as a style of grilling than a single food. iArmenia adds that the name khorovats comes from the Armenian word for grilling.

Phoenix Tour claims that pork is the preferred meat to be served as khorovats, but lamb or beef is just as easily accepted. This isn't a solely carnivorous dining experience either. Vegetables like onions, eggplant, chilies, and bell peppers are also essential to good khorovats.

iArmenia says that the more important elements are the skewers, or shampoors, and their relationship to the manhgal which is the name for the grill used to cook khorovats. According to Smithsonian Magazine, A manhgal resembles a large rectangular grill without a grate to hold the food. Instead, the skewers are laid directly over the fire and allowed to drip hot fats onto the low-burning embers of an apricot tree or grape tree charcoals. These skewers are perched only about five inches above the coals and are packed closely together to trap in the heat as it rises. This technique and the flavorful marinades used to make khorovats help it to stand out among other skewered foods.

Importance of khorovats in Armenia

Khorovats is a culturally significant food in Armenia. According to Smithsonian Magazine, not only are they a delicious feature of every holiday and celebration, but they are a sign of prosperity as well. "Armenian Food – Fact, Fiction, and Folklore" author Irina Petrosian jokingly writes that khorovats is an Armenian word for 'life lived to the fullest' and the 'celebration of good weather', per The Armenian Kitchen.

The U.S. Office of the Historian says that Armenia was invaded by the Soviet Red Army in the 1920s. It would become a part of the Trans-caucasian Soviet Republic and would remain under Soviet rule until the 1990s. Smithsonian Magazine says that during this time of Soviet rule, meat became a rare commodity. Khorovats became a signifier of prosperity among Armenians, and it remains that way today.

iArmenia shares the story of a dentist who cites his ability to regularly provide khorovats for his family as justification for staying in Armenia. Because he is able to regularly serve meat in the form of khorovats, he sees himself as a successful man where he is.